AFI Catalog of Feature Films
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Song of the South
Alternate Title: Uncle Remus
Director: Wilfred Jackson () (Cartoon dir)
Release Date:   20 Nov 1946
Premiere Information:   World premiere in Atlanta, GA: 12 Nov 1946
Duration (in mins):   93-95 or 98
Duration (in feet):   8,493
Duration (in reels):   11
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Cast:   Ruth Warrick (Sally)  
    Bobby Driscoll (Johnny)  
    James Baskett (Uncle Remus/Voice of Brer Fox)  
    Luana Patten (Ginny Favers)  
    Lucile Watson (Miss Doshy)  
    Hattie McDaniel (Aunt Tempy)  
    Erik Rolf (John)  
    Glenn Leedy (Toby)  
    Mary Field (Mrs. Favers)  
    Anita Brown (Chloe)  
    George Nokes (Favers boy)  
    Eugene Holland (Favers boy)  
    "Nicodemus" Stewart (Voice of Brer Bear)  
    Johnny Lee (Voice of Brer Rabbit)  

Summary: In the late nineteenth century, newspaperman John and his wife Sally travel from their home in Atlanta to the rural plantation of Sally's mother, Miss Doshy, accompanied by their young son Johnny and his black nursemaid, Aunt Tempy. Johnny is excited about meeting Uncle Remus, a legendary black storyteller who amused John and Sally during their childhood, but is confused by his parents' anger toward each other. John, whose controversial writings have strained his marriage, returns to Atlanta alone, and Sally remains at the plantation with Johnny. Hurt by what he perceives as his father's desertion of him, Johnny sneaks out of the house with the intention of running away. As he walks along, Johnny finds the elderly Uncle Remus telling stories to a group of black children. Johnny stops to listen but runs off when Tempy and another servant, Chloe, come looking for him. Remus catches Johnny in the woods and agrees to run away to Atlanta with him, but insists on stopping at his cabin for provisions. While there, Remus tells Johnny a story of Brer Rabbit, who also tried to run away despite Remus' warning that there is no place far away enough to escape trouble: Brer Rabbit is captured by Brer Fox and Brer Bear, who intend to make a tasty meal of him, but the rabbit easily outwits them, escapes and returns to his briar patch. Strengthened by the story's moral, Johnny goes home with Toby, the young black servant assigned to look after him. Sally is devastated by his attempt to run away, however, and unfairly blames his behavior on Uncle Remus. Later, Sally orders Johnny to wear a suit with a lace collar, and while the boy wanders about miserably, he is taunted by Joe and Jake Favers, poor white youngsters who are threatening to drown their sister Ginny's puppy. Ginny and Johnny become friends, and she gives him the puppy, Teenchie. Sally refuses to let him keep the puppy, however, and orders him to return it. Instead, Johnny takes Teenchie to Uncle Remus, who agrees to keep it for him, but the next day, the Favers boys threaten Johnny with violence unless he returns the puppy. Uncle Remus tells the distressed Johnny about the time Brer Fox and Brer Bear used a tar baby to trap Brer Rabbit, but were once again outwitted by Brer Rabbit, who begged them not to fling him into the briar patch. Johnny uses the lesson of reverse psychology to get the Favers boys to complain to their mother about the puppy, and Mrs. Favers gives them a sound whipping. The angry boys then tell Sally their story, and Sally accuses Uncle Remus of "warping" Johnny with his stories and orders him to stop telling them to her son. Heartbroken, Uncle Remus returns Teenchie to the Favers boys, then roughly tells Johnny to leave him alone. A week later, Sally throws a birthday party for Johnny and allows him to invite Ginny, despite her misgivings about Ginny's humble upbringing. Johnny happily skips to Ginny's house, but her brothers muddy her only good dress. After fighting with the boys and becoming disheveled himself, Johnny tries to placate Ginny but only makes her cry more. Uncle Remus cannot resist comforting the children with a story and tells them about the time Brer Rabbit again freed himself from the clutches of Brer Fox and Brer Bear by leading them to his "laughing place." The wise old man informs the children that everyone has a laughing place, and when they run off to look for theirs, Sally finds them and chastises them for missing the party. Sally then upbraids Uncle Remus and orders him to stay away from Johnny completely. The old man decides that he is of no use anymore and, after packing his few belongings, prepares to depart. Johnny, who has realized that Uncle Remus' cabin is his laughing place, sees his friend leaving and cuts through a field to stop him. The bull in the field chases Johnny and knocks him down, and the unconscious child is rushed to the plantation house. John immediately comes down from Atlanta, but even his presence does not help his delirious son, who calls for Uncle Remus. Miss Doshy sends for him, and as Uncle Remus holds Johnny's hand and tells him another story, the child revives. Finally realizing that they must set aside their problems for the sake of their son, John and Sally decide to stay at the plantation. Later, Uncle Remus contentedly watches Johnny, Ginny and Toby play with Teenchie. He is amazed to see Brer Rabbit and his other story folk join the children, but soon runs after them and enters their joyous world. 

