Song of the South (1946)

HARVE FOSTER, WILFRED JACKSON

Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBUSA, 1946Screenplay by , , , Cartoon story by , , , based on the book by Cinematography by Produced by Music by , Production Design by Costume Design by Film Editing by Academy Awards 1947.

Disney has a tendency to keep this one hidden from the nostalgia machine that trots out their classics from the same period, embarrassed in more modern and enlightened times by a film that sets its storytelling in the milieu of a slave quarters with an African American character who is treated as something of a delightful simpleton. At the time of its release, the film’s mythologizing of the Ole’ South was well received and Bobby Driscoll became a child star for his role as a young boy who is brought to his grandmother’s plantation, distraught over his father’s having left his mother behind while they work out their marital differences. Attempting to run away, Driscoll is interrupted in his escape by loveable Uncle Remus (James Baskett), who tells him stories of Brer Rabbit that mirror the child’s own conundrum and move the film from its lush live-action photography into animated sequences. Inspired by Joel Chandler Harris’s stories (which he took from traditional Gullah tales), the film falters as entertainment even if you choose to take on the burden of its problematic racial politics, the live-action story is dull and Driscoll is not a particularly likeable figure, while the cartoon sequences aren’t very entertaining or particularly well directed. A few brief sequences that place Baskett in an animated surrounding show the Disney studio at the forefront of film technology development, it looks about as good as it would in Mary Poppins almost twenty years later, but other than this and the Oscar winning tune “Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah”, I can’t say there’s much to recommend it.

 

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