Uncle Remus draws upon his tales of Brer Rabbit to help little Johnny deal his confusion over his parents' separation as well as his new life on the plantation. The tales: The Briar Patch, The Tar Baby and Brer Rabbit's Laughing place. Written by
Paul Penna <email@example.com>
James Baskett originally auditioned to play the butterfly. Not only did he play Uncle Remus, he played Brer Rabbit for the "Laughing Place" scene and sang the "Laughing Place" song after Johnny Lee was called away to do promotion for the picture. Baskett also played the butterfly. See more »
Before Uncle Remus tells the story about the Laughing Place, the mud on Ginny's dress disappears and reappears between shots. See more »
There's other ways of learning about the behind feet of a mule than getting kicked by them, sure as I'm named Remus. And just because these here tales is about critters like Br'er Rabbit an' Br'er Fox, that don't mean they ain't the same like can happen to folks! So them who can't learn from a tale about critters, just ain't got the ears tuned for listening.
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I just finished watching, and there are tears in my eyes.
Song of the South is a beautiful film, with fine values -- fine moral values as well as exceptional production values. The animation is state of the art, the songs humable - Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah is a classic. But many Black people find it painful to watch, painful to the extent that Disney fears a boycott of its other films if it releases this one. Corporations are in the business of making money -- not art. We are lucky when art is an incidental by product, as it is in this case.
The DVD I watched is from Buddha Video Co in Taiwan. Their telephone number if 886-2-2571337. Unlike some VHS releases, the Chinese subtitles can be turned off. The company logo appears briefly but annoyingly in several scenes, but that is a minor irritation. The transfer is better than VHS, though far from the pristine transfer we can wish far, in a happier time, when the old racial hate becomes as remote as the wars between Athens and Sparta. The box has a professional look -- the only strange thing is the absence of any mention of Walt Disney.
Of course, I cannot view this film the way a Black person would, but I hope that Black viewers at least realize both the good intent and the good effect this movie had. Evidentally not all do -- there are posts to this board that accuse the film of racism. It is obvious to anyone who lived though real racism that the message of the film is one of respect.
When I first saw the movie, I was a young white boy growing up in the Deep South, and I think this movie, and movies like it, led me to reject the racism of the adults around me. In much the same way, the TV show "I Spy" opened the minds of the generation that came after mine.
The potential to offend is in all great art, and the offended are often moved to try to suppress what causes them pain. Song of the South is in the same class with Huckleberry Finn, Showboat, Gone With the Wind, and The African Queen -- offensive to some, loved by many, good in both intent and effect on society, but unacceptable today to those who do not want to be reminded of the truth about the past.
Modern films, which invariably show Black people in the past as able to treat all whites like equals and not get lynched, are pure fantasy, but they are a fantasy that those who would rather forget history demand. But there were many close friendships across racial lines. Friendships such as the one shown in Song of the South between the grandmother and Uncle Remus did happen.
One final comment, addressed to those who wish the horrors of Reconstruction were explicit in the film -- there are horrors enough hovering around the edges. The father, for example, is clearly risking his life by publishing a progressive newspaper in Atlanta. The mother, while she is not a racist, looks down on the "lower class". But these things are, rightly, kept to one side. This is a children's film, after all, about love, intelligence, and the healing power stories.
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