Production Company: Walt Disney Productions  
Distribution Company: RKO Radio Pictures, Inc.  
Director: Wilfred Jackson (Cartoon dir)
  Harve Foster (Photoplay dir)
  Bill McGarry (Asst dir)
  Jack Atwood (Asst dir)
Producer: Walt Disney (Pres)
  Perce Pearce (Assoc prod)
Writer: Dalton Reymond (Scr)
  Morton Grant (Scr)
  Maurice Rapf (Scr)
  Dalton Reymond (Orig story)
  William Peed (Cartoon story)
  Ralph Wright (Cartoon story)
  George Stallings (Cartoon story)
Photography: Gregg Toland (Photog)
Art Direction: Perry Ferguson (Art dir)
  Elmer Plummer (Art trmt)
  Kenneth Anderson (Cartoon art dir)
  Charles Philippi (Cartoon art dir)
  Harold Doughty (Cartoon art dir)
  Hugh Hennesy (Cartoon art dir)
  Philip Barber (Cartoon art dir)
Film Editor: William M. Morgan (Film ed)
Costumes: Mary Wills (Cost des)
Music: Charles Wolcott (Mus dir)
  Daniele Amfitheatrof (Photoplay score)
  Paul J. Smith (Cartoon score)
  Ken Darby (Voc dir)
  Edward Plumb (Orch)
Sound: C. O. Slyfield (Sd dir)
  Fred Lau (Sd rec)
  Harold Steck (Sd rec)
Special Effects: Ub Iwerks (Spec processes)
Production Misc: Wilbur G. Kurtz (Tech adv)
  Annie Laurie Fuller Kurtz (Tech adv)
Stand In: Myrtle Anderson (Stand-in for Anita Brown)
  Elizabeth Spratley (Stand-in for Hattie McDaniel)
Animation: Milt Kahl (Dir anim)
  Eric Larson (Dir anim)
  Ollie Johnston (Dir anim)
  Les Clark (Dir anim)
  Marc Davis (Dir anim)
  John Lounsbery (Dir anim)
  Don Lusk (Anim)
  Harvey Toombs (Anim)
  Tom Massey (Anim)
  Ken O'Brien (Anim)
  Murray McClellan (Anim)
  Al Coe (Anim)
  Jack Campbell (Anim)
  Hal Ambro (Anim)
  Hal King (Anim)
  Cliff Nordberg (Anim)
  Rudy Larriva (Anim)
  Josh Meador (Eff anim)
  George Rowley (Eff anim)
  Blaine Gibson (Eff anim)
  Brad Case (Eff anim)
  Claude Coats (Background and col stylist)
  Mary Blair (Background and col stylist)
  Ralph Hulett (Background artist)
  Brice Mack (Background artist)
  Ray Huffine (Background artist)
  Edgar Starr (Background artist)
  Al Dempster (Background artist)
Color Personnel: Natalie Kalmus (Technicolor color dir)
  Mitchell Kovaleski (Assoc)
Country: United States

