Owing to the significant and continued controversy surrounding the film's treatment of slavery and the portrayal of its African American characters, Disney has been reluctant to reissue the film in the United States, having last been seen legally in said territory in 1986. The studio did make the film available on video in Europe and Asia, and bootleg copies are frequently derived from them. The classic music can still often be heard throughout the theme parks and other various outlets - unknown to most younger generations who have no association with it.
Disney first re-released the film in 1956. In 1970, Disney announced in Variety that the film had been "permanently" retired. The studio changed its mind and re-released the film in 1972, 1981, and 1986.
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.
The complete film has never been released on DVD in the USA, but extensive clips appear on the Alice in Wonderland (1951) Un-Anniversary Edition DVD (2010), in the special feature One Hour in Wonderland (1950).
According to page 93 of James Snead's book, "White Screens/Black images", "At the film's New York premiere in Times Square, dozens of black and white pickets chanted, 'We fought for Uncle Sam, not Uncle Tom,' while the NAACP called for a total boycott of the film, and the National Negro Congress called on black people to 'run the picture out of the area.'"
In an article titled "Disney's Laughin' Place," Frank Stephenson said "Following its debut, the NAACP registered its official displeasure of what it called the film's 'racial stereotyping', a charge echoed by the National Urban League."
On May 8, 2007, the Los Angeles Urban Policy Roundtable, which includes representatives from the Los Angeles Civil Rights Association, the NAACP National Board, and the Youth Advocacy Coalition, sent out a press release denouncing Disney's rumors to re-release the film again.
During the Gulf War, David Jason met someone in a pub who worked at RAF Command Headquarters. He told Jason they race 3-wheel vans against each other, paint them yellow with Trotters Independent Traders down the sides of them, like the van from Only Fools and Horses.... (1981). Jason went down to have a look, but he didn't see a race. Jason, Nicholas Lyndhurst and Buster Merryfield sent a Trotters van out to Kuwait. They slipped it into a Hercules plane among other stuff on a supply run and when it was unloaded the crew would find the van, filled up with chewing gum, toothpaste, cake and Danger Mouse (1981) and Count Duckula (1988) tapes from Brian Cosgrove with labels saying Debbie Does Dallas and Zipperdeedoodah (not zip a dee doo dah) and all sorts to amuse them. Jason didn't ask for any publicity because he didn't want anyone to think it was just for that, but a private joke between the RAF and the Trotters. The van was put in the hold and covered up with medical supplies and ammunition and flew to Kuwait, where its discovery brought some light relief.