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Disney Plus adds new content warnings calling out racism and harmful stereotypes

Unskippable, 12-second warnings direct viewers to a new website

Peter Pan, from Disney’s Peter Pan. Image: Disney Plus
Charlie Hall is Polygon’s tabletop editor. In 10-plus years as a journalist & photographer, he has covered simulation, strategy, and spacefaring games, as well as public policy.

Some classic films and cartoons available on the Disney Plus streaming service feature a new content warning. The 12-second title cards, which cannot be skipped, call out racist depictions in those programs. Content warnings are included on movies like Dumbo, Peter Pan and Donald Duck cartoons, among others. While the content itself is unaltered, viewers are directed to a website where modern cultural sensitivities are discussed in detail.

“This program includes negative depictions and/or mistreatment of people or cultures,” reads the new warning. “These stereotypes were wrong then and are wrong now. Rather than remove this content, we want to acknowledge its harmful impact, learn from it and spark conversation to create a more inclusive future together.”

The content advisory is also prominently displayed alongside the text description of the content to which it has been applied. Shorter warnings appeared on problematic content when the Disney Plus service initially launched in 2019 as a brief text overlay.

These advisories direct viewers to a new website titled Stories Matter. On that landing page, the media giant calls attention to specific examples of the kinds of negative depictions of people and cultures which have appeared in its previous works. In Aristocats, for example, Disney notes that a character “is depicted as a racist caricature of East Asian peoples with exaggerated stereotypical traits such as slanted eyes and buck teeth.” The same website also makes clear the damage these types of depictions does: “This portrayal reinforces the ‘perpetual foreigner’ stereotype, while the film also features lyrics that mock the Chinese language and culture.”

The Stories Matter website also lists the member organizations which sit on Disney’s advisory council — a group tasked with helping the media company call attention to its troubled history. They include the African American Film Critics Association, GLAAD, IllumiNative, and other similarly aligned organizations.

The Disney Plus library includes thousands of works, going back to the very inception of the company and its iconic Mickey Mouse. However, it does not include the highly controversial Song of the South. In June, Disney announced that it would revamp its Splash Mountain rides, which are based on the film, at Disney World’s Magic Kingdom and at Disneyland in California. Both rides launched in the 1980s and were themed with characters and scenes from the 1946 movie. In their place will be characters from 2009’s Princess and the Frog — the first Disney movie to feature a Black princess.

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