“Who’s Afraid of Song Of The South?”

After a lot of blood, sweat and tears, Jim Korkis’ latest book Who’s Afraid of the Song of the South? And Other Forbidden Disney Stories is finally ready for publication. It has just been listed on Amazon as both an e-book and a physical book (remember those?).

This time, Korkis (who has also revised his great volume The Vault of Walt) provides the most definitive account of the now-banned 1946 live action/animation Uncle Remus movie – the only Disney feature never released on DVD – its history, its production, and the controversy that still surrounds it. Is Song of the South racist? Is it inappropriate for modern audiences? Why has Disney refused to release the film theatrically since 1986? Using inside sources and dozens of personal interviews with those who worked on the film, Jim examines every aspect of Song of the South’s troubled history: the problems writing the screenplay, the background of the live actors, how the animation was created, Walt Disney’s personal contributions, why the film remains controversial today, and every other aspect of the film you can’t but should see.

The book also features a lengthy foreword by Disney Legend Floyd Norman. Jim also shares seventeen amazing — and equally forbidden — stories the Disney Company wishes were never told. You’ll learn about Disney’s sex education film, Walt’s plan for Mickey Mouse to commit suicide, Tim Burton’s depressed stint at the Disney Studios, Ward Kimball’s UFO obsession, Walt’s owl nightmares, the Disneyland Memorial Orgy poster, and lots more.

More info on this book will be posted soon on the publisher’s website – or order it on Amazon.com. Here’s a look at the contents:

Table of Contents

Part 1:
WHO’S AFRAID OF THESONG OF THE SOUTH?

Song of the South: The Beginning
Song of the South: The Screenplay
Song of the South: The Cast
Song of the South: The Live Action
Song of the South: The Animation
Song of the South: The Music
Song of the South: The World Premiere
Song of the South: The Controversy
Song of the South: The Reviews
Song of the South: The Conclusion

Part 2:
MORE SECRETS OF THE SONG OF THE SOUTH

Song of the South Credit List
Story Summary of the Film
Short Biography of Joel Chandler Harris
Song of the South Dummies
The Brer Characters
Song of the South Actors That Never Were
Disney Uncle Remus Comic Strip
The Disney Uncle Remus Comic Strip That Never Was
The Song of the South Song
The Power of Words
Song of the South Book
That’s What Uncle Remus Said
Splash Mountain
Saturday Night Live Parody

Part 3:
THE OTHER FORBIDDEN STORIES: SEX, WALT, AND FLUBBED FILMS

Whatever Happened to Little Black Sunflower?
Disney’s Story of Menstruation
Disney Attacks Venereal Disease
Disneyland Memorial Orgy Poster Story
Jessica Rabbit: Drawn to Be Bad
Mickey Mouse Attempts Suicide
Walt’s Owl Nightmare
The Mickey Rooney Myth
J. Edgar Hoover Watches Walt
The Myth of Walt’s Last Words
Walt Liked Ike
Disney’s Secret Commercial Studio
The Sweatbox: The Documentary Disney Doesn’t Want Seen
Tim Burton’s Real Nightmare at Disney
Disney John Carters That Never Were
Ward Kimball and UFOs
Walt’s Fantasy Failure: Baum’s Oz

Click on the thumbnails below to see the cover of the book, and a gallery of Song Of The South movie posters throughout the years:


  • Sotiris

    There’s another book coming up about the Song of the South called “Disney’s Most Notorious Film: Race, Convergence, and the Hidden Histories of Song of the South” by Jason Sperb.

    Do you know anything about it, Jerry?

  • http://artnote.blog.com Stephen

    Sounds fascinating!

  • http://erikbutter.blogspot.com Erik Butter

    This film should be released with a disclaimer or something. I am intrested in the story behind it though.

  • http://thegagaman.co.uk/ Gagaman

    So Disney will allow this book to be published but not the one about Ward Kimball’s life? Seems a bit odd..

  • Jody Morgan

    Comment about the “frozen Walt” rumor in three… two… one…

    • RODAN

      Brrrr…it’s cold in here!

  • Vastarien202

    Wow, sounds fantastic! I can’t wait to read it. I grew up with an old brer Rabbit book of my mother’s, which had pictures in it just like the film art! I wish I’d been able to hold on to it.