Songs: "Song of the South," music by Arthur Johnston, lyrics by Sam Coslow; "Look at the Sun" and "Uncle Remus Said," music and lyrics by Johnny Lange, Hy Heath and Eliot Daniel; "Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah" and "Ev'rybody Has a Laughing Place," music by Allie Wrubel, lyrics by Ray Gilbert; "Who Wants to Live Like That?" and "Let the Rain Pour Down," music and lyrics by Ken Darby and Foster Carling; "How Do You Do?" music and lyrics by Robert MacGimsey; "Sooner or Later," music by Charles Wolcott, lyrics by Ray Gilbert; "All I Want," music traditional, lyrics by Ken Darby.
Composer: Foster Carling
  Sam Coslow
  Eliot Daniel
  Ken Darby
  Ray Gilbert
  Hy Heath
  Arthur Johnston
  Johnny Lange
  Robert MacGimsey
  Charles Wolcott
  Allie Wrubel
Source Text: Based on the book Uncle Remus: His Songs and Sayings, the Folk-Lore of the Old Plantation by Joel Chandler Harris (New York, 1881).
Authors: Joel Chandler Harris

Copyright Claimant Copyright Date Copyright Number
Walt Disney Productions 12/8/1946 dd/mm/yyyy LP1379

PCA NO: 11163
Physical Properties: col: Technicolor
  Sd: RCA Sound System

 
Genre: Comedy-drama
  Comedy-drama
Sub-Genre: Historical
  Animation
 
Subjects (Major): African Americans
  Children
  Friendship
  Maturation
  Southerners
  Storytellers
  United States--History--19th century
 
Subjects (Minor): Allegory
  Bears
  Birthdays
  Brothers and sisters
  Bullies
  Class distinction
  Dogs
  False accusations
  Farm hands
  Foxes
  Frogs
  Georgia
  Grandmothers
  Mothers and sons
  Plantations
  Poverty
  Rabbits and hares
  Separation (Marital)
  Servants
  Wounds and injuries

Note: [ Note from the Editors : Due to the large amount of available and often contradictory information about Song of the South , a comprehensive discussion of all aspects of the film is not possible here. The reader is advised to consult the citations listed below and the bibliography for additional information on the film.] The working title of this film was Uncle Remus . The film's opening title cards read: "Walt Disney Presents Song of the South with Uncle Remus and his tales of Brer Rabbit." Actor Erik Rolf's name is misspelled as "Eric" in the onscreen credits.

       Joel Chandler Harris' numerous and very popular "Uncle Remus" stories first appeared in his AtlC column in 1876. With his son Julian, Harris, whose stories were collected in several books, established Uncle Remus's Magazine in 1907, after his retirement from AtlC . According to a modern source, Disney first purchased the rights to Harris' stories in 1939, for ten thousand dollars. Contemporary studio publicity noted that the "Uncle Remus" stories were a childhood favorite of Disney. According to a 23 Aug 1946 AtlJ editorial, the studio's decision to change the film's title from Uncle Remus to Song of the South displeased many Southerners, including Harris' son, Joel Harris, who protested the change in a letter to Disney. In his reply to Harris, quoted in the editorial, Disney stated that " Song of the South better presented our picturization of the story than did the original title." According to modern sources, the studio changed the title in order to distance the film from potential criticism from African Americans concerned about the use of the "Uncle Remus" tales.

       While Harris' stories identify "Uncle Remus" as a former slave, the film does not clearly establish Remus' status nor the exact time period of the story. According to the film's file in the MPAA/PCA Collection at the AMPAS Library, PCA officials advised the studio that in order to minimize "adverse reactions from certain Negro groups," they should "be certain that the frontispiece of the book (appearing in the opening credits) establishes the date in the 1870s." Despite Breen's admonition, the frontispiece does not specify the time period, and both contemporary and modern sources disagree as to whether the film is set before or after the Civil War. In response to a 14 Jul 1944 screenplay submitted by the studio, PCA official Joseph I. Breen suggested that before proceeding further, the studio "secure the services of a competent person to advise you concerning the...acceptability of this story from the standpoint of the American Negroes. These good people, in recent months, have become most critical regarding the portrayal on the motion picture screen of the members of their race."

