Some Disney classics will stream on Disney+ with a new, prominent disclaimer that warns of their racial stereotyping. Disney’s warning is for movies that contain “negative depictions and/or mistreatment of people and cultures.” Such disclaimers aren’t necessarily new to the platform but are being updated to include a more detailed explanation for flagged titles.
Movies getting the new disclaimer include Peter Pan, Dumbo, Swiss Family Robinson, The Jungle Book, Lady and the Tramp, and The Aristocats. The disclaimer runs for twelve seconds at the beginning of each flagged movie and cannot be fast-forwarded.
The disclaimer reads, “This program includes negative depictions and/or mistreatment of people or cultures. 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.”
The disclaimer also encourages viewers to learn more about how stories have impacted society by visiting disney.com/StoriesMatter.
Why Classics Are Getting Tagged
Disney’s Stories Matter gets further into why the stereotypes presented in their movies are harmful. Take The Aristocats. Disney acknowledges the harmful Asian stereotype represented by the character Shun Gon, an alley cat.
The disclaimer reads, “The cat 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 such as ‘Shanghai, Hong Kong, Egg Foo Young. Fortune cookie always wrong.’”
Likewise, Peter Pan was flagged for its portrayal of Native people. In the animation, they speak in an unintelligible language and are referred to as “redskins,” an offensive term. Peter and the Lost Boys also join in dancing, wearing headdresses, and other exaggerated tropes. This, Disney explains, creates mockery and appropriation of Native peoples’ culture and imagery.
In Dumbo, the crows and musical numbers mimic racist minstrel shows, where white performers don blackface and tattered clothes to imitate and ridicule slaves. The leader of the group is named Jim Crow, sharing the name of laws that enforced racial segregation.
Disney also highlights the racist representation in “The Song of the Roustabouts.” In it, faceless Black workers toil away to offensive lyrics, such as “When we get our pay, we throw our money away.”
In Swiss Family Robinson, Disney points out that the pirates are “portrayed as a stereotypical foreign menace.”
Many pirates appear in yellowface or brownface. They wear top knot hairstyles, robes, and exaggerated make-up to emphasize their “otherness.” Similar to the Native people in Peter Pan, pirates speak in an indecipherable language, creating “a singular and racist representation of Asian and Middle Eastern peoples.”
The video below contains clips of many of these moments, as well as others that are not included on Disney’s current disclaimer list.