  • Greg Chenoweth

    I bought this book the other day for my Kindle and it is next on my to-read-list after I finish with Stephen King’s 11/22/63 novel, which is VERY good by the way.

  • http://youtube.com/drexelboi1991 tedzey71

    One of the first books I had as a kid was a collection of Brer Rabbit stories illustrated in the disney style. I still have it, though it’s lost in my basement in bad condition. The illustrations were very neat!

    http://www.amazon.com/Walt-Disneys-Uncle-Remus-Stories/dp/030715551X/ref=pd_sim_sbs_b_3

    And to think a new copy’s worth 225 dollars!

  • Didier Ghez

    Sotiris: If you are a Disney history enthusiast you want to get Jim Korkis’ book, not Jason Sperb’s. Jim focuses on the creation of the movie (his book is a pure delight), Jason’s focuses on the sociological aspects of it. Not at all the same approach. One is readable (Jim’s), the other one barely so. Jason Sperb’s is a good book but aimed at a totally different audience.

    Gagaman: Jim Korkis’ book does not contain any illustrations and he therefore does not need the blessing of Disney. The Ward Kimball book would contain many Disney-copyrighted images, hence the need to get Disney’s approval.

  • Jeff

    “Mickey Mouse Attempts Suicide”
    That story has been published very recently.
    http://www.amazon.com/Walt-Disneys-Mickey-Mouse-Collectors/dp/1606994964/

  • http://comicsradio.blogspot.com Tim DeForest

    The perfect solution:

    Release the film so that it is only available online. Let art schools and libraries know about this so they can obtain copies for educational purposes. But then its also available for individuals if they want it. Make it a multi-disc special edition with commentary, panel discussions and essays that talk frankly about the race issues in the film. Allow those doing the commentary and discussion to freely defend OR criticize the film, but to do so rationally and with mutual respect for other opinions. Then it becomes an educational experience about attitudes towards race in our country AND makes the film available for those who simply want to enjoy it for the animation, music and story.

    • Satorical

      You can’t control public and media reception of the work. Your nuanced and considered approach would be overwhelmed and lost in an uproar–part of it valid, part contrived, all covered relentlessly by the 24-hour news cycle until Disney pulled the movie back off the market.

      • http://comicsradio.blogspot.com Tim DeForest

        But then those of us quick enough to buy an extra copy before it’s pulled can sell it on ebay for $500.00!

        • Chris Sobieniak

          No you know what it feels like to me be sometimes.

    • Jane

      You really think Song of The South is worth all that? It’s just one of many painfully boring live old action Disney movies.

    • Nick Nerdlinger

      [Comment removed by editors. Per our commenting guidelines, “It is OK to post with a nickname or alias, but your email address (which we will NEVER share publicly), must be a real, permanent email address. Comments with fake or non-permanent emails will be deleted.”]

  • Pedro Nakama

    I have a duped copy of the film on VHS from a laser disc. I wanted to show it to my nieces who didn’t understand the Splash Mountain ride at Disneyland.
    It’s probably some of the best animation, design, visual effects, color design and layout to cinematography work you’ll ever see. If you ever get to see it.

  • RODAN

    It has always irked me to “no end” that people have used this film more than any other to portray Walt Disney as a racist. Simply to get attention for themselves and show how Non Racist they are. It’s been a “race-baiting” tactic used by activists to garnish attention . I just do not see it. And, I have never understood how Disney ever allowed themselves to fall for that.
    The film is a beautiful story and depiction of the famed “Uncle Remus” It’s folk lore. It’s Americana. It’s denying the facts about America’s past. I agree that now, It may need a little bit of an explanation to keep up with the times. But to the extent of it’s being held up as an example of racism. I have never believed it.

    • Stéphane Dumas

      Now then you mentionned it, I wonder if we should put Herge’s Adventures of Tintin comic album “Tintin in the Congo”as well as the Popeye and Bugs Bunny shorts “Pop-Pie a la mode”(1945) and “Southern Fried Rabbit” (1953) in a more or less similar context?

    • Sarah J

      Agreed. The thing is, I don’t even get the whole “Disney was racist!” thing anyway. Even if Walt was racist, well, I’m pretty sure most people were racist back then. It would’ve been a weird thing if he WASN’T racist at all. And I kind of doubt he was very racist anyway, considering how insistent and supportive he was at getting the actor to play Uncle Remus be in his film. This was at a time when it was rare for black actors to play nice characters in film, and Walt faced a lot of opposition on that.