       According to the program for the world premiere, the Harris family had hoped for many years that Disney would dramatize the "Uncle Remus" stories, perhaps as two-reel animated shorts, but "during the years of discussion leading up to final negotiation [in 1939], the idea of full-length animated cartoon pictures interested the Disney studios and later gripped the public." Pre-production news items indicated that Disney originally intended to produce the film as an all-animation feature, but by the time production began, it was decided to have the picture feature live action. Although the Disney Studio had previously experimented with mixing animation and live action in The Reluctant Dragon , Saludos Amigos (see entries above) and The Three Caballeros (see below), Song of the South was the first feature-length Disney picture to integrate animation fully with live actors in a dramatic storyline. According to an article in the 5 Dec 1980 issue of Disney Newsreel , when Disney was asked why so much live action was included in Song of the South , he replied, "In this case, a living cast was absolutely necessary to get the full emotional impact and the entertainment value of the animated legends." Other modern sources assert that economic necessity prompted the studio to place more emphasis on live action, which could be produced more quickly and less expensively than animation.

       Contemporary press materials stated that before beginning work on the animated sequences, artists from the studio visited Atlanta and neighboring regions to sketch the countryside. A 4 Oct 1944 AtlC article noted that studio artist Mary Blair was consulting with Atlanta artists and historians Wilbur G. and Annie Laurie Fuller Kurtz on "matters of architecture, costumes, natural background...and 'just props.'" According to a contemporary press release, the animated sequences and characters were being worked on "months previous" to the beginning of live action filming, and then the integration of the two was accomplished "during the filming of the live action on location and on studio sets." Studio publicity materials for the later re-releases, however, state that the animation, while planned ahead of the live action, did not actually begin until the live sequences were completed. According to a modern interview with cartoon art director Kenneth Anderson, "The positions where Uncle Remus looked were predetermined by placing concealed sticks which indicated the cartoon character. These sticks were covered later by the addition of an overlay painted cel. The character animation was also done later with the animators working with frame blowups of the live action film."

       A 3 Nov 1946 AtlJ article stated that Disney originally considered shooting the live action footage on location in Georgia but was prevented from doing so by "technical difficulties." Instead, the exteriors were shot on a ranch in Phoenix, AZ, while studio scenes were filmed at Samuel Goldwyn Studios, according to contemporary news items. Location filming began in Nov 1944.

       H. C. Potter was first hired to direct the live action, but according to a 24 Jan 1945 LAT news item, he was replaced "since he and Walt [Disney] couldn't see eye to eye on handling of the story." A 29 Jan 1945 HCN item noted that Harve Foster, who had been acting as assistant director, would take over as director. Although it appears that Potter did direct some sequences, it is not known whether any of his work was included in the finished film. According to a 2 May 1945 HR news item, Potter filed a lawsuit against Disney, alleging that "he was fired without cause although his contract with Disney has some weeks to run." The disposition of the suit has not been determined. According to a 27 Oct 1944 HR news item, Disney originally signed Robert MacGimpsey to score Song of the South . [MacGimpsey did contribute one song to the film.]

       On 8 Nov 1944, HR noted that "John Loder has been signed by Walt Disney to play Uncle Remus in The Three Caballeros ." The character of Uncle Remus does not appear in The Three Caballeros , however, nor does it seem likely that Loder was seriously considered for that role, although apparently he was considered for the part of "John." A 4 Oct 1944 LAT item stated that Loder would be starring in the picture with Janet Gaynor and Eddie "Rochester" Anderson. A 25 Nov 1944 Pittsburch Courier news item reported that Anderson would be unable to accept the part offered to him, however, due to personal appearance commitments. A modern source states that Disney first offered the part of Uncle Remus to Rex Ingram, who turned it down.

       According to contemporary sources, Clarence Muse was involved with the production early on, either as an advisor on the screenplay or a potential cast member. According to a 6 Jan 1946 DW news item, both Muse and band leader Tiny Bradshaw turned down roles in the film because they felt the picture would be "detrimental to the cultural advancement of the Negro people." Bradshaw and Muse publicly expressed their discomfort with the screenplay's extreme dialect, and numerous groups contacted the Disney Studio with their concerns that the African-American characters would be portrayed in a stereotypical fashion. According to a 26 Aug 1944 Pittsburgh Courier article, when reporter Herman Hill contacted a studio representative about the growing concerns over the picture and the dialect, the representative stated that "it would not be plausible or realistic to use 'Oxford English' in a picture laid in 1850." A 24 Aug 1944 LA Sentinel article reported that Ben Carter turned down a role in the film, as did Mantan Moreland, Monte Hawley, Ernest Whiteman and Tim Moore.

