Controversial 'Song of the South' Opens in Theaters
A year before one of Walt Disney’s most controversial film arrived in theaters, Disney produced a Sunday morning comic strip titled, Uncle Remus & His Tales of Br’er Rabbit. Meant to be a short-lived promotion for the film Song of the South, the comic proved so popular that it continued to run through December 31, 1972. Meanwhile, back in 1946, the movie premiered on this day in 1946 at the Fox Theater in Atlanta, Georgia – a move that Disney probably regretted. The movie was Disney’s first live action film that also featured about 25 minutes on animation with Uncle Remus telling his tales of Br’er Rabbit, Br’er For and Br’er Bear. The film starred James Baskett as Uncle Remus whom Disney described as "the best actor, I believe, to be discovered in years.” Unfortunately, Baskett was unable to attend the premiere since Atlanta was a racially segregated city at the time, but Baskett did win an honorary Oscar for his work on the film "for his able and heart-warming characterization of Uncle Remus, friend and story teller to the children of the world” in 1948. The score by Daniele Amfitheatrof, Paul J. Smith, and Charles Wolcott was nominated and the song, "Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah," written by Allie Wrubel and Ray Gilbert, won the award for Best Song. Though the Disney Company has faced backlash from the film’s portrayals of the African Americans in the movie, it was still re-released in U.S. theaters several times in 1956, 1972, 1973, 1980 and as late as 1986 in promotion of Disneyland’s newest ride, Splash Mountain. Still, Disney has yet to release Song of the South in full for home viewing, but during her acceptance as one of Disney’s “Legends” in July of 2017, actress Whoopie Goldberg expressed about how she wished that the movie would be re-released publicly for American audiences.
Bela Lugosi Poses for Disney
The Walt Disney Company has a long history of using models to help them animate their films. On this day in 1939, actor Bela Lugosi, better known by some as Dracula, modeled for the role of Chernabog in the “Night on Bald Mountain” sequence of the film Fantasia. However, head animator Bill Tytla was unhappy with the results and later had director Wilfred Jackson redo the poses.