Story at a glance

  • More than 10 million people have subscribed to Disney+ since it launched on Tuesday.
  • Some classic movies include a note: “This program is presented as originally depicted. It may contain outdated cultural depictions.”
  • The disclaimer is similar to a Warner Bros. note, but not as strongly worded, some experts say.

More than 10 million people have subscribed to Disney+ since its launch on Tuesday, despite initial glitches. Disney classics have been taken “out of the vault” and are now available on the media giant’s new streaming service. Some films come with an extra note:

“This program is presented as originally depicted. It may contain outdated cultural depictions.”

The two-sentence disclaimer is written at the end of the plot description of movies like “Peter Pan,” “Dumbo,” and “The Jungle Book,” the Washington Post reports. These movies, like other older Disney movies, include characters based on racist stereotypes. Dumbo, released in 1941, has side characters based on stereotypes of African Americans, including one named “Jim Crow.” Another animated movie, The “AristoCats,” was released in 1970 and includes a Siamese cat who plays instruments with chopsticks and speaks with an offensive accent. (The cat was voiced by a white actor.)

Disney’s decision to label movies that portrayed offensive stereotypes is a step toward recognizing their history and moving past it.

“It’s encouraging to see Disney acknowledge the darker elements of its past film and TV content,” writer, critic, and Disney expert Josh Spiegel told The Verge. But critics point out that Disney could have done more. Spiegel continued, “This disclaimer is also the bare minimum. Frankly, a lot of Disney+ subscribers might not even notice the disclaimer, instead just clicking Play on a title.”

Including a disclaimer is a way for companies like Disney to take responsibility for past mistakes, Buzzfeed reports. Warner Bros. has also been producing cartoons for nearly a century, and their older animated features also include characters based on racist stereotypes. In their disclaimer, which precedes cartoons like Tom & Jerry, Warner Bros. states that the depictions “were commonplace in American society,'' and were “wrong then and are wrong today.”

Compared to that, some experts consider Disney’s disclaimer weak.

“It really feels like a first step,” Michael Baran, a senior partner at the Illinois-based diversity and inclusion consulting firm InQUEST Consulting, told the Washington Post. “I think that they could be so much more forceful in not only what they are saying, in the warning, but also in what they’re doing.”

Published on Nov 14, 2019