The Jungle Book: All the times Disney was racist AF
Disney is always trying to maintain its family friendly image because – real talk! – that’s where the big money is. And hey, we all love Disney movies right? The young princesses, the lions that are robbed of their rightful heir status to be the king of the jungle, and the racist crows. Wait, what? Disney used to be as racist AF! It might not be anymore, but it definitely used to be.
When the new trailer for Tim Burton’s live-action remake of Dumbo dropped – which made us all realize we’ll be sobbing uncontrollably in public over a tiny elephant when we catch the film – it’s worth revisiting some of Disney’s dark past and questionable content from a time we’re sure they’d much rather forget. Here are seven uncomfortable times Disney was racist AF.
Everyone in the burning trash fire of the comments section for the “When I See an Elephant Fly” scene on YouTube might think it’s totally fine but it’s really not. “Boy, those city folks is sho-in for a suh-prise” proclaims the crow – voiced by a white dude – in a broad southern accent whilst smoking a cigar.
The crows are often seen just hanging about, doing nothing, and being generally stupid, which was a commonly held racist opinion among white folk of black people were like at the time.
The Jungle Book
King Louie may have the most catchy song in the film but he’s also an awkwardly racist stereotype of what white folk thought about black people in the ‘60s.. Louie, who despite being the king of all that surrounds him, just wants to “like the other men’” because he’s “tired of monkeying around”.
On the one hand, this could be looked at as him just wanting to be treated equally, but that doesn’t explain all the other issues with the character like how he conspicuously poorer linguistic skills than the other talking animals.
Legend has it that when Disney first approached singer and trumpeter Louis Prima – who sang “I Wanna Be Like You” in the film – he could see the racist undertones in the character and jokingly retorted, “You wanna make a monkey out of me?”
Firstly, Disney made the frankly insane decision to try and act like this scene simply never happened when re-releasing the film in 1960 – something a lot of people will probably be trying to do with Tweets of theirs in 2078. Secondly, it’s just a sad shame to see a beautiful young black girl depicted in this horrible way as a servant to her white masters.
If it had been set 200 years earlier you could maybe understand it, but why they chose to depict the girl like this in a world of make believe and infinite possibilities is anyone’s guess. It’s a shame too as Fantasia might be Disney’s greatest ever film. And if you don’t think the depiction of Sunflower in the film is racist, well, you probably retweeted Roseanne.
Before handing a small child a smoking pipe someone says “This is going to be very enlightening”. It’s then a bit like the end scene of Once Upon a Time in America where Noodles (Robert De Niro) smokes opium and you’re forced to ask yourself what the hell you’ve just watched. “What made the redman, red?” they ask.
Pigmentation is a product of genetics doesn’t sound good lyrically but it’s nowhere near as offensive as what they put in.
For some reason, a bit like Jesus Christ, Aladdin doesn’t look like he’s from the Middle East. In fact he looks more like he works weekends in a guitar shop in the midwest than he does the Middle East. It’s something Disney has always done and by the time this came out in 1992 you weren’t even sure if it was racist or just – like your crazy Uncle Peter – very, very ignorant.
The opening song in the original also contained a line about “cutting someone’s ear off” if you didn’t like their face, which is as awful a depiction of Middle Eastern culture is can find in a kid’s film. Not as awful as Middle Eastern people are depicted nowadays in crazy modern America but still, pretty bad.
The Little Mermaid
Despite coming out in 1989 some of the fish in The Little Mermaid look and act a bit‘ “Crowy”. The Duke of Soul and the erm, Blackfish especially haven’t aged well. But to be honest, it’s probably not the worst Disney have ever done. Just read below for that doozy.
Song of the South
“I’ve got this insane idea” one of the executives at Disney must have shouted as he burst into Walt Disney’s office. “What if the guy is working on the plantation because for some reason he genuinely likes that kind of thing!”
At the very least the actor wasn’t a white man in blackface – ‘I’ve got another insane idea, boss…!” – but possibly even sadder is the fact that when the film premiered lead actor James Baskett, wasn’t allowed in the cinema. Which is probably why he took to talking to imaginary animals in the first place, because most of the people back then were real assholes.