Disney’s streaming channel updates the anti-racist disclaimer on its most famous classics, including Peter Pan, Dumbo, 101 Dalmatians and The Aristocats.
Similar to what happened with Gone With the Wind to HBO, Disney + adapts to changed times and makes it appear for 10 seconds when the user clicks on some of the animated classics of the Mickey Mouse house – such as The Adventures of Peter Pan, Dumbo, Fantasia, 101 Dalmatians, The Aristocats e The Jungle Book – the following disclaimer:
“This program includes negative descriptions and / or abuses of people or cultures. These stereotypes were wrong then and they are wrong now. Instead of removing the content, we want to acknowledge their harmful impact, learn from it and open a debate to create a better future. inclusive together. Disney is committed to creating inspirational and aspirational themed stories that reflect the rich diversity of human experience in the world. “
Previously, the disclaimer only said: “This program is presented as it was originally created. May contain outdated cultural descriptions.” There is also a link a Disney.com/StoriesMatter, where it is possible to see a short film, with various testimonies, which explains the context history of certain images.
On the surface it may seem a question of goat’s wool, like the many that lately open at every push, but it is not. By their nature simplifying and caricaturing, cartoons are directed immediately to the little ones and play an important educational role. This doesn’t necessarily mean that the great Disney artists were racist, but that they conformed to stereotypes so rooted in the culture of the time, to the point of not even being distinguishable anymore. The fact is that in Peter Pan, while the young Indian, Tiger Lily, is an image of beauty and purity, the father and the other Indians are literally grotesque and crimson red and that in the original the head of the crows in Dumbo call it Jim Crow, such as the laws on racial segregation. Then there are the Siamese cats treacherous and traitors of the later 101 Dalmatians and so on.
On closer inspection almost no film of the time from the 1930s to the 1950s is free from racist stereotypes. As for animation, Italians, Jews, blacks and other minorities have often been treated this way in cartoons by Max Fleischer and of Warner and disclaimers have appeared on the DVDs that contain them for years.
In short, no scandal, even if perhaps more than distancing oneself from the old, wrong images of an artistically glorious past for cinema, one could make an extra effort and produce documentaries and extra contents (such a thing was done precisely to Gone With the Wind and to a lesser extent for Disney films, as we said above), to learn more the era and the mentality who created these characters, without risking demonizing them.
These warnings, it should be emphasized, are aimed primarily at the American public and reflect a historical moment that finally takes a stand about the injustice of certain representations, but it is very likely (and your editor is at the right age to say this from experience) that the Italian child at the time did not even notice it and that some of these characters remained particularly nice . However, it seems fair to contextualize and criticize their representation, because the fact that we liked them when we were not yet able to understand all the implications does not mean that now we do not realize how offensive they are.