Will Disney's New Movie Advisories Affect Theme Parks?

October 15, 2020, 6:40 PM · Will Disney's decision to put disclaimers in front of four of its movies have any effect on the theme parks?

The Walt Disney Company has launched an initiative called Stories Matter, which includes four examples of Disney movies that now will include advisories due to culturally insensitive content.

Those films are Aristocats, Dumbo, Peter Pan, and Swiss Family Robinson. The films will preceded on Disney+ with the following disclaimer:

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.

Disney does not currently have a theme park attraction themed to Aristocats, but the other three are depicted in Disney's theme parks, with all three in Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom.

Swiss Family Treehouse

The pirates that Disney mentions in its advisory are nowhere to be found in the Magic Kingdom's treehouse. Heck, the Robinsons aren't even present in the Adventureland walk-through attraction. The only live-action film on the published advisory list, this is probably the least-remembered of these four films. That alone would make this attraction a candidate for eventual retheming — heck, Disneyland already changed its installation of the treehouse to a Tarzan theme. But that franchise is not without its own problems, so I don't see Disney spending any money to switch to that soon.

The treehouse can put through a lot of guests at next-to-no operational costs, and if guests don't associate the attraction with objectionable scenes from a film that few remember, why mess with this right now? As an ADA-incompatible walk-through (all those stairs!), this attraction likely will be left alone until Disney finds some other use for its space.

Dumbo the Flying Elephant

My youngest is 20 now (!), so it's been a while since I've take a ride on Disney's iconic carnival spinner. So forgive me since I cannot recall if the offensive crows are depicted anywhere on or near the ride. If they are, they'll be gone soon. If not, I cannot imagine Disney willingly suffering the social backlash by retheming or removing this wildly popular ride just because some crows who aren't even on the ride were part of the original animated version of a franchise that Disney already has given a live-action remake. Dumbo stays.

Peter Pan's Flight

Glendale, we have a problem. The offensive depiction of indigenous people in the film carries over into the Fantasyland dark ride. We've mentioned the Disney theme parks' Peter Pan problem before, and now that Disney officially is acknowledging it, Peter Pan's Flight now must be considered a candidate for changes, retheming... or removal.

Fans might object that Pan remains one of the Magic Kingdom's most popular attractions. But no one would claim that the ride is more popular than Splash Mountain, and Disney already has announced that it will retheme that attraction.

Is that Tick-Tock the Crocodile I hear? Because the clock is ticking for this attraction in its current form.

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Replies (24)

October 15, 2020 at 10:33 PM

What is so objectionable in the Aristocats or Swiss Family? I can’t think of the problems in there that wouldn’t also be in other movies that didn’t make the list such as Lady and the Tramp or 101 Dalmatians.

They can easily remove the Tiger Lilly section and all problems will be solved.

October 15, 2020 at 11:39 PM

A bit off the theme park topic but relevant nonetheless.

I'm not a big advertising fan but once in a while will look at some ads to try and analyze what their goals are, and i've noticed a trend towards companies who are trying stress the importance of "diversity" by purposely targeting a certain group of certain group people. For example its well known that Subaru purposely targets a lot of their advertising towards gay people and its the same with the Jordan brand of Nike with black people. As a result [and the statitics back this up] gay people are way more likely to buy Subaru's and black people are way more likely to buy Jordan's.

Now if I were gay or black and I saw a company was purposely trying to exploit my sexual preference or skin color in order to make money for themselves, and this may be a controversial statement, but that would piss me off and I wouldn't like that at all. I mean its a car and a pair of shoes, I care about quality product and value for price, not advertising to my emotions like i'm some kind of dunce. What does a car have to do with being gay? If they do what they are supposed to do, why would it matter what my sexual preference or skin color are? If I go up to a Subaru owner and ask why they bought a Subaru the answer should be they wanted a 4-6 cylinder boxer engine vehicle with all wheel drive and Japanese reliability. That to me is a much more compelling reason to buy something than "i'm gay."

But then again I took my share of ad/PR coursework in college and have an MBA so my opinions on these are probably way different than most peoples since I get to see how these companies work behind the curtain.

October 16, 2020 at 12:28 AM

The Peter Pan stuff reminds me how the fabled Western River Expedition would have had Native Americans with literally red skin, huge noses doing rain dances and scalping. Imagine how that would have played later...

