Dennis Lyons

In what seems to be an almost weekly occurrence these days, another new streaming service — Disney+ — launched last week.

Remember the “old” days — when Netflix was primarily a service that mailed subscribers DVDs of movies and Hulu didn’t exist?

Netflix introduced streaming in 2007, allowing subscribers to watch television shows and movies for their personal computers whenever they wanted. 

It’s been off to the races with one service after another ever since.

Consumer Reports recently published an extensive look at these services, what they cost, what they offer, etc.

Their list ran from A (Amazon Prime Video, Apple TV+, etc.) to Y (YouTube TV.)

Somebody’s bound to launch one that begins with Z any day now.

While none of these services is a significant part of the viewing habit at our house yet, Disney+ has gotten my attention — both for nostalgic and for some not so positive reasons.

Disney, of course, has a humongous library of its animated and live-action films and TV shows. It seems like only yesterday that older Disney animated films like “Cinderella” and “Pinocchio” were being slowly rolled out on VHS tape. Consumers, including us, rushed to buy them.

Now, there they all are, at the click of a remote — some with some needed warnings.

As The Washington Post reported this week, there is a message that airs before five of these classic films, including “Dumbo, “Peter Pan,” and “The Jungle Book,” warning viewers that the movie is shown as it originally was made and “may contain outdated cultural depictions.”

May contain? It should say “undoubtedly does contain.”

According to the Post: “The decision to attach this message to some animated films was met with both praise from people who viewed it as an accountability measure and criticism from those who thought its wording was dismissive.” 

Disney’s old films, for many legitimate reasons, have been widely criticized for how some of their characters promoted racist stereotypes. As the Post story pointed out, “The crows in ‘Dumbo,’ released in 1941, encapsulate stereotypes of African Americans. One of the birds was named “Jim Crow.” In 1967’s “The Jungle Book,” the monkeys portray black people as foolish and criminal.”

Those are just a few examples.

Disney isn’t alone in having produced offensive content that was a product of the times. 

Warner Brothers, the Post reported, has also put a disclaimer on some of its old “Looney Toons” cartoons.

“The cartoons you are about to see are products of their time,” the Warner Bros disclaimer reads. “They may depict some of the ethnic and racial prejudices that were commonplace in American society. These depictions were wrong then and are wrong today.”

The more I’ve thought about all this in the past week, the more I’ve felt that when our kids were growing up, we should have done more to emphasize the problems with some of these movies.

There’s no doubt Disney+ is going to be very popular. By Thursday, Entertainment Weekly was reporting the service already had more than 10 million subscribers. 

These disclaimers are not going to make the offensive content go away. But for parents who may consider viewing these old films with their kids, they’re a small step in the right direction. 

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