‘Song of the South’: 13 Things to Know About Disney’s Most Controversial Movie

The Uncle Remus adaptation will never be available on Disney+, and here's why.
Song of the South
"Song of the South"

The 2019 season of film historian Karina Longworth’s must-hear podcast series “You Must Remember This” took listeners on a deep dive into the saga of Disney’s most controversial movie, “Song of the South.” (As a testament to Longworth’s range, this season, she’s set to explore the erotic thrillers of the 1980s and ’90s.) As Walt Disney Studios continues to roll out its vast library of titles on the Disney+ streaming service, one of them is missing, and it’s the 1946 Uncle Remus adaptation with confused racial optics.

The film is set in the Reconstruction-era American south, just as the Civil War has concluded and slavery has ended. And while the film’s legacy has been mostly buried, the Disney theme park ride Splash Mountain (which, at Disney World, is temporarily closed) is modeled on this troubling movie that Longworth savvily explored in her podcast.

In fact, Disney World has removed “Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah” from the soundtrack of the Festival of Fantasy parade, a regular attraction that recently returned to the Magic Kingdom March 9. It’s a song we all know from our childhood, but one mired in implications we didn’t understand at that the time — and it remains a source of pain for Disney and audiences alike.

As Longworth discussed in the podcast, “Song of the South” smacked of minstrelsy and divided audiences in its depiction of the lives of post-Civil War plantation workers, even though it has remained commercially resonant for Disney all these years later.

Below, 13 things to know about “Song of the South,” which will not be coming to any streaming service any time soon.

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