       Other contemporary sources noted that James Baskett was cast when he came to the studio to audition for a vocal role. According to LA Sentinel news items, Helen Crozier was originally signed for the role of "Chloe." Feb 1945 LA Sentinel news items add the following actors to the cast, although their participation in the completed film has not been confirmed: Phil Jones ( Coachman ); Walter Knox ( Gardner ); and Daisy Bufford, Anna Marby, Theo Washington and Virgil Sanchies. HCN news items include Marylin Gwaltney and the B. C. Singers in the cast, but their participation in the completed picture has also not been confirmed. A 1 Mar 1945 LAT item reported that Mary Young had been cast in the role of "Aunt Margaret, a meanie, who is the bete noir of little Johnny," but no such character appears in the finished film.

       Child stars Bobby Driscoll and Luana Patten were the first actors signed by Disney to long-term contracts, and contemporary news items noted that Disney intended to feature the young actors together as a team in future films. They appeared in two more films together, So Dear to My Heart and Melody Time (see entries above), as well as individually in several films for the studio. Driscoll's last film for the studio was 1953's Peter Pan , for which he supplied the voice of the title character. After a troubled adolescence, Driscoll died in 1968, at the age of thirty-one, from long-term effects of drug addiction. Patten, who had previously been a model, made her screen acting debut in Song of the South . After appearing in several other Disney pictures, she took time off from acting to pursue academic studies, then returned to the studio in 1957 to appear in Johnny Tremain and in 1966 for Follow Me, Boys! At the time of filming Song of the South , Ruth Warrick and Erik Rolf were married, but by the picture's premiere, they were divorced. This was the only film in which they appeared together.

       The film marked the debut of young Glenn Leedy, who, according to studio publicity, was "discovered" at a school playground during location shooting in Phoenix. Although many contemporary sources asserted that Baskett made his screen debut in Song of the South , he had appeared in several African-American films during the 1930s under the name "Jimmy Baskette." Mainly a stage and radio performer, Baskett was well-known at the time of filming for his portrayal of lawyer "Gabby Gibson" on the popular Amos 'n' Andy radio series. Song of the South was Baskett's last film, however; he died on 9 Jul 1948 of a heart attack and complications from diabetes. According to modern sources, Baskett replaced Johnny Lee as the voice of "Brer Rabbit" during the "Laughing Place" segment because Lee was on a USO tour. A modern source notes that the cast included Ernestine Jones, who supplied the voice of a butterfly, while other modern sources state that Baskett provided the butterfly's voice.

       According to contemporary news items, the studio made elaborate preparations for the picture's premiere and general release. In order to publicize the premiere, four reporters from AtlC and AtlJ visited the studio in early Oct 1946 to begin a series of stories that would run daily in Atlanta newspapers until the premiere. Many recording artists released versions of the film's music in advance of the premiere, including Dinah Shore, the Merry Macs, Woody Herman and the Modernaires, according to a 25 Sep 1946 HR news item. On 1 Nov 1946, artists Fred Moore and Dick Mitchell, along with "production expert" Frank Bresson and Clarence Nash (the vocal artist who was the voice of Donald Duck) opened a "miniature studio" at the Belle Isle Arcade in Atlanta. The exhibit included Moore and Mitchell drawing sketches for visitors, demonstrations of the animation process and showings of a preview of the picture and scenes from the 1941 Disney film The Reluctant Dragon , which contains a tour of the actual Walt Disney Studios.

       Other festivities preceding the premiere included the dedication by Walt Disney of an Uncle Remus cabin at Wren's Nest, the former home of Harris, and an Armistice Day parade on 11 Nov 1946, which showcased characters from the film. HR news items noted that radio shows participating in the film's premiere included Queen for a Day , Bride and Groom , Art Linkletter's GE Houseparty and Vox Pop . The premiere, which benefitted charities overseen by Atlanta's Junior League and the Uncle Remus Memorial Society's renovation of Wren's Nest, was attended by over five thousand people. Cast members Warrick, Driscoll and Patten attended, as well as Walt Disney and voice artists Nash, Pinto Colvig (Goofy), Adriana Caselotti (Snow White) and Cliff Edwards (Jiminy Cricket). In describing the premiere, local newspapers recounted the actions of Atlanta's mayor, William B. Hartsfield, who urged Disney to wire Baskett with news of the city's appreciation for his enactment of Uncle Remus. Although some Southern newspapers stated that Baskett could not be present due to his commitment to the Amos 'n' Andy radio show, none of the African-American cast members attended the premiere. Harold Martin, an AtlC columnist, pointed out that it was Atlanta's strict segregation laws that prevented Baskett and the other black cast members from attending the premiere. In a 15 Oct 1946 article, Martin noted that to bring Baskett to Atlanta, where he would not have been allowed to participate in any of the festivities, "would cause him many embarrassments, for his feelings are the same as any man's."

