Now, it happened on one of those zip-a-dee-do-dah days.
Walt Disney’s Song of the South debuted today, November 12th, 1946, in Atlanta, Georgia at the “Fox Theatre”.
Uncle Remus (played by James Baskett) tells a young boy stories about trickster Br’er Rabbit, who outwits Br’er Fox and slow-witted Br’er Bear.
This film is based on the books by Joel Chandler Harris and is actually Walt Disney’s first major plunge into live-action filmmaking.
Song of the South is set on a plantation in Georgia during the Reconstruction Era after slavery was abolished. Harris’s original Uncle Remus stories were all set after the American Civil War and the abolition of slavery.
At the premiere of the film, Walt made introductory remarks, introduced the cast, then quietly left for fear of audience backlash. The film’s lead, James Baskett wasn’t even allowed to participate because, at that time, Atlanta was a racially segregated city.
The film featured nine songs including “Zip-A-Dee-Do-Dah” and “Everybody’s Got a Laughing Place”. James Baskett will eventually be given an Academy Honorary Award for his portrayal of Uncle Remus.
He will also become the first African American man to win any kind of Oscar.
Song of the South was also the inspiration for the Splash Mountain attractions at different Disney Theme Parks.
The plot behind Splash Mountain is a composite of several Uncle Remus stories. Each ride presents scenes taken from the animated segments of the film Song of the South, telling the story of Br’er Rabbit, Br’er Fox, and Br’er Bear.
At one point, Br’er Rabbit avoids a snare trap (as described in “Br’er Rabbit Earns a Dollar a Minute”) and uses it to trap Br’er Bear instead.
In another instance, Br’er Fox eventually catches Br’er Rabbit in a beehive and threatens to roast him. Br’er Rabbit begs the fox not to throw him into the briar patch (as described in “The Tar Baby”).
In 2020, it was announced that Disney had plans to re-theme Splash Mountain and take away the Song of the South elements. In its place would be the 2009 film, The Princess and the Frog.
What do you think? Should Splash Mountain be re-themed, or left alone?