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Song of the South plays Philly


I don’t know how this happened, but I just found out that Song of the South had a public performance in the Philadelphia last Tuesday night. The Chestnut Hill Free Library showed it twice, apparently without protest. Sam Adams of the weekly Philadelphia CityPaper gave the film a plug with a nicely written overview.

Was this an authorized showing – or did they screen an old VHS? Can any institution book the film? When will Disney release the film on DVD? Inquiring minds want to know.

  • Keith Paynter

    It may have been arranged through a licensee such as Criterion Pictures. If they have a copy of the film in any viewable format (VHS, 16MM, etc.) its fair game. Since it’s a library, we’re talking about a “non-theatrical” public performance. It’s really only being banned from home video at this point.

    I’m in the same scenario with an upcoming War-toons program I’m showing on Nov. 8th. I’ve gotten authorization (thanks to a public performance license fee) to include Censored 11 classics “Coal Black” and “Tin Pan Alley Cats” in the program, and these are simply banned from television and home video under Turner.

  • I’ve gone to to film screenings there but I stopped because the audience is so annoying (it’s just a bunch of old people that have to prove they know when to laugh at old movies) but the screenings I went to were 16mm and that’s how they advertise the event on their site. I’m sorry I missed this.

  • Johnny

    It could be Disney is looking for some feedback from the public to determine the demand for the dvd release (and to see if it’s offensive to the majority). It’s been done before, on channels like AMC and TNT, where consumer-nonavailable films are aired and not long afterward, the DVD comes out. So who knows?????

  • I say release it through their Walt Disney Treasures series, limited run, of course.

  • The only thing wrong with this movie is that not enough people have seen it.

  • We’ve already had this test.

    I arranged a screening of “Song of the South” for an all African-American audience in Los Angeles back in the sixties. The result? The audience loved the movie, and asked to see it a second time.

    So much for racism at Disney.

  • I say: Let’s do it again. I wonder if I can get a screening arranged.

  • Paul N

    I have a copy of SotS on VHS, from the Japanese laserdisc release. It’s one of the reasons I have to replace my dead VHS deck.

  • I don’t think this is a crowd you float a rerelease on. The room seats about 50 and the people that show up are not exactly the kind of audience I would expect Disney to be worried about complaining if a rerelease did occur, I think it’s more likely that there was a 16mm print that had been floating around for awhile and this film group is trying gain/keep some credit for itself as a place to view film in an intellectual setting. The tuesday after next they’re showing Godard’s Weekend. This is not a group inclined to take a film like this out of context, or at least the people setting the program would not want it to be I would imagine.

  • Bill Field

    I inherited approx. 3500 movies and programs on vhs when my uncle passed away 8 years ago, I have a USA released Disney VHS of Song of the South, in spite of folks telling me it never happened–it even has proof of purchase info and a small booklet tauting the previous and upcoming release dates for Disney VHS’. It can’t be a bootleg, it has a upc and all Disney copyrights, the right accompanying media that a bonafide release would have. I just want to know more about this seemingly “never produced VHS” that I actually posess, maybe there was a vhs club thru Disney or the like… Any info would be appreciated.

  • Bill-
    It may have been a rare “RENTAL ONLY” copy. Earl Kress told me he saw one of them years and years ago.

  • Reg Hartt

    SONG OF THE SOUTH has been listed in Disney’s 16mm non-theatrical catalogue for years.

    As well, libraries were able to buy 16mm prints of Disney titles (the Toronto Public Library did just that years ago).

    No one has ever said SONG OF THE SOUTH was never available on vhs.

    It was. Those prints are still floating around.

  • Sean D.

    I just watched this on DVD a couple of weeks ago. It’s a great film. I’m not sure where the DVD came from (bootleg from Europe perhaps), but it looks to be a copy from an LD source. It looked really good, even upscaled on a 42″ HD screen. You can easily find dvd quality copies on the Torrent sites if you really wanted one (what can’t you find on a torrent search these days though? Twice Upon a Time is findable too).

    I still have the VHS copy of SotS that I made from the Japanese laserdisc that Le Video in San Francisco used to have when they still had laserdiscs (only the song lyric subtitles couldn’t be turned off).

  • pardon me for “opening a can of worm” (but you’ve done opened it!)

    And why the good fuck WOULD it have “protest!”?? I am ohhhhhhhh so sick of this beautiful film being so “blacklisted!” How silly to begin with!

  • I got a Japanese copy some years back and spent the next week asking every African-American I knew or who came in the store where I worked their opinion on the controversy. More often than not, they started singing ZIP-A-DEE-DOO-DAH and asked if I’d dub them off a copy!

  • Opus

    I think the worry about a backlash of Disney if the film is released on dvd is credible.
    A co-worker, who hadn’t seen The Jungle Book since she was little girl bought that for her young son. She came to work complaining about how racist that film was. Says she won’t play it for her son again and is going to start prescreening all of Disney’s old films.
    This is a woman who is in no way a particularly PC type person.

  • Seeing as how Disney released SotS on DVD at Disneyland Paris, and seeing as you can buy unopened DVD copies on ebay fairly easily…

    What exactly is the big deal? For consumers OR for Disney?

