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Song of the South

Song of the South is a 1946 feature film by Walt Disney, based on the Uncle Remus cycle of stories by Joel Chandler Harris. It was one of Disney's earliest feature films to combine live action footage with animation and was the first Disney feature film to hire live actors in lead roles. The live actors provide a sentimental frame-story, in which Uncle Remus relates the folk tales of the adventures of Brer Rabbit and his friends; these anthropomorphic animal characters appear in animation.

The setting is the U.S. South, in a 'dream time' perhaps shortly after the American Civil War, which folklorist Patricia A. Turner characterizes as happening

'during a surreal time when Blacks lived on slave quarters on a plantation, worked diligently for no visible reward and considered Atlanta a viable place for an old Black man to set out for.'

The frame-story does not follow the original frame-story by Harris. While Disney Studios tried to avoid the more offensive stereotypes of African Americans still common in the 1940s, Disney also tried to make sure that nothing in the film would be objected to by the White segregationists then in political control of the U.S. South, resulting in the subservient relationships of the black children towards white child star Bobby Driscoll in his Fauntleroy suit, which are particularly stilted and perhaps unintentionally revealing. Few recent critics found the results of this attempted balancing act successful, though it passed without comment in 1946, aside from a mild remark from the NAACP. Blacks are shown as subservient to whites, scenes show blacks picking cotton by hand while singing contentedly about 'home', and it is not made clear in the film if the days of slavery are over or not. The framing story has therefore been accused of idealizing the harsh lifes of Blacks on rural southern plantations in the Jim Crow era.

The feel-good, nonsense lyric hit song from the film was 'Zip-a-dee-doo-dah':

'Mister Bluebird's on my shoulder.
It's the truth, it's act'ral
Ev'rything is satisfact'ral'

Although the film has been re-released several times, Disney has avoided making it available on home video tape or DVD because the frame story was deemed racist. Only excerpts from the 'toon segments have ever appeared in Disney's television shows.

James Baskett, the leading black actor in the film, was reportedly unable to attend the premiere in Atlanta, Georgia. as no hotel within reach of the theater would rent him a room. James Baskett won a special Oscar for his portrayal. Hattie McDaniel also appeared in an Aunt Jemima-like 'mammy' role.

Buffs enjoy identifying in joke references to Song of the South in Who Framed Roger Rabbit.

The Splash Mountain attractions at Disneyland and Walt Disney World feature the animated characters and songs from this film. Some deem this as strange, as most of the young attendees to the parks have never have had an opportunity to view the film.

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American country music band Alabama had a hit song called "Song of the South."