In a rather bold movie, Disney+ has pulled several classic movies from children’s profiles due to controversy over their “negative depictions and/or mistreatment of people or cultures.” Last year, the streamer added a content warning to several of these movies, though they still remained available to stream on children’s profiles. Now, children under 7 will no longer be able to access the movies Dumbo, Peter Pan, The Aristocats, and Swiss Family Robinson, though these titles are still available to stream on adult Disney+ profiles along with the disclaimer.
In the content warning featured at the start of these movies on the adult contents, Disney acknowledges the harmful stereotypes while explaining the decision to keep the movies available to watch. The statement reads, in part, “These stereotypes were wrong then and are wrong now. Rather than remove this content, we want to acknowledge its harmful impact, learn from it and spark conversation to create a more inclusive future together. Disney is committed to creating stories with inspirational and aspirational themes that reflect the rich diversity of the human experience around the globe.”
On the Stories Matter section of its website, the Walt Disney Company also details why each of these movies is offensive. For Dumbo, that includes crow characters who “pay homage to racist minstrel shows, where white performers with blackened faces and tattered clothing imitated and ridiculed enslaved Africans on Southern plantations. The leader of the group in Dumbo is Jim Crow, which shares the name of laws that enforced racial segregation in the Southern United States.”
Peter Pan has also come under some criticism for the way the movie “portrays Native people in a stereotypical manner that reflects neither the diversity of Native peoples nor their authentic cultural traditions. It shows them speaking in an unintelligible language and repeatedly refers to them as ‘redskins,’ an offensive term. Peter and the Lost Boys engage in dancing, wearing headdresses and other exaggerated tropes, a form of mockery and appropriation of Native peoples’ culture and imagery.”
As for The Aristocats, one feline is “depicted as a racist caricature of East Asian peoples with exaggerated stereotypical traits such as slanted eyes and buck teeth. He sings in poorly accented English voiced by a white actor and plays the piano with chopsticks. This portrayal reinforces the “perpetual foreigner” stereotype, while the film also features lyrics that mock the Chinese language and culture.”
The live-action movie Swiss Family Robinson has also come under fire for its portrayal of pirates, with Disney noting that “the pirates who antagonize the Robinson family are portrayed as a stereotypical foreign menace. Many appear in ‘yellow face’ or ‘brown face’ and are costumed in an exaggerated and inaccurate manner with top knot hairstyles, queues, robes and overdone facial make-up and jewelry, reinforcing their barbarism and ‘otherness.’ They speak in an indecipherable language, presenting a singular and racist representation of Asian and Middle Eastern peoples.”
Meanwhile, Disney Parks is taking steps to make the iconic Jungle Cruise ride more inclusive after years of criticism over its negative depictions of cultures. This follows a previous announcement that Disney was similarly overhauling Splash Mountain due to its connections to the 1946 movie Song of the South, which has received immense criticism over its portrayal of African-Americans. Unlike Peter Pan and the other titles with disclaimers, Song of the South is not available to watch at all on Disney+.
You can read more about the Disney advisory and the affected Disney+ titles at the Stories Matter section of the official website for The Walt Disney Company.