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There's A Very Good Reason Why This Classic Disney Film Won't Get A Modern Remake

Some nostalgia is worth neglecting.

It seems as though Disney are working their way through the film archives finding classic properties which they can remake, update, live-action or put photorealistic lions into.

However, there’s one Disney film which won’t be getting a modern remake, though. And that is 1946’s Song of the South.

Because it’s pretty goddamn racist.

Defenders exist, of course. The film is set in the 1870s, when slavery was no longer a thing (although it in no way makes that clear); it has a black actor in the lead (James Baskett as Uncle Remus), and the live action plot focusses on adorable tow-headed tyke Johnny who reveres Remus and immediately befriends Toby (the ur-example of “I have a black friend!”); and so HOW IS THAT RACIST?

It’s arguably well intentioned for its time, but even so: all the black characters are cartoonishly happy with their lot as economically inferior to their white bosses on the plantation, all the while remaining cheerfully deferential to the white characters, speaking in broken ebonics and a strong message about there being a Way Things Should Be where everyone is happy with their lot.

It even has the Magical Black Person trope, when Uncle Remus’ sonorous tones are what awakens Johnny from his post bull-attack coma. There’s a lot going on.

As it happens, Baskett didn’t get to attend the Atlanta premiere of the film in which he starred: not because he wasn’t invited by Disney, but because no local hotel would let him stay.

In the wake of all this Disney have quietly disowned the film. it won’t be on the Disney+ service, it’s the only Disney film never to get a blu-ray or DVD release, and it last saw a cinema for its controversial 40th anniversary screening in 1986.

Still, the film lives on as the Splash Mountain ride (based on the Brer Rabbit sections of the film) and in the Oscar winning song ‘Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah’, which is now forever ruined for you.

And it could be argued that the far-more-on-tone Disney film Zootopia is kinda-sorta a remake of the film, taking the rabbit and fox characters and explicitly addressing the issue of race.

Oh god. If that Cats movie is successful we’re going to see a live action Zootopia, aren’t we? Sexy rabbits and all.

If You’re Still Crying Over The Live-Action Lion King, Spare A Thought For Milo & Otis

Digital animals don't scream in terror. We hope.

If you’re one of the many people very reasonably wondering why dear god why the world needed a photorealistic version of The Lion King, then there’s a family favourite film which makes a strong case for enthusiastically embracing the march of technology.

That film is The Adventures of Milo and Otis, which is celebrating its thirtieth birthday! Sort of!

That qualification is because the film was released in Japan in 1986 as Koneko Monogatari (“A Kitten’s Story”) and also had limited release under the English title The Adventures of Chatran.

Three years, an edit and a Dudley Moore narration later, The Adventures of Milo and Otis appeared and charmed audiences worldwide with the heartwarming tale of a mischievous kitten and his best pug pal making their way back home after a series of misadventures.

Heartwarming, that is, until the stories started to come out of how many kittens and pugs supposedly died during filming.

NOW FIGHT TO THE DEATH!

Now, it’s worth making clear that the producers of the film have always insisted that no animals were harmed during the making of the movie, and that the initial allegations against it were made by Australian animal cruelty activists based on reports they’d received from Europe – so not exactly ground zero during production or anything.

That being said, one thing which people familiar with kittens and puppies is that they grow up amazingly quickly, while filmmaking is rarely a swift business – especially when working with animals that are too young to easily train. Again, an advantage of CG when considering live action Lion King remakes.

More specifically, the footage had been compiled from four years of shooting so the rumours that 20-odd cats were “retired” during filming do seem at least plausible.

Also, when you’re shooting a scene of a kitten falling 100 feet into the water… look, you hope they got it in one take and that the stunt cat was fine. And same for the scene where Otis the pug fights a real bear. If there are outtakes, I’m fine with never seeing them thanks.

Attempts to use a mechanised pug were abandoned when they kept malfunctioning – just like the real things!

The other unsubstantiated rumours included mutilating live animals to create the characters of One Eye the pig, One Horn the bull and Three Hoof the deer. And sure, we hope they were just giving well-deserved work to disabled animal actors, but then again…

We’re just saying we’re glad there’s CG for our live action Lion King now. It certainly feels less… you know, horrific.

Where Would Ratatouille And Groot Be Without The Iron Giant?

A whole lot of today's biggest hits can be traced back to this one flop 1999 classic.

Twenty years ago this week a film was released that would change the future of modern blockbuster cinema, and no-one bothered seeing it. That film was The Iron Giant, and it’s truly magnificent.

“Now, let me tell you about an animated film I like…”

It was based on the beloved children’s book by Ted Hughes (published as ‘The Iron Man’ or ‘The Iron Giant’ depending on which bit of the world one lived in) and was a rollicking adventure story about two unlikely friends and also an allegory about the folly of war.

The reviews were universally stellar, the artwork was praised for mixing 2-D and 3-D animation in a groundbreaking way, and it also had an all-star voice cast including Jennifer Anniston, Harry Connick Jr and a fresh-from American Pie Eli Marienthal – as well as action star Vin Diesel doing his first voice role!

And oh, what a colossal flop it was.

It made back just over a quarter of its $70 million-plus budget and led to an exodus of staff from Warner Bros. One of them, president Lorenzo di Bonaventura, was quoted as telling Variety “People always say to me, ‘Why don’t you make smarter family movies?’ The lesson is, Every time you do, you get slaughtered.”

So what made it so important? Well, that’s the happy ending.

First up, The Iron Giant was the directorial debut of Brad Bird, who would later become a key part of Pixar. He directed Ratatouille and wrote and directed the two Incredibles films, in which he also voiced the scene-stealing superhero costume designer Edna Mode.

It also was notable in that Diesel was voicing the Giant himself, a creature of remarkably few words, repeated ad infinitum.

Which might sound rather like another popular character from the Diesel filmography – a guardian, one might say, perhaps of some sort of a galaxy.

He is… um, no, don’t tell me…

It was on Netflix until January this year, so you might need to hunt for it – but if you’ve missed it to date, now’s the time to catch up.

That’s partially because see how the mix of child-friendly animation and adult sentiment smartly predated the animated films of the 00s, and partially so seeing this gif will reduce you to a sobbing mess.

Oh goddammit.

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