       The film was a box-office success, showing a profit of $226,000 during its initial release, according to modern sources. [Modern sources list the production's cost as $2,125,000.] The picture received mixed reviews, however, with some critics applauding the animated sequences and acting while criticizing the live-action story. Bosley Crowther, the influential NYT critic, commented, "the ratio of 'live' to cartoon action is approximately two to one--and that is approximately the ratio of its mediocrity to charm." The Time reviewer stated, "Artistically, Song of the South could have used a much heavier helping of cartooning. Technically, the blending of two movie mediums is pure Disney wizardry. Ideologically, the picture is certain to land its maker in hot water."

       On 27 Nov 1946, Walter White, the executive secretary of the NAACP, sent telegrams to newspapers describing the NAACP's objections to the film. While expressing approval of the film's technical achievements, White stated that the NAACP "regrets, however, that in an effort neither to offend audiences in the North or South, the production helps to perpetuate a dangerously glorified picture of slavery....[the film] unfortunately gives the impression of an idyllic master-slave relationship which is a distortion of the facts." A 4 Dec 1946 Var article about the NAACP's view of current films contained a statement from a Disney spokesperson who "expressed surprise over objections to the film. Picture, he said, did not take place during slavery days but after the Civil War and the most sympathetic character in it is a Negro."

       The picture generated much controversy among African-American newspapers, some of which supported it while others did not. The reviewer for The Afro-American declared that he was "thoroughly disgusted" by the film, while the reviewer for Pittsburgh Courier stated that "the truly sympathetic handling of the entire production from a racial standpoint [would] prove of inestimable goodwill in the furthering of interracial relationships." The chief complaints leveled at the film concerned the subservient status, costuming and dialect of the African-American characters. In another NYT article, Crowther accused Disney of committing "a peculiarly gauche offense in putting out such a story in this troubled day and age." Upon the film's release, groups such as The National Negro Congress, The American Youth for Democracy, The United Negro & Allied Veterans and the American Jewish Council organized racially integrated pickets at theaters in New York City, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Boston, as well as other cities. In New York, Broadway actors such as Kenneth Spencer and Sam Wanamaker joined the picket lines.

       A scrapbook for the film held in the Walt Disney Archives contains an original handbill distributed by the National Negro Congress during its picket of the film at a Los Angeles theater. The handbill proclaims that the picture contains "dangerous stereotyping [that] creates an impression of Negroes in the minds of their fellow Americans which make them appear to be second class citizens." According to a 12 Dec 1946 Var news item, the NAACP declined to join the National Negro Congress in its picket of a New York City theater "because it feels nothing can be gained by it." The Boston chapter of the NAACP did participate in picketing the film's exhibition there, however, according to a 24 Dec 1946 Boston Globe article. An 18 Jan 1947 ChiDef news item noted that although the film was being shown at the "white theaters" in Washington, D.C., it would not be exhibited by the "six theaters catering to Negroes."

       The picketing sparked even more debate among African-American supporters and detractors of the film. Ebony magazine stated that the picture would "disrupt peaceful race relations and set back Negro progress," while the Pittsburgh Courier reviewer, discussing negative statements made by Ebony , Muse and Bradshaw, found their comments to be "unadulterated hogwash symptomatic of the unfortunate racial neurosis that seems to be gripping so many of our humorless brethren these days." In a Feb 1947 interview, printed in The Criterion , Hattie McDaniel defended the film by saying, "If I had for one moment considered any part of the picture degrading or harmful to my people I would not have appeared therein." In the same article, Baskett commented, "I believe that certain groups are doing my race more harm in seeking to create dissension than can ever possibly come out of the Song of the South ."