  • Sean D.

    Opus, please explain why your coworker thought Jungle Book is racist. Is it Baloo? King Louie? I’m totally at a loss with that one. Maybe I’m just not as sensitive to these things as society at large (I hardly ever give it a thought unless it’s something like a white guy in blackface singing old jazz tunes, or, say, a Speedy Gonzalez cartoon), but I didn’t find The Jungle Book to be offensive at all.

    Of Disney’s entire library, I’d say that the most racist cartoon of all of them is Tarzan, and that is primarily because of the source material, but everyone loves Tarzan.

  • Opus

    Sean D: It was King Louie, the rest of the apes and the song they sang. Bascially she says the apes are bigoted caricatures of black people and along with King Louie’s song is portraying them as stupid, lazy, and wanting to white.

  • Sean D.


    Wow, that’s an interesting but flawed perception. So, are we to read any monkey character in any movie as “caricatures of black people”? Unfortunately, the monkeys were portrayed as anything but lazy in that scene; mischievous and troublesome would be better descriptions… you know, monkey-like. If anyone should be offended by King Louie and the monkeys, it’s beatniks.

    As for the song, here’s how I read it: The King of the Monkeys (ironically an Ape) wanted man’s fire, ie knowledge. He’s an animal wanting what man has- ultimate dominion over all the other critters. King Louie basically wanted what any small-time king desires, more power.

    Perhaps you should also inform your coworker that King Louie is voiced by Louis Prima, who is white, and he’s singing to an Indian boy (although played by a white kid). From my perspective, the hangups are with your coworker, and not a property of The Jungle Book.

  • Opus

    I’d agree about my co-worker having the hangup. If we were looking for racial caricatures in past Disney toons, I think they exist, for better or worse. Jungle Book however wouldn’t have been one of them.

    But my co-worker is a perfect example of the type of attitude that is out there nowadays. SoTS would probably make her head explode.

  • Br’er J

    Then let it explode. Better still she (or anyone else) would not be forced to buy it or even to watch it. It’s all about choice folks! I think the rest of us can and will keep our heads very well intact.

  • Ross W

    I recently found out that there is a brief excerpt of SotS on the Alice in Wonderland The Masterpiece Edition, during the One Hour In Wonderland program on disc 2. I played it for my 5 and 7 year old daughters and they laughed more than they have at any recent animated release. It makes me sad to think this film I enjoyed greatly as a child (during it 70’s re-release) is not available. Someone should organize a protest outside of Splash Mountain.

  • I remember seeing this for the first time when I was in high school, and we had the storybook at home when I was a young child.

    Even when I was a child, I never saw the stories as putting african americans in a bad light…and as a young adult, I felt my belief was confirmed.

    Disney (in my mind) kept the essence of the Uncle Remus stories intact…the tradition of the wily hero tricking the bad guys…and I also felt the movie portrayed Uncle Remus as a very kind and caring man. I didn’t see him as a buffoon or anything.

    In this sense, I have to say I’d like to see Song of the South come out on DVD. I’d buy it for my collection.

  • Yes! It shows HARMONY between races. How awful is that??!!

  • John A

    You know, in 40 years, I’ve never heard a single Italian complain about being portrayed as an orangutan in the Jungle Book.

    And Ross W, I’m with you brother, I’d be happy if I could find a single item that features the SOTS characters anywhere in Disneyland.

  • Chuck

    We have the dub of the laserdisc at home and the quality is really poor.

    I really did enjoy the movie when we saw it in the theatre and I am looking forward to showing it to my children when they are a little older and we can talk about some of the issues in the movie (they are 4 right now).

  • John Tebbel

    The animation is fabulous, the live action is ridiculous. Who would want to be ridiculed? And who can look at the events of the past six months (or any six months) and say we’re ready for another public debate on who meant what when to which members of any race? It’s clearly available to buffs, the rest of our friends and neighbors probably don’t need the extra stress.

  • Dodgerfan

    With all types of truly repulsive, disgusting, degrading movies (ultra-violent, depicting explicit sexual violence, racially degrading, etc.)readily available, it truly is amazing to me that there would be any objection to this film. Dozens of movies depicting blacks as thugs, prostitutes, drug addicts, low-lifes, absent fathers, etc. are released every year. Are we to think that it is ok with support these portrayals, but one showing a kind, happy, grandfather-type black man is degrading? So many people – of all races – exhibit truly “backward thinking.” This movie does not.

  • Amen, Dodgerfan!!

  • hanamana

    bought my japanese import LD for $61 plus tax at Tower records. they sold out very quickly. A friend at a LD rental store told me he had just bought one and there were still some left. I dubbed it from my Pioneer 3080, which used the same chassis as the $2000 LD 2 and has a 50 db s/n ratio (vhs in low 40’s). Recorded to a Toshba RD-XS52 at 6.6 mbps and looks quite good, the digitizing of the analog signal smoothing out the jaggedness inherent in an NTSC picture (the horizontal lines disappear)

  • Don Phillips

    why would any body ban this movie? it is not a racial movie . there may be people who would say they think it is but most people i know that have seen it don’t think so.