Disney has made four of their classic films - including Dumbo and Peter Pan - unavailable on Disney+ for younger viewers.
While Disney+ is home to decades of material from Disney’s extensive catalog, it appears that a few of their classics are blocked for viewers under the age of 7. Profiles for young children will not be allowed to watch Dumbo, Peter Pan, Swiss Family Robinson, and The Aristocats, due to negative depictions in the films.
The change was actually made back in October 2020, but with people discussing questionable aspects of The Muppet Show, Pepe Le Pew’s problematic behavior, and the desexualization of Lola Bunny in the upcoming Space Jam: A New Legacy, it seems that many are just discovering this change recently. For those over the age of 7, Dumbo, Peter Pan, Swiss Family Robinson, and The Aristocats are available to watch, although the four films do begin with an advisory that helps provide an explanation for the negative depictions.
Disney posted about this change last year on the “Stories Matter” page of their site, giving a full breakdown of the added advisory messages. The Aristocats features an advisory message for racist caricatures of East Asian people, which includes poorly accented English, slanted eyes, and buck teeth. In Dumbo, the film features a group of crows that pay homage to racist minstrel shows, including a leader named Jim Crow. Peter Pan features stereotypical portrayals of Native American people and their culture, while Swiss Family Robinson includes many actors appearing in “yellow face” or “brown face.”
Disney has attempted to address their problematic past for quite some time now, and it seems this is just getting attention now because of people’s fear of a so-called “cancel culture.” Recently, Disney also announced that they would be changing their Song of the South-inspired Splash Mountain ride at several of their parks into a Princess and the Frog ride. Additionally, Jungle Cruise will also be receiving changes that get rid of negative cultural portrayals. There have also been rumors that the popular Peter Pan’s Flight ride will also receive an update that removes the negative Native American portrayals.
Yet considering younger kids likely won’t be able to understand the advisory messages ahead of films like Peter Pan or Dumbo, it makes sense that Disney would take away access to films that have a warning on them. If a kid can’t understand why the issues in these films are problematic, they’re probably too young to be watching these anyway. If anything, Disney is helping to stop spreading the problematic elements that have been in these films for decades.
But restricting access to these films is no different than a child’s profile not being able to watch rated-R or TV-MA programs on their own. At least with the advisory message, Disney can say why something that was thought to be okay during the making of The Aristocats and Peter Pan is seen as a problem today. If parents don’t like this change from Disney, they can update the child’s profile to an older age. Disney+ making this change isn’t a sign of “cancel culture,” it’s simply the company trying to stop pushing negative stereotypes by giving understanding to the time these films were made, and not showing these problematic elements to young kids who won’t understand why they are wrong.