       Although Baskett was occasionally criticized for accepting such a "demeaning" role, his acting was almost universally praised, and columnist Hedda Hopper was one of the many journalists who declared that he should receive an Academy Award for his work. Baskett was not nominated for Best Actor, but received a special Oscar in 1948, a few months prior to his death. Baskett's Oscar, which honored his "able and heart-warming characterization of Uncle Remus in Song of the South , friend and storyteller to the children of the world," was the first Academy Award received by an African-American actor. [Baskett's Oscar was an honorary one; Sidney Poitier was the first African-American actor to win an Oscar for his performance in the 1963 picture Lilies of the Field (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1961-70 ; F6.2770). The first African-American actress to win an Oscar was Hattie McDaniel, for her work in Gone With the Wind in 1939 (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1931-40 ; F3.1674).] Song of the South also received an Academy Award nomination for Best Scoring of a Musical Picture and won an Oscar for the song "Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah" by Allie Wrubel and Ray Gilbert.

       Although Song of the South proved a financial success every time it was reissued (1956, 1972, 1980 and 1986), it has not been reissued as often as most Disney films, which were re-released about every seven years. On 25 Feb 1970, Var reported that the Disney studio had put the film "permanently on the shelf as offensive to Negroes and present concepts of race." In 1972, however, the studio stated that the picture had never been shelved and would be re-released due to the large numbers of requests from the public. During its 1972 reissue, the picture became the highest grossing Disney re-release up to that time. The 1986 reissue included a 15 Nov 1986 "re-premiere" held in Atlanta to celebrate the film's fortieth anniversary. By gubernatorial proclamation, the day of the premiere was declared Song of the South day in Georgia. Proceeds from the 1986 premiere, which was attended by Warrick, benefitted the preservation of Wren's Nest. The reissues have sparked criticism of the film from some reviewers, and the picture has never been released on video in the United States, although it was released in Europe and on video cassette and laser disc in Japan.

       The film's music was the focus of a 1946 lawsuit brought against the studio by the Southern Music Publishing Co., which claimed that it had the exclusive rights to publish all works by songwriter Ray Gilbert, who cowrote "Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah," "Sooner or Later" and "Ev'ry Body Has a Laughing Place." Disney had assigned all rights to the film's music to the Santly-Joy publishing company. The suit was settled out of court in 1948 when the film studio offered Southern a percentage of its royalties from the songs in contention. In 1980, Judge E. Peterson filed a ten million dollar lawsuit against the studio, claiming that he and his partner, James A. Payton, were the true authors of the song "Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah." The studio denied their allegations, stating that there "was no question Ray Gilbert was the author of the song." The disposition of the suit is not known.

       In 1956, a one-hour show, "A Tribute to Joel Chandler Harris," was broadcast on the Disneyland television show. In 1975, Bryanston Pictures released director/animator Ralph Bakshi's live action/animated film Coonskin , an R-rated feature that satirized Song of the South . In 1996, Danny Glover narrated "Brer Rabbit & Boss Lion," an animated featurette made for the Showtime cable network. 

