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Disney classics like Peter Pan, Dumbo preceded by advisory warning of racist content on Disney+
Since its launch, Disney+ has included a disclaimer that some of the content across its large library of classic films contained "outdated cultural depictions" which perpetuated racist and culturally insensitive themes and imagery. Now, as the service has grown and even earned a massive original hit of its own with The Mandalorian, Disney+ is doubling down (and improving upon) its warning system for its older, racist content. That means classics like Peter Pan, Dumbo, Aristocats, and more are getting extended explanations of the insensitive and harmful representations they contain, and they're much easier to find than buried in the movie's description data, where the previous disclaimer was located.
Now a graphic plays in front of these films and others for 12 seconds that reads as follows:
"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. To learn more about how stories have impacted society, please visit www.disney.com/StoriesMatter."
That's a big step forward for the streamer, following in the footsteps of Warner Bros., which set the standard for taking accountability for past racist content with similar warnings on older cartoons. The site itself includes plenty of handy information with the ultimate goal being, rather than attempt to change the past, "acknowledge it, learn from it and move forward together to create a tomorrow that today can only dream of."
Part of that means pointing out in no uncertain terms the racist parts of beloved films. There's no "may contain" here. It's detailed.
Explaining that a cat in Aristocats is a "racist caricature of East Asian peoples with exaggerated stereotypical traits such as slanted eyes and buck teeth" or that Dumbo's crows "pay homage to racist minstrel shows" or Peter Pan's whole attitude toward Native cultures is one of disrespect, with rampant "mockery and appropriation of Native peoples' culture and imagery," is important. Fans can still love these movies, but newcomers to these old films need to know they are deeply flawed. Disney+'s step in the right direction here will hopefully help foster conversations with the next generation of fans and stem the perpetuation of systemic racism.