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Disney’s PC police: Company holds meetings with groups to decide which content gets disclaimer

The Walt Disney Company holds monthly meetings with advocates from women and minority groups who comb through hundreds of hours of Disney-streamed content looking for potentially offensive material to flag.

According to The Hollywood Reporter, the monthly zoom meetings are held between Disney officials and a so-called ‘third-party advisory council.’

The council includes representatives from the African American Film Critics Association; CAPE (Coalition of Asian Pacifics in Entertainment); Define American; the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media; Gay Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD); Hollywood, Health and Society; IllumiNative; National Association of Latino Independent Producers; RespectAbility; The Science & Entertainment Exchange; and Tanenbaum.

Disney asks representatives of the organizations to watch content that the company has acquired on its streaming service to check for material that may be deemed culturally insensitive, according to THR.  

It’s the latest in a move toward sanitizing cultural staples that are now seen by some to be offensive: The company that looks after Dr. Seuss’s books said it would stop publishing six of them that they said were racially problematic. And Hasbro said it would stop branding is line of potato toys as ‘Mr. Potato Head’ to make room for same-sex and single-parent variations. 

In relation to The Aristocats – a film about a group of musical felines – Disney warns viewers about a scene where one of the cats, who is voiced by a white actor, chants out stereotypical Chinese ‘words’ while playing the piano with chopsticks

The Jungle Book, a 1967 adaptation of Rudyard Kipling's novel, has also been highlighted, namely for its depiction of the ape King Louie, which has been accused of perpetuating a stereotype of African Americans

The Jungle Book, a 1967 adaptation of Rudyard Kipling’s novel, has also been highlighted, namely for its depiction of the ape King Louie, which has been accused of perpetuating a stereotype of African Americans

According to Disney, the Robinson family in Swiss Family Robinson are portrayed as ‘a stereotypical foreign menace’ while others in the film appear in ‘yellow face’ or ‘brown face’ that ‘reinforce their barbarism.’

According to Disney, the Robinson family in Swiss Family Robinson are portrayed as ‘a stereotypical foreign menace’ while others in the film appear in ‘yellow face’ or ‘brown face’ that ‘reinforce their barbarism.’

Peter Pan viewers are warned that Native Americans Indians are referred to as 'redskins'

Peter Pan viewers are warned that Native Americans Indians are referred to as ‘redskins’

Disney is advised by an outside, third-party council made up of groups that advocate on behalf of women and minorities to comb through content and decide which films or episodes need a disclaimer like the one above

Disney is advised by an outside, third-party council made up of groups that advocate on behalf of women and minorities to comb through content and decide which films or episodes need a disclaimer like the one above

At Disney, since its streaming service debuted in late 2019, it’s added a disclaimer to several of its animated classics, including Dumbo, Peter Pan, and other hits because they depict racist stereotypes, underscoring a challenge media companies face when they resurrect older movies in modern times.

Companies have been grappling for years with how to address stereotypes that were in TV shows and movies decades ago but look jarring today. Streaming brings the problem to the fore.

Disney added a disclaimer to the animated hit Aristocats because the main character is a cat who is ‘depicted as a racist caricature of East Asian peoples with exaggerated stereotypical traits such as slanted eyes and buck teeth.’

An episode of the Muppets in which Johnny Cash (center) sings along with Miss Piggy with the Confederate flag in the background has also been cited as problematic

An episode of the Muppets in which Johnny Cash (center) sings along with Miss Piggy with the Confederate flag in the background has also been cited as problematic 

Divisive:  Disney+ banned the controversial 1946 film Song Of The South after it was deemed racist

Divisive:  Disney+ banned the controversial 1946 film Song Of The South after it was deemed racist

Disney+ has a library of more than 500 movies and 7,500 episodes of shows that it streams to its subscribers. The Walt Disney Company's strategy is to appeal to a broad audience by flagging potentially insensitive content

Disney+ has a library of more than 500 movies and 7,500 episodes of shows that it streams to its subscribers. The Walt Disney Company’s strategy is to appeal to a broad audience by flagging potentially insensitive content

The cat also ‘sings in poorly accented English voiced by a white actor and plays the piano with chopsticks.’

In Dumbo, from 1941, crows that help Dumbo learn to fly are depicted with exaggerated black stereotypical voices.

What are the warnings for each Disney film?

Peter Pan (1953): Viewers are warned that Native American Indians are referred to as ‘redskins’ and that dancing in native American headdresses is a ‘form of mockery and appropriation of Native peoples’ culture and imagery’.

Disney also takes issue with the reference to the ‘unintelligible language’ in which the ‘redskins’ speak.

The original also had a song entitled What Makes The Red Man Red, although this was later restyled What Makes The Brave Man Brave.   

The Aristocats (1970): A warning highlights a scene where one of the cats chants stereotypical Chinese ‘words’ in an accent while playing piano with a pair of chopsticks.

The cat in question, Shun Gon, is also voiced by a white actor, Paul Winchell.

Jungle Book (1967): Film highlighted for its perceived use of negative racial stereotypes. 

The character of King Louie, an ape, has been accused of perpetuating a racist stereotype as African-Americans.

Lady and the Tramp (1955): Movie placed on list due to its perceived stereotyping of Asians courtesy of Siamese cats Si and Am.

Similarly, during a scene at a dog pound the canines from around the world all portray stereotypes from the countries their breeds originate. 

For example, Boris the Russian Borzoi speaks in a thick Eastern European accent, while Pedro the Mexican Chihuahua talks in central American tones. 

Dumbo (1941): It comes under fire for its references to racist segregationist laws in the deep south, as well as its use of affected African-American voices. 

The lead crow in the film is also called Jim Crow – a reference to the segregation laws in late 19th and early 20th Century America. 