  • vzk

    Mickey Mouse suicide? I thought that was just a creepypasta.

  • Anthrocoon

    I do remember seeing it in the ’86 re-issue. Zip a Dee Doo Dah featured in various Disney TV shows, ads, etc. –but not the movie it came from. *cough* not only is the movie available as a bootleg or import, but right now you can see it on YouTube. *cough* Disney misses out on money the longer they refuse to release it officially….Enjoyed Floyd Norman at Anthrocon furry convention and on Stu’s Show

  • http://vbartilucci.tumblr.com/ Vinnie Bartilucci

    Aaaand, purchased.

    Who’s the first black person to win an Oscar? Wrong. The guy that played Uncle Remus got one, albeit an honorary one.

    This is political correctness gone wrong. I know Disney tried REEEEEAL hard to do a dvd release a few years back, going so far as to collecting testimonials from folks Oprah, etc, in a desperate attempt to take the curse off it.

    Of course, the part that’s so fun is while the film is verboten, the characters and songs are used all over the parks. Is there still a Critter Country?

    • Joel

      Yes, Critter Country is still a part of Disneyland and the “Song of the South” characters are still part of “Splash Mountain” (now an integral part of Disneyland). That being the case, one would think the film would be more accessible.

    • Jon

      Actually, Hattie McDaniel was the first African American to win an Academy
      Award, for her role in “Gone with the Wind,” not ‘the guy that played Uncle Remus,’ whose name was James Baskett.

  • Tim Hodge

    Has the film been “banned”, or merely withheld held from distribution by Disney? The term “banned” connotes that it’s a government restriction (i.e. illegal censorship).

    • Chris Sobieniak

      Who knows. For years the BBC in the UK would run it around Christmastime on it’s channels. I got a nice DVD-R copy years back from one of those broadcasts myself.

    • Funkybat

      There is virtually nothing “banned” by the U.S. Government, at least as far as books, films, etc. go. In an everyday conversational context, most people consider “banned” to mean something that is either withheld by a rightsholder and cannot be bought at any price. The other meaning refers to when a school or religious group prevents people who are part of that group from reading a book or watching a movie.

    • http://www.dudegurlz.com Kris Kail

      The US government can only ban a film if it contains illegal content like child porn. I’m pretty sure you can legally own a snuff film so long as you yourself had nothing to do with the creation of it, but there is no “list” of banned movies in the United States.

      Song of the South is just unavailable on home video because of the perception that it’s a racist portrayal of black people. The live action segments I feel are fine, but the animated segments feature an awful lot of “ebonics” if you catch my drift.

  • http://whataboutthad.com Thad Komorowski

    A seriously great haul for $7.99 on Kindle, but oh how I wish there was more on the actual movie in it! Granted, I always like whatever Jim has to say about Disney, and the included articles are mostly excellent. But it felt like I had bought something of a misnomer, a book about SONG OF THE SOUTH and not even half of it is devoted to the film. Maybe there’s something to that – that the movie simply isn’t good enough to warrant an entire book solely about it, because I certainly don’t feel slighted or have any unanswered questions after reading Jim’s account. (I wonder how short all of those pretty “art” books on the Disney movies would be if you got rid of the pictures… now you know why they make ‘em!)

    But the first quarter of the book is most certainly an excellent account of the film’s history, production and reception. I highly recommend it for that alone.

    One minor error in the Kindle version: in the transcription of the film’s onscreen credits, the listing of the “Directing Animators” (Kahl, Larson, etc.) is missing. That was a bit jarring!

  • Polecat

    Well, the Kindle preview was certainly interesting.The part I read had to do with Maurice Rapf’s original script for the film, which was a lot more serious than standard Disney fare. Apparently, Rapf wanted to make it clear that the story was set during the Reconstruction, with the white family all wearing tattered clothes and Little Johnny’s father going off to Atlanta so he could make some money to pay his former slaves. At one point, Rapf even had Uncle Remus saying, “I don’t have to take this! I’m a free man!” The whole script was redone and all of that stuff got thrown out. Maybe the idea was to be more or less in keeping with the films of the period and say, “As long as we don’t talk about racial conflict and slavery, it will go away.” Which has, of course, backfired in the long run.