As for Peter Pan, it's not like that's a key part of the ride front and center or the entire theme like Splash Mountain is so while tricky, it's not likely Disney removes what remains one of its most-loved attractions for one five second bit.

October 16, 2020 at 12:56 AM

Kudos to Disney for not censoring their classic films. Too bad they didn't apply this method to Splash Mountain and Pirates of the Caribbean though.

October 16, 2020 at 4:37 AM

But they have Daniel - Song of the South

I do support this move. Contextualising is important.

October 16, 2020 at 8:35 AM

@Anthony - Aristocats is offensive because of "We are Siamese". Swiss Family Robinson similarly contains offensive stereotypes of Asian people.

As Robert notes, the offensive scenes from Dumbo are not depicted on the ride (nor on the Swiss Family Treehouse), so that attraction isn't problematic. Dumbo also has the advantage of having the recent live-action remake from Tim Burton to lean on if Disney wants to distance itself from the original animated version.

However, Peter Pan has issues, but not ones that cannot be solved without some easy fixes. The scenes with Natives and Princess Tiger Lilly can easily be stripped from the attractions without significantly impacting the flow and overall story of the rides. Unfortunately, the original animated version has little else to draw on to fill these gaps in the ride. Luckily, Disney currently has a live action version of the story called Peter Pan and Wendy in the pipeline (with Jude Law attached to the Captain Hook role) that could offer alternatives for a full update of the attractions without changing the underlying concept for the rides.

October 16, 2020 at 9:23 AM

The PC hysteria/insanity accelerates...

October 16, 2020 at 12:21 PM

A 12-second notification before the movie even plays is hardly "PC hysteria."

October 16, 2020 at 2:47 PM

@Russell- "We are Siamese" is from Lady and the Tramp which kind of proves my point why Disney selected these four movies when the "animals are a certain ethnic group" seemed to be in Disney (and others) wheelhouses until at least the mid 80s.

I am glad that Disney is putting up a disclaimer because I think art like this should be shown for discussion instead of banned like currently Song of the South.

However, we should be careful about what we deem offensive or we won't be able to enjoy anything prior to NOW. I am not saying we should condone what is being portrayed or said, but we can continue pulling this thread until nothing is left. Is Si and Am ok? Tiger Lilly? Scotty? Stromboli? Master Gracey? Cruella? Tito? Ramone? Pancito? Jose Carioca? Captain Hook? The Redhead? etc

October 16, 2020 at 2:49 PM

It's a small world will be next for the stereotypical depictions and accents.
I think it's sad that the PC brigade have nothing better to do than complain about how things were depicted in films decades ago. We are getting remakes where the offending things are removed, showing how attitudes have shifted, we shouldn't need a disclaimer to remind us that things that used to be acceptable no longer are.

October 16, 2020 at 2:58 PM

@coopers12345: It's not all about how things were depicted decades ago -- it's how they are STILL depicted today in the park attractions.

It's not a "PC brigade" to have us now realize how wrong these depictions were, and for Disney to try to make things right.

Whenever anyone refers to equal treatment as a "PC" thing, that person loses all credibility with me. Doing what's right is not being "politically correct," it's just objectively the right thing to do.

October 16, 2020 at 3:42 PM

"We are Siamese" from Lady & the Tramp is fairly innocuous - the cats are Siamese cats, with Asian accents, angled eyes, singing a pseudo-Asian sounding song. By comparison, in Aristocats the Asian cat has a goofy accent, sings "Shanghai, Hong Kong, Egg Foo Yung; Fortune Cookie always wrong!" has slits for eyes, buck teeth, plays piano with chop-sticks, and wears a cymbal on his head like a rice-farmer hat. (If they made the live action version back then, he would have been played by Mickey Rooney).

The line between broad characterization and stereotype is pretty thin. I think it would come down to, "If that were my culture, is that how I would want it presented to children?"

In the end, I'm glad Disney is choosing to put warnings, rather than censor their movies.

October 16, 2020 at 3:54 PM

This just makes me look back at movies of '80s or even '90s and shaking my head at what was once "acceptable" humor that is so horrible today on many levels.

