Disney's 1946 movie "Song of the South" has been locked in the company's vaults for decades, never released for home viewing in the United States, even though it won an Oscar for its song "Zip-a-dee-do-dah" and for inspiring the "Splash Mountain" rides at Disney's theme parks.
For years the film has been blasted as racist for the way it depicts Southern blacks. The primary character, Uncle Remus, is seen as a servile happy-go-lucky simpleton bubbling over with "ain't nobody's," "ain't nevers," and "you tells ems" ... a stereotype that, for many, dangerously glamorizes the harsh reality of post-slavery America.
"That film is racially demeaning, insulting and it's offensive. It's a painful reminder of our past when blacks were depicted as buffoons," said civil rights advocate Najee Ali, who is glad the the film has been locked up all these years and wants it to stay that way. "The Disney Corporation is going to find out very soon that if they do release this film that African-Americans will be outside protesting that bringing back up that painful reminder is a slap in the face to our ancestors."
Despite the potential backlash, Disney chief Bob Iger is considering releasing the film, saying: "There were depictions in the film that, viewed in today's world, might not be viewed as kindly or as politically correct as perhaps they may have been in that time. But we have decided that we would look at it again."
Niger Innis, from the Congress on Racial Equality, is well aware of the film's rocky history with blacks. "James Basket, who was the first live black actor hired by Disney, could not go to the premiere for this film in Atlanta because he could not get a hotel room that would let him sleep for the night because of segregation," said Innis.
However, unlike Ali, Innis believes Disney has been wrong to block the movie. He does want the studio to release the film, as long as it's accompanied by special features to educate fans.
Should Disney ultimately decide to put the film on DVD, the title stands to become very profitable.
"This was my first item," said Christian Willis, who has spent the last decade collecting anything and everything related to "Song of the South." He says the film's fan base is massive.
"I would say that there are hundreds of thousands of people out there who are hopeful," Willis said. More than 118,000 people have signed a petition now located on Willis' Web site urging Disney to make the move. "They all want to see this movie released and don't see anything wrong with it."
For now, fans and foes will have to wait and see if Disney puts "Song of the South" on store shelves, or once again, decides that would be a "zip-a-dee-do-don't."
Disney is the parent company of ABC7.