Disney+ has provided Dumbo, Peter Pan, and other classic movies with a content advisory over “negative depictions and/or mistreatment of people or cultures.” The streaming platform had originally put warnings ahead of a few older movies, but this is the first time actual content has been added in, which takes up 12 seconds. This is similar to the approach HBO Max took in streaming Gone with the Wind over the summer. You can read the Disney+ disclaimer below.
“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.”
Disney+ does not stop with the aforementioned content advisory on such films as Dumbo and Peter Pan. Depending on what movie viewers choose to see, a custom content warning will come up, detailing what is preceived to be problematic with the movie. For instance, The Aristocats (1970) warns of Asian stereotypes. “The cat is depicted as a racist caricature of East Asian peoples with exaggerated stereotypical traits such as slanted eyes and buck teeth,” the streaming platform warns. “He sings in poorly accented English voiced by a white actor and plays the piano with chopsticks.” The warning concludes by stating, “This portrayal reinforces the ‘perpetual foreigner’ stereotype, while the film also features lyrics that mock the Chinese language and culture such as ‘Shanghai, Hong Kong, Egg Foo Young. Fortune cookie always wrong.'”
Peter Pan has long come underfire for its depiction of Indigenous peoples, and Dumbo has been called out for its racial stereotypes, mainly revolving around a group of animated crows, for decades. Some were even wondering if Dumbo would make it onto Disney+ at all when it debuted late last year. A disclaimer was attached, but it now contains a breakdown of what is problematic with the movie and why it is precieved as such, just like The Aristocats. Swiss Family Robinson is another classic that comes with a new content advisory from the streaming service.
Warner Bros. has taken a similar approach with their Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies cartoons. They acknowledge that the stereotypes are racist, but also give reasoning for not censoring the material, like Disney has done in the past, noting that denying those portrayals existed would be just as harmful. For HBO Max and Disney+, revisiting the older catalogs has included extra work in preparing them for 2020 audiences.
Disney+ has come under fire for censorship since it debuted. The Tom Hanks romantic comedy Splash contains new editing to keep Daryl Hannah’s buttocks out of view. The Toy Story 2 “casting couch” joke has been removed and there are a number of language changes in the 80s cult classic Adventures in Babysitting. These are just a few of the changes that have been made, but they have caused a minor uproar and with these new content advisories being added, one has to wonder if theymay go back and make more changes at a later date. The Wrap was the first to report on the Disney+ content advisory.