Song of the South
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Uploaded on Nov 12, 2011
Released in 1946, Song Of The South, if it is remembered at all, is remembered for it's colorful and entertaining animated interstitial's. Unfortunately, subsequent generations have become familiar with the films animated characters like Brer Rabbit and Brer Fox because of the widely popular Splash Mountain attraction at Disneyland & Walt Disney World. Not because of the film that actually inspired the attraction. Which truly sad given the historical importance of the film.
"Song Of The South" was the Walt Disney Studio's very first foray in to live action film. Many of the familiar styles and themes that would be found in Disney's most acclaimed live action films, have their origins here. The film was, by the standards of the day, a blockbuster hit. Making 65 million dollars during it's initial release. In fact, when the film was released it was viewed as incredibly progressive, portraying African American characters as equals to their Caucasian counterparts in a way that Hollywood had never dared before. The film went on to become a favorite of generations of fans. In 1986 the film was re-released to theaters and on home video. At this point, 40 years after the films initial release, A lot of controversy began to swirl around the film. As time had progressed and American society's attitudes towards race had become more tolerant and more inclusive, the film began to take on an air of racial insensitivity that was never intended, and was in fact the antithesis of the effect that the film had upon audiences during it's initial release.
Unfortunately, after 1986, the film was never again released in the United States. For 25 years Song Of The South has languished in obscurity. Without the benefit of being presented in a positive light by the company that owns it. "Song Of The South" became a film defined more by it's nefarious reputation than by any measure of truth. In fact, many who are aware of the film have been erroneously influenced to believe that this is a hateful or racist film. Nothing could be further from the truth.
The truth is, "Song Of The South" was a film made with good intentions, that has simply aged badly. Unfortunately, it is these negative aspects that have come to define the film. We forget that this was Disney's first live action film. We forget that "Song Of The South" was the first film ever to garner an Oscar for an African American Actor. James Baskett received a special Oscar for his portrayal of Uncle Remus in 1948. An award that Walt Disney had to lobby heavily for, after the actors truly inspirational portrayal was completely ignored by the Academy Of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences in 1946.
"Song Of The South" has been marginalized and eventually forgotten, another story that should have stood as a cautionary tale to generations of young actors was also forgotten. It is the story of Bobby Driscoll, who portrayed little Johnny in "Song Of The South." While many remember Driscoll as Jim Hawkins from Disney's 1950 film "Treasure Island," people are unaware that he served as the voice and physical model for one of Disney's most iconic animated characters, "Peter Pan." Through the mid 1940s and mid 50s Driscoll starred in a half dozen Disney films and was a highly praised young actor.
Bobby's career faltered when he reached his teens. An acne-faced teenager, Bobby had increasing difficulty obtaining roles. His final film 1958 "The Party Crashers" was an utter failure and Bobby eventually left Hollywood to pursue a career in theater in New York City. Again frustrated with his inability to land roles, he turned to alcohol & drugs. Driscoll eventually became a vagrant living on the streets of New York City. He died alone. His body was found in an abandoned tenement in 1968. Unable to identify his body, Authorities in New York buried him in an unmarked grave at New York Citys potters field. He was finally identified in 1969 through finger print records. The world would not learn of Bobby Driscolls fate until 1976, when members of the media tried to contact the actor during the 30th anniversary of "Song Of The South."
On this, the 65th anniversary of "Song Of The South," we post this film for purely educational purposes. Our hope is that future generations can experience this film for what it is, a loving tale about friendship, trust and the lessons we must learn. As well, It is our hope that "Song Of The South" will be remembered as an important part of Disney history specifically and Motion Picture history in general.
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