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Disney+ warns of "outdated cultural depictions" in classic movies

Christopher Brito

Disney+ is slapping content warnings on some of its classic animated movies to notify users about "outdated cultural depictions." The new streaming service, available at $6.99 per month, officially launched on Tuesday.

A select number of films, which include "Dumbo," "Lady and the Tramp," "The Aristocats" and more, have the warning. Many social media users shared the alert that read: "This program is presented as originally created. It may contain outdated cultural depictions."

This is really interesting — Disney+ is flagging when its movies have racist depictions pic.twitter.com/8wvtB0NmHn

— Jeva Lange (@Jee_vuh) November 12, 2019

Some of the movies — many of which were originally released in the 1940s and 1950s — contain scenes that would now be considered racist, offensive or inaccurate. For example, in "Dumbo," there are crows that perpetuate racist stereotypes of African Americans. One of the crows is named "Jim Crow." 

One Disney film that isn't available on Disney+ is "Song of the South," a 1946 musical with what are widely viewed as racist portrayals of former slaves after the Civil War. 

Many Disney+ customers weren't satisfied with the content warnings. Some compared it to Warner Bros.' similar warning that had much stronger, pointed language when it showed outdated cartoons. 

No plug forthcoming. Let’s be clear, Disney did harm. A lot. The only question is how to best address this. If the consensus from those directly harmed is that we need stronger wording you will receive no argument from me. Many have referenced the WB. Here is that wording. pic.twitter.com/X9aGjXv97o

— Evan (@324_B21) November 12, 2019

Disney+ debuted its service with 10 original movies, as well as specials and series, and it's expected to release more than 45 original programs within a year of its launch. Walt Disney Co. is also selling a bundle of Disney+, Hulu and ESPN+ for $12.99 per month.

With its lineup of reboots, spinoffs, prequels and sequels, Disney+ is leaning into its preternatural ability to leverage nostalgia into billions of dollars. According to analysts at MoffettNathanson, Disney+ is expected to reach 18 million global subscribers by the end of 2020. Even though that would represent just a fraction of Netflix's customer base, analysts believe the Disney+ service is likely to become a major player in the streaming video market.