Check out this fascinating book review by John Lingan at Slate for Disney’s Most Notorious Film: Race, Convergence, and the Hidden Histories of the Song of the South by Jason Sperb:
Consider me one of those people who are fascinated by Disney’s 1946 animated/live action film Song of the South. To this day, it is the only film that the Disney company refuses to release, despite the fact that it features one of their more famous songs (“Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah”) and the additional fact that the Disney parks have a ride based on the film (Splash Mountain).
However, the film has not been re-released for obvious (racial) reasons. For years I accepted the contention made by others that the movie was a “product of its time”. Turns out I should have been more skeptical of those claims.
Check out this paragraph from the book’s review:
(Jason Sperb) first punctures the myth that the racial caricatures in Song of the South were “a product of its time.” This is an argument that the film’s defenders trot out reliably, when, in fact, Disney took uncharacteristic pains to undercut the Harris tales’ potential offensiveness. As Neal Gabler’s biography reveals, Disney hired a leftist screenwriter, Mauric Rapf, to modify the original script by southerner Dalton Reymond; Disney Company reps met with producers of the racially controversial 1943 film Stormy Weather to hear about their marketing experiences; and Disney publicists warned management of potential racially charged blowback. Walt Disney himself even invited NAACP president Walter White to California to oversee script revisions, though the meeting never occurred.
It is stuff like this that really intrigues me. I may just have to give this book a look.