Today marks the 61st anniversary of Disney's Song of the South. The working title for Song of the South was Uncle Remus.
Walt Disney had long wanted to make a film based on the Uncle Remus storybook, but it wasn't until the mid-1940s that he had found a way to give the stories an adequate film equivalent, in scope and fidelity. "I always felt that Uncle Remus should be played by a living person," Disney is quoted as saying, "as should also the young boy to whom Harris' old Negro philosopher relates his vivid stories of the Briar Patch. Several tests in previous pictures, especially in The Three Caballeros, were encouraging in the way living action and animation could be dovetailed. Finally, months ago, we 'took our foot in hand,' in the words of Uncle Remus, and jumped into our most venturesome but also more pleasurable undertaking."
There are three animated segments in the movie:
- "Brer Rabbit Runs Away" (approx. 8 minutes), including the song "Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah".
- "The Tar Baby" (approx. 12 minutes), interrupted with a short live action scene about two thirds of the way into the cartoon, including the song "How Do You Do?"
- "Brer Rabbit's Laughing Place" (approx. 5 minutes), the only segment that doesn't use Uncle Remus as an intro to its main story, including the song "Everybody's Got A Laughing Place."
Also most of the last couple of minutes of the movie contains animation, as most of the cartoon characters show up in a live-action world to meet the live-action characters, and in the last seconds of the movie the real world is turned into an animated one.
Although the film has been re-released several times (most recently in 1986), the Disney corporation has avoided making it directly available on home video or DVD in the United States because the frame story was deemed controversial by studio management, despite Uncle Remus being the hero of the story. Film critic Roger Ebert, who normally disdains any attempt to keep films from any audience, has supported the non-release position, claiming that most Disney films become a part of the consciousness of American children, who take films more literally than do adults. However, he favors allowing film students to have access to the film. In the U.S., only excerpts from the animated segments have ever appeared in Disney's DVDs (such as the 2004 two-disc release of Alice in Wonderland (1951), television shows, and the popular log-flume attraction Splash Mountain is based upon the same animated portions).
Despite rumors of a forthcoming DVD release, Disney CEO Robert Iger stated on March 10, 2006 at a Disney Shareholder Meeting that it had been decided that the company would not re-release it for the time being. At the annual shareholders meeting in March 2007, Iger announced that the company was reconsidering the decision, and have decided to look into the possibility of releasing the film. In May 2007, it was again reported that the Disney company has chosen not to release the film. However, rumors to the contrary continue to surface.
The Walt Disney Classics Collection released a 3-piece scene consisting of Brer Rabbit, Brer Bear and Brer Fox plus an Opening Title. Brer Rabbit ("Born and Bred in a Briar Patch"), Brer Bear ("Duh!") and Brer Fox ("I Gotcha, Brer Rabbit!") and the Opening Title were released in 1996 and all were retired the following year on February 15, 1997.
Trivia: Brer Rabbit's laughing heard during the Laughing Place sequence is reused in The Jungle Book (1967) when Baloo tickles King Louie.