Exploring film history often exposes tales of awe, imagination, and cultural shifts. Did you know that there are racist undertones in many Disney classics? It makes sense as progress evolves throughout the decades, but it’s cringe-watching it now. Here is a look at the most racist Disney films.
1. Aladdin (1992)
A young street kid named Aladdin finds a magical lamp with a genie inside of it in the animated musical fantasy film Aladdin. Aladdin receives three wishes from the genie, who is voiced by Robin Williams, sparking a sequence of adventures in the made-up city of Agrabah. The movie has drawn criticism for how it portrays certain characters and uses Middle-Eastern cultural clichés.
2. Peter Pan (1953)
This play and novel by J.M. Barrie, Peter Pan, is an animated version that portrays the adventures of Peter Pan and his companions in the fantastical Neverland. Characters including Peter Pan, Tinker Bell, and Wendy Darling appear in the movie as they go up against the evil Captain Hook. The film has drawn criticism for its stereotypical portrayals of Native American people despite being commended for its inventive storytelling.
3. The Jungle Book (1967)
In the animated musical The Jungle Book, a little kid named Mowgli is raised by wolves in the jungle, based on Rudyard Kipling’s stories. Mowgli’s interactions with numerous animal characters, such as the bear Baloo and the panther Bagheera, are highlighted in the movie.
The movie has drawn criticism for some of its representations and associations with culture, despite being praised for its catchy melodies and vibrant animation. King Louie’s character is a jazz-singing ape considered an offensive caricature that utilizes racist stereotypes of Black Americans.
4. Dumbo (1941)
A juvenile elephant with abnormally enormous ears who learns to fly is the subject of the animated film Dumbo. As Dumbo overcomes his obstacles, the movie tackles themes of friendship and self-discovery.
The movie has drawn praise for its heartwarming tale and memorable scenes, but it has also come under fire for the characters that evoke minstrel show stereotypes and that the leader is named Jim Crow.
5. The Aristocats (1970)
A Parisian cat family’s adventures after being abducted and left in the French countryside are told in the animated comedy The Aristocats. The movie is well-known for its catchy tunes and hilarious scenes, but it has come under fire for having a Siamese cat character who represents a negative stereotype.
6. Lady and the Tramp (1955)
A classy Cocker Spaniel named Lady and a street-smart dog named Tramp fall in love in the endearing animated romance Lady and the Tramp. The movie has received criticism for its representation of racially inappropriate cliches through the characters of Si and Am, two naughty Siamese cats, despite being praised for its romantic plot and classic spaghetti sequence.
7. Pocahontas (1995)
The animated musical Pocahontas portrays the legendary tale of the Native American woman Pocahontas and her encounters with English settler John Smith in a flexible manner. The movie has drawn criticism for its historical mistakes, simplification of complex subjects, and portrayal of Native American characters, even though it seeks to promote themes of environmental concern and cultural understanding.
8. Fantasia (1940)
The innovative animated film Fantasia features captivating images and classical music. The film, divided into sections set to various classical pieces, features innovative and abstract animations. Although praised for its unique creative style, the movie has come under fire for some of its depictions of ethnic and cultural prejudices, such as the “Pastoral Symphony.”
9. Song of the South (1946)
A hybrid live-action and animated movie called Song of the South is based on the Uncle Remus tales. The film, set in the South after the Civil War, has drawn a lot of flak for its romanticized portrayal of life on a plantation and how Black Americans are portrayed. The movie has been noticeably absent from recent releases and debates as a result of these worries.
10. The Little Mermaid (1989)
Ariel, a mermaid princess who longs to become human, is the main character of the well-known animated musical The Little Mermaid. The racism comes into play when the stereotypical Sebastian the crab, with a thick Jamaican accent, advocates staying under the sea because you don’t have to get a job there. It also has problems drawing the fish “Duke of Soul” and “Blackfish” with fuller lips.
11. Mother Goose Goes Hollywood (1938)
The short animated film Mother Goose Goes Hollywood features well-known nursery rhyme characters in lighthearted roles and parodies of legendary Hollywood actors and movies. The racism begins when Katharine Hepburn gets hit by a pie, drawn to look like blackface, which leads her to talk in stereotypical uneducated Black American speech.
12. The Sound of Music (1965)
The von Trapp family hires Maria as their governess, and she helps them discover their love of music in the well-known musical drama The Sound of Music. Though it has received praise for its lovely music and inspiring plot, the movie has drawn criticism for how it depicts Austrians as fascists. Germans were not impressed with how they were portrayed so soon after WWII because not all of them were Nazis.
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