Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Racism in Animation 1 - Disney Bans Fantasia's Sunflower the servant Centaur

A lot of Disney's more racist work wasn't intended to defame black people (or the specific culture). It was intended to reflect the current society. He often didn't intentionally create racist characters; he was just trying to show different cultures and more of the world, and to make it funny. However, in the process he showed a biased perspective and made light of some cultures. As you can see, he (and later other Disney execs) would realize that they've gone too far, and so they remove elements (or entire pictures) in order to save face. However, Disney was not the only one to include racism in cartoons (more on that later).

Fantasia was released in 1940, the third theatrical full-length animation, as shown in Disney's canon of animated films:

The character in question here, is Sunflower, a black centuar who served the white centaurs.



"The 1940 film Fantasia was astounding for it's time and still amazing today. Classical compositions performed by the Philadelphia Orchestra, conducted by Leopold Stokowski, are the soundtrack for dazzling Disney animation. It's been re-released a few times and was required viewing for every pothead I knew in high school.
The little secret of Fantasia is in the segment set to Beethoven's "Pastoral Symphony". Originally, there was a little female centaur named Sunflower who was pretty much a handmaiden/personal assistant for the tall, beautiful white, blonde, dare I say 'Aryan' centaurs. Sunflower is drawn along racist lines to be a "pickininny Negro" - big lips, nappy hair