Splash Mountain is gone, and with it, the last remaining piece of Disney’s “Song of the South” in pop culture. Amid cries for its removal, many others fought for its survival. The arguments were intense on both sides. Pro-removal advocates argued that the film had racist undertones and should not be celebrated. Pro-Splash Mountain advocates argued the ride itself was not racist, and many disagreed that the film was racist.
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Another voice has emerged in the debate, Disney Legend Whoopi Goldberg. While she did not give an opinion on the ride, she had plenty to say about the film it was based on. She believes that the film should be available to view and purchase. “I’m trying to find a way to get people to start having conversations about bringing Song of the South back, so we can talk about what it was and where it came from and why it came out,” she said in an interview.
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The film, which Disney has chosen not to release for sale or streaming, has an important place in film history: James Baskett, who played Uncle Remus, was the first African American male ever to win an Academy Award. Hattie McDaniel, who holds the title of the first-ever African American to receive an Acadamy Award (for her work in Gone With the Wind), was also in Song of the South.
Both Bassett and McDaniel expressed support for the film. Baskett said, “I believe that certain groups are doing my race more harm in seeking to create dissension than can ever possibly come out of the Song of the South.” McDaniel’s sentiments were similar, saying, “If I had for one moment considered any part of the picture degrading or harmful to my people, I would not have appeared therein.”
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While the film’s stars felt the movie wasn’t racist, that wasn’t Goldberg’s point. She felt that hiding the movie equated to erasing history. She feels strongly that the film, which is part live action and part animation, should be seen so that its origins can be discussed (it was originally a written compilation of African American folktales) and also so that there can be a conversation about the times and attitudes during which the film was produced.