Yesterday Disney announced that it will buy Marvel Entertainment, famous for its comic book superheroes, for $4 billion.
Immediately folks began hypothesizing the potential crossovers between the worlds of Marvel and Disney. Two of the most compelling Song of the South-related suggestions came from the Woot Blog:
Br’er Rabbit vs. Cyclops: Two brilliant tactical minds, fighting for the future of their outcast friends! They’re ready for anything – are you?
Power Man vs. Uncle Remus: The righteous fists of Luke Cage stand ready to drop a slaveship’s worth of pain on The Man’s favorite sharecropper – until a wise bluebird reminds him that we’re all brothers under the skin.
Luke Cage (a.k.a Power Man), a vestige of early 70s blaxploitation, is kind of a jive-talkin’ hero for hire. He’s also one of the first African-American characters in the Marvel universe. According to IMDB, John Singleton (Boyz n the Hood, Shaft (2000)) is set to direct the film version, now being scripted.
When the Uncle Remus stories debuted in 1880, Brer Rabbit revolutionized children’s literature. Not only did the characters introduce children to animals that walked and talked with sass, but Harris created a fictional universe along the Big Road, where the critters co-existed in an often violent and amoral world.
Uncle Remus became one of the first fully-realized black characters in American fiction, unique in a subversive portrayal that bucked the minstrel tradition and gave a voice to the African-American oral tradition.
For the next 60 years, the Uncle Remus stories captured the imaginations of children around the world. By 1939 Walt Disney, who had long dreamed to bring the stories to the big screen, bought the rights to the Brer Rabbit franchise for a whopping $10,000.
The rest is history. Song of the South debuted in 1946 with great commercial success and ambivalent critical reviews. The film has been perceived as more and more racist with each passing year, and Disney has neglected to release the film for home consumption in the United States.
The Disney Brer Rabbit and the Brer Rabbit of the African-American oral tradition are continually conflated. And by “conflated,” I mean that “the Disney film is so iconic that many folks assume that the Disney version is the same as the stories written 60 years earlier, for better or worse.” Usually worse.
It’s a shame, since Brer Rabbit serves as such a tremendous building block in our popular culture. I’d hate to see Marvel’s characters suffer a similar fate if Disney ever deems them too controversial.
- (500) Days of Summer and Happy Blue Birds
- Disney’s ‘Princess and the Frog’ Pre-Controversy Controversy Fun
- Disney to Release Song of the South on DVD and Blu-Ray in 2009