Disney has added additional warnings to content on the Disney+ streaming platform, reportedly in an effort to warn viewers about potentially offensive content in some of its classic animated films.
In November 2019, just days after Disney’s streamer went live, the company added a preface of sorts at the beginning of some of Disney’s classic films that read, “This program is presented as originally created. It may contain outdated cultural depictions.” It wasn’t added to every classic film, but viewers could see it ahead of some of the studio’s well-known classics, like Dumbo (1941), The Jungle Book (1967), and Aladdin (1992).
Recently, however, Disney+ has added the warning to additional films on the platform, and the message varies from the original content warnings posted in 2019. The current content warning stays on the screen before the beginning of certain films and reads:
“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,” it continues. “Disney is committed to creating stories with inspirational and aspirational themes that reflect the rich diversity of the human experience around the globe.”
The message also includes a link to Disney.com/StoriesMatter, which gives more information about Disney’s efforts toward inclusion and diversity as well as some of the reasons for the content warnings on some of Disney’s classic films, including The Aristocats, Peter Pan, Swiss Family Robinson, Lady and the Tramp, and Fantasia, among others.
According to The New York Post, Disney holds monthly meetings in which a team determines which content is in need of a content warning.
“We’ve had some very raw conversations on those [Zoom meetings],” African American Film Critics Association President Gil Robertson said in an interview. Robertson and his colleagues view films that are believed to be potentially problematic and then report to Disney their reactions. It’s part of Disney’s “Stories Matter” initiative.
“[Disney] wants to make up for any offensive messaging they may have been a part of,” Robertson said. “It feels sincere, and it’s also good business.”
As of the time of this publication, there’s no full list of content that includes the new warning, and reasons aren’t always listed for content that receives the warning.
In Disney’s The Aristocats (1970), one of the felines is depicted as a caricature of East Asian people that features exaggerated stereotypical traits like buck teeth and slanted eyes. The cat also plays the piano with chopsticks, an element found to be potentially harmful by some. Disney explains that such elements “reinforce the ‘perpetual foreigner’ stereotype, while the film also features lyrics that mock the Chinese language and culture.”
In Disney’s Peter Pan (1953), potentially harmful elements were found in the depiction of Tiger Lily and her father, the Indian chief.
In Disney’s Swiss Family Robinson (1960), the content warning was assigned “because of the film’s pirates that are portrayed as a ‘stereotypical foreign menace,'” according to Upworthy. That’s not a typo; Disney placed a content warning ahead of the film because of its display of potentially harmful stereotypes of pirates.