The lead crow’s name is ‘Jim Crow,’ a term that describes a set of laws that legalized segregation.

In Peter Pan, from 1953, Native American characters are caricatured.

Other Disney movies with the disclaimer include The Jungle Book and Swiss Family Robinson.

According to Disney, the Robinson family in Swiss Family Robinson are portrayed as ‘a stereotypical foreign menace’ while others in the film appear in ‘yellow face’ or ‘brown face’ that ‘reinforce their barbarism.’

Disney’s disclaimer echoes what other media companies have done in response to problematic videos, but many people are calling on Disney to do more.

‘We’ve had some very raw conversations on those Zooms,’ Gil Robertson, the president of the African American Film Critics Association, told THR.

Robertson is part of the advisory council. He says The Walt Disney Company’s efforts to suss out problematic content from the Disney+ library that includes more than 500 films and 7,500 episodes are designed to appeal to as broad an audience as possible.

‘They want to make up for any offensive messaging they may have been a part of,’ Robertson says.

‘It feels sincere, and it’s also good business.’

On its web site, Disney describes the council as one that is ‘composed of leading organizations who advocate for the communities they represent and are at the forefront of driving narrative change in media and entertainment.’

‘They are supporting our efforts to increase our cultural competency by providing ongoing guidance and thought leadership on critical issues and shifting perceptions,’ Disney said.

Define American bills itself as an advocacy group that ‘uses media and the power of storytelling to shift the conversation about immigrants, identity and citizenship in a changing America.’

The Geena Davis Institute is a ‘research-based organization working collaboratively within the entertainment industry to create gender balance, foster inclusion and reduce negative stereotyping in family entertainment media.’

HH&S says it ‘informs and inspires accurate storylines on topics including health and medicine, social justice, climate change and national security.’

IllumiNative says it is an organization that ‘increases the visibility of Native Nations and peoples in American society’ while seeking to ‘impact policy and end continued discrminiation and disparities faced by Native communities.’

RespectAbility is a group that advocates on behalf of people with disabilities while ‘improving the number and quality of authentic and diverse representations of people with disabilities in TV and film.’

Last year, HBO Max added a four-minute disclaimer to the start of the 1939 classic Gone with the Wind warning it 'denies the horrors of slavery'

Last year, HBO Max added a four-minute disclaimer to the start of the 1939 classic Gone with the Wind warning it ‘denies the horrors of slavery’

TCM host and film scholar Jacqueline Stewart delivers the new introduction to the movie

TCM host and film scholar Jacqueline Stewart delivers the new introduction to the movie

Tanenbaum bills itself as a ‘champion of faith-based inclusion’ that combats ‘religious prejudice, hatred, and violence while promoting justice and respect for people of all religious beliefs.’

DailyMail.com has reached out to the Walt Disney Company and all of the aforementioned organizations for comment.

Disney isn’t the only large media company that has grappled with portrayals of minorities since last year’s police-involved killing of George Floyd, a 46-year-old black man in Minneapolis.

Last June, HBO Max temporarily removed Gone With the Wind from its streaming library in order to add historical context to the 1939 film long criticized for romanticizing slavery and the Civil War-era South.

Protests in the wake of Floyd’s death have forced entertainment companies to grapple with the appropriateness of both current and past productions. 

The Paramount Network dropped the long-running reality series Cops after 33 seasons. 

The BBC also removed episodes of Little Britain, a comedy series that featured a character in blackface, from its streaming service.

In a statement, the AT&T-owned WarnerMedia, which owns HBO Max, called Gone With the Wind ‘a product of its time’ that depicts racial prejudices.

‘These racist depictions were wrong then and are wrong today, and we felt that to keep this title up without an explanation and a denouncement of those depictions would be irresponsible,’ said an HBO Max spokesman in a statement.

If I Ran the Zoo, which was published in 1950, includes a drawing of two bare-footed African men wearing what appear to be grass skirts with their hair tied above their heads

If I Ran the Zoo, which was published in 1950, includes a drawing of two bare-footed African men wearing what appear to be grass skirts with their hair tied above their heads 

In And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street, an Asian person is portrayed wearing a conical hat, holding chopsticks, and eating from a bowl. Earlier editions of the book (right) showed the same character with yellow skin and a long ponytail

In And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street, an Asian person is portrayed wearing a conical hat, holding chopsticks, and eating from a bowl. Earlier editions of the book (right) showed the same character with yellow skin and a long ponytail

The company said that when Gone With the Wind returns to the recently launched streaming service, it will include ‘historical context and a denouncement of those very depictions, but will be presented as it was originally created, because to do otherwise would be the same as claiming these prejudices never existed.’ 

The issue of racial and cultural sensitivity was at the forefront of media headlines this week.

Six Dr. Seuss books — including And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street and If I Ran the Zoo — will stop being published because of racist and insensitive imagery, the business that preserves and protects the author’s legacy said Tuesday.

‘These books portray people in ways that are hurtful and wrong,’ Dr. Seuss Enterprises told The Associated Press in a statement that coincided with the late author and illustrator’s birthday.

‘Ceasing sales of these books is only part of our commitment and our broader plan to ensure Dr. Seuss Enterprises’ catalog represents and supports all communities and families,’ it said.

The other books affected are McElligot’s Pool, On Beyond Zebra!, Scrambled Eggs Super!, and The Cat’s Quizzer.

The decision to cease publication and sales of the books was made last year after months of discussion, the company, which was founded by Seuss’ family, told AP.

‘Dr. Seuss Enterprises listened and took feedback from our audiences including teachers, academics and specialists in the field as part of our review process. We then worked with a panel of experts, including educators, to review our catalog of titles,’ it said. 


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