I drew these fun sketches while in my hotel lobby during my recent visit to Atlanta Georgia. They’re the wonderful characters from Walt Disney's motion picture "Song of the South." I was also drawing the characters back in the seventies when the Disney Company re-released the popular film to new audiences unfamiliar with the original. In the seventies release of the film, the kindly old Uncle Remus was given a Disney makeover. Instead of the tattered garb of an ex-slave or poor plantation shareholder, the old gent sported a brand new wardrobe.
I suppose one should feel sorry for the Disney Company because this film continues to be a cultural hot potato. So much so that Disney CEO, Robert Iger is determined not to release the motion picture on DVD. While I understand the concerns of the company and the social impact they fear, I’m afraid I’ll have to disagree with their decision. This is a company that appears to want things both ways. Bury the movie, yet exploit the popular characters at their theme parks.
Even though I continue to have fun with the Disney classic I hope you understand the affection I have for the motion picture. I find the film underrated in spite of the rather clunky live-action sequences in the motion picture. Although, some of the live-action is often pretty darn charming in my opinion. I love the relationship Uncle Remus has with the woman of the house. She's a white woman, of course. Clearly, they've known each other for years and are the best of pals. However, the issues of color limit their friendship. I've also loved the scene between Uncle Remus and the cook played by Academy Award winner, Hattie McDaniel. Even an Oscar win failed to changed the career of this talented African American actress. She remained pretty much restricted to the roles of a cook or a servant for the remainder of her career. It wasn't much easier for the late Dorothy Dandridge although Halle Berry eventually changed the game. Then again, Halle Berry is multi-racial. However, in America multi-racial still means black. Don't believe me? Just ask the President.
However, these social issues were never the primary concern of Walt Disney. The Old Maestro was simply doing what he always did best. Walt was simply telling the story of a special relationship between an old black gentleman and a troubled young boy. The film is charming in its simplicity and sadly people tend to read too much into the film. Issues that are simply not there. The “Tar Baby” being the most notorious example. It was never meant to be a metaphor for black children, yet those with a social agenda often point to this particular story to prove their point. Of course, that's why Walt Disney's "The Song of the South" will continue to remain on the shelf for the near future. American has yet come to terms with its racist past and the Walt Disney Company remains uncomfortable with this marvelous motion picture that still causes me to tear up every time I view it. And, for all us animation fans there's really no need to say this film contains some of the most brilliant Disney character animation ever seen on the big screen.
Naturally, there are those who might even consider me an "Uncle Tom" for loving the stories of Joel Chandler Harris and the Walt Disney film. I really don't give a rat's behind what people think. And, I honestly don't care what color you happen to be. Walt Disney's "Song of the South" is a remarkable motion picture and I'll continue to support the wonderful film whenever given the opportunity. I can do this without any hesitation because deep down inside, this is a Walt Disney motion picture I've always loved.