    Rapf also offered a revealing insight into the origins of the Brer Rabbit fables. Prior to working on the film, he read books about American folklore and came to this conclusion:
    “If you read the fables carefully, they’re stories of slave resistance. Brer Rabbit symbolized the smaller, less powerful black man. Brer Fox, Brer Bear, and Brer Coon were the oppressive whites, and the stories were all about how to outwit the masters.”
    I never thought of it that way!

    • Chris Sobieniak

      And I suppose that is Song of the South’s ultimate dilemma, it never got to tell that side of history that might had redeemed it’s presence.

    • James

      “Maybe the idea was to be more or less in keeping with the films of the period and say, ‘As long as we don’t talk about racial conflict and slavery, it will go away.’”

      Partly. It was more specifically done to appease the Jim Crowe Southern states. Lena Horne, for instance, was clearly groomed by MGM to be a major star but Southern backlash relegated her to smaller parts that could be cut out when shown in that region. As far as SotS was concerned, Disney did what pretty much all the studios did at the time–sanitized the movie for the sake of Southern box office reciepts (and possibly for Production Code reasons).

      • Polecat

        Good point. I guess I kind of forgot that Southerners went to the movies. ;)

  • Sarah J

    I’d like to get this book, I am curious to know why Song of the South hasn’t been released on DVD even while other old, racist Disney works have been openly released. Maybe Disney can release like, a “collector’s edition” DVD, with a disclaimer on how it’s a product of it’s time. I believe they did that with a collection of WWII-era shorts that included “In the Fuhrer’s Face”.

  • mr.miggs

    i watched song of the south
    it was lightly racist but not as much as it is disney made it out to be

  • Andrew Kieswetter

    It’s nice to know that Jim Korkis is still doing things. Do you know what John Cawley (former editor of the Get Animated! fanzine) is up to today Jerry?

  • Sotiris

    I’m going to wait for a physical copy to come out. I’m staying away from any Kindle editions since you’re not really buying the book but “renting it indefinitely” and amazon can take it away whenever they please and for no apparent reason.

  • Paul

    Too bad Disney does not choose to uncouple the classic animation from the live action film which is holding it hostage.

  • Dennis

    i wonder if anything in this book have to be said about The Black Cauldron, i still want to the an uncut version.

  • cliff

    This is an amazing film that should be a part of every Disney fans collection… back when Disney was releasing their treasures collection in waves this title was up for discussion as to be apart of the collection. However this title sadly never made it. I do know that somewhere between Dr Synn and Zorro this film was actually prepared and restored. There was actually a tin produced for the film and some other awesome memorabilia that was to be included into the set. I own several bootleg copies and a VHS that was a released in the USA for rental only, { my dad owned a video store back in the day} the film is a bit outdated and sure it has a racial term in it ( the tar baby scene) however the best part of the film is the animation in my opinion. The live action part of the film can be a bit slow and dragging for the youngsters of today, but when the film starts to seem slow the animation picks it up right in the nick of time. Well if Disney isn’t going to release this than I say power to the pirates and may they profit well. So what are you waiting for go out and pick up your bootleg.

  • Josh

    It’s been a while since I’ve seen it but to my eye Song of the South is completely innocent. The live-action Uncle Remus might raise a few eyebrows amongst adults but to kids it’s all perfectly innocent fun.

    It’s a shame that some of Milt Kahls most appealing characters can’t be seen today.

  • swac

    I’m glad I was lucky enough to see this in its final theatrical reissues in the ’70s and ’80s. I’ve got an okay bootleg DVD made from one of the overseas laserdiscs (I believe there was one from Japan, and another from another Asian country, maybe Singapore?), beware ones made from the UK VHS copy, as it is lesser quality, and also sped up due to the PAL/NTSC conversion.

    But hey, at least you can still buy a Splash Mountain beach towel, with Brer Rabbit, Fox and Bear on it.

  • rosie1843

    Why was such a big deal made about the release of this movie, when films like “GONE WITH THE WIND”, “BIRTH OF A NATION” and “REAP THE WILD WIND” have been in stores for a long time? I smell the rancid air of hypocrisy.