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Can You See Song of the South on DVD?

SongofthesouthWhen I owned a video store, one of the most common questions I used to get from customers was “When is Disney’s Song of the South going to be released to home video?” It never has been, in any format—at least not in the US.

The 1946 film is memorable for many reasons, from its Oscar-winning song “Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah” to its then-groundbreaking blend of live action and animation. Thousands of fans have signed an online petition requesting that it be released, arguing that the insensitive depictions of African-American characters would be understood by modern viewers as a reflection of a bygone era, as they are in Gone with the Wind.

But even in 1946 Song of the South was controversial. It was denounced by the NAACP and Ebony magazine, and

It’s been fascinating to monitor Disney executive’s comments on the movie over the years. Speaking to Disney shareholders in 2006, then-CEO Robert A. Iger said that he’d rewatched the film recently and decided that it would be “bothersome to a lot of people.” At the same annual meeting a eyar later, though, Iger seemed to backpedal, suggesting that a release may not be out of the question. Two things are clear: Disney is eager to milk the big market for a DVD of the movie; but they’re terrified of the potential backlash they could face if groups called for a boycott of all Disney properties.

Here’s the thing that puzzles me: If Disney is so worried about the sensitivity of Song of the South, why have they allowed it to be released in other countries? And why don’t they do anything about the numerous bootleggers who sell it openly on the internet? A simple Google search reveals plenty of vendors, some of whom are clearly more than fly-by-night ripoff artists. Even some Amazon vendors appear to be selling bootlegs of the movie. Disney is known as a company that is fierce about protecting its trademarks, yet they seem to let this one slide.

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