Bibliographic Sources:   Date   Page
The Afro-American (Baltimore)   23 Nov 1946.   
The Afro-American (Baltimore)   30 Nov 1946.   
The Afro-American (Baltimore)   18 Jan 1947.   
The Afro-American (Baltimore)   8 Feb 1947.   
Atlanta Constitution   4 Oct 1944.   
Atlanta Constitution   15 Oct 1944.   
Atlanta Constitution   3 Oct 1946.   
Atlanta Constitution   15 Oct 1946.   
Atlanta Constitution   10 Nov 1946.   
Atlanta Constitution   12 Nov 1946.   
Atlanta Constitution   13 Nov 1946.   
Atlanta Journal   23 Aug 1946.   
Atlanta Journal   4 Oct 1946.   
Atlanta Journal   3 Nov 1946.   
Atlanta Journal   13 Nov 1946.   
Atlanta Journal   30 Dec 1946.   
Augusta Chronicle   17 Nov 1946.   
The Birmingham News   31 Oct 1946.   
The Birmingham News   27 Nov 86   pp. 8-9.
Boston Globe   24 Dec 1946.   
Box Office   2 Nov 1946.   
California Eagle   29 Oct 1944.   
California Eagle   16 Jan 1947.   
California Eagle   30 Jan 1947.   
California Eagle   13 Feb 1947.   
California Eagle   27 Mar 1947.   
ChiDef   30 Nov 1946.   
ChiDef   14 Dec 1946.   
ChiDef   18 Jan 1947.   
Criterion   10 Feb 47   p. 1.
The Dallas Times Herald   13 Nov 1946.   
Disney Newsreel   5 Dec 80   pp. 5-6.
Daily Variety   26 Oct 1944.   
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Daily Variety   29 Oct 46   p. 3, 10
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Daily Variety   2 May 1980.   
The Daily Worker   6 Jan 1946.   
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The Emory Wheel   21 Nov 1986.   
Film Daily   1 Nov 46   p. 7.
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Hollywood Reporter   27 Oct 44   p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter   8 Nov 44   p. 9.
Hollywood Reporter   2 May 45   p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter   9 Jan 46   p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter   25 Sep 46   p. 4.
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Hollywood Reporter   29 Oct 46   p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter   4 Nov 46   p. 12.
Hollywood Reporter   8 Nov 46   p. 9.
Hollywood Reporter   15 Nov 46   p. 1.
Hollywood Reporter   2 Dec 46   p. 6.
Hollywood Reporter   31 Dec 46   p. 15.
Hollywood Reporter   11 Mar 1947.   pp. 15-16.
Hollywood Reporter   18 Mar 1947.   p. 11.
Hollywood Reporter   10 Mar 1972.   
Los Angeles Daily News   31 Jan 1947.   
Los Angeles Examiner   28 Apr 1946.   
Los Angeles Examiner   21 Feb 1947.   
LA Sentinel   10 Aug 1944.   p. 13.
LA Sentinel   24 Aug 1944.   
LA Sentinel   21 Dec 1944.   p. 19.
LA Sentinel   18 Jan 1945.   
LA Sentinel   1 Feb 1945.   
LA Sentinel   15 Feb 1945.   
LA Sentinel   8 Mar 1945.   
LA Sentinel   24 Jan 1946.   
LA Sentinel   7 Nov 1946.   
Los Angeles Times   4 Jul 1944.   
Los Angeles Times   4 Oct 1944.   
Los Angeles Times   24 Jan 1945.   
Los Angeles Times   1 Mar 1945.   
Los Angeles Times   31 Jan 1947.   
Los Angeles Times   30 Jan 1972.   
Los Angeles Times   2 Jan 1981.   
Los Angeles Times   2 Aug 1981.   
Los Angeles Times   27 Dec 1986.   p. 1, 5.
Motion Picture Daily   29 Oct 1946.   p. 1, 7.
Motion Picture Herald Product Digest   2 Nov 1946.   p. 3285.
Newsweek   22 Dec 1986.   p. 63.
New York Times   26 Oct 1941.   
New York Times   14 Dec 1946.   
New York Times   28 Nov 1946.   p. 40.
New York Times   8 Dec 1946.   
People's World   1 Feb 1947.   
People's World   19 Apr 1947.   
Phoenix Gazette   14 Dec 1944.   
Phoenix Gazette   17 Feb 1945.   
Pittsburgh Courier   26 Aug 1944.   
Pittsburgh Courier   25 Nov 1944.   
Pittsburgh Courier   9 Nov 1946.   
Pittsburgh Courier   16 Nov 1946.   
Pittsburgh Courier   8 Feb 1947.   
Pittsburgh Courier   22 Feb 1947.   
PM (Journal)   28 Nov 1946.   
PM (Journal)   29 Nov 1946.   
PM (Journal)   17 Dec 1946.   
Southline   12 Nov 1986.   pp. 18-19.
Time   18 Nov 1946.   p. 101.
Variety   11 Jul 1945.   
Variety   2 Oct 1946.   
Variety   6 Nov 1946.   p. 18.
Variety   4 Dec 1946.   p. 7, 25.
Variety   11 Feb 1948.   
Variety   25 Feb 1970.   p. 7, 20.

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The American Film Institute is grateful to Sir Paul Getty KBE and the Sir Paul Getty KBE Estate for their dedication to the art of the moving image and their support for the AFI Catalog of Feature Films and without whose support AFI would not have been able to achieve this historical landmark in this epic scholarly endeavor.
 
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