Today, Revenge of the Nerds would be a horror movie with them as the scumbags.

October 16, 2020 at 4:29 PM

>>we shouldn't need a disclaimer to remind us that things that used to be acceptable no longer are.

Yet we need a warning on satire news sites so people know they're satire...

October 16, 2020 at 7:05 PM

While I realize that Peter Pan very much plays into the stereotypes of Native Americans during that perioed, with both their character design as well as the song they sing, I guess it never really bothered me that much because all of the "adult" characters besides the mother are equally characterized with exagerrated posture, large noses and over the top melodramatics, whether it be the father or any of the pirate characters. Likewise, while Tiger Lilly falls into the trope of the Indian vixen, most of the white females in the film don't do much better. Does anyone really think cartoon native's living on a magical island in the sky above London are meant to accurately depict the indigenous people of North America?

October 16, 2020 at 7:09 PM

I'll follow that up with, what can I learn about the privateers that harassed ships in the New World by studying the antics of Captain Hook? Is this at all an accurate or fair depiction?
Will they be adding these warnings to every single Simpsons episode as well?

October 16, 2020 at 7:20 PM

I'm as big a fan of offensive humor as everyone else (love guys like Bill Maher, Dave Chapelle, George Carlin), but even I can't believe some here are trying to downplay the Peter Pan thing. SMH...

October 17, 2020 at 8:44 AM

Not to stir the pot, but "sexual preference" is offensive...the term you're looking for is "sexual orientation"...

October 17, 2020 at 2:00 PM

Cancel culture has to be one of the least productive movements of all time

October 17, 2020 at 2:00 PM

Cancel culture has to be one of the least productive movements of all time

October 17, 2020 at 2:26 PM

@Chad

Yes I know. Thats why I'm pretty shocked but glad that Disney is not continuing that trend. Maybe they realised that they would eventually lose so many films to the point of absurdity. After all anything can be offensive to any one at any time. I'm sure some Chinese can be offended by Mulan. I'm sure some Catholics can be offended by Hunchback. I'm Latino I can be offended by Coco (if I cared to watch it lol). Its purely subjective. It makes a lot more sense to preserve the past instead of erasing it. Not to mention its far more in line with American values of freedom of speech and expression. As far as I know, there is no right to not be offended.

October 17, 2020 at 7:57 PM

One thing I do have to point out a number of old shorts on Disney+ actually have had their disclaimers about outdated cultural depictions removed. So while Disney has added more prominent warnings on these 4 films, they’ve also removed warnings on dozens of shorts as well. Before the change, every short made prior to the 1960s or 50s had the warning, even if there was nothing remotely in need of a warning. I guess Disney actually evaluated those shorts and decided most of them did not actually need any warning.

As for the theme parks are concerned. While Swiss Family Robinson has its problems when it comes to offensive stereotypes, the movie deserves to be remembered more than it is. So hopefully, it stays. As for Dumbo, it isn’t going anywhere. And Peter Pan just needs to have the scene changed. In my opinion it should be changed to accurately portray Native Americans. There needs to be more representation of Native Americans, so it makes sense to do it correctly, instead of replacing the negative depiction with something else.

October 17, 2020 at 6:37 PM

I'm sure princess Amalia will be disgusted how princesses are depicted in Disney Movies. You never hear anything about that.
World Showcase is also a crime against some countries. Take Germany, it's selling stroopwafels, Dutch stroopwafels and they have the culturally inappropriate "Black Peter" also stolen from The Netherlands. Sure Germany once try to steal the whole country and in regard of that it are peanuts but still it is wildly impropriate.

October 18, 2020 at 10:51 AM

"I think it's sad that the PC brigade have nothing better to do than complain about how things were depicted in films decades ago."

I don't see anything about any "PC brigade" demanding these changes. The article says Disney is choosing to make the changes in order to appeal to a broader audience. It's hard to welcome people into your world when you're pushing images and ideas that are directly offensive to them.

As someone previously wrote on this site: which is more important, your nostalgia for your positive experiences with Disney when you were younger, or allowing the children of today, who are different from you, to have that same experience themselves? Certainly it's the latter.

Bottom line: if a short disclaimer warning of possible offensive racist imagery offends you? Well, then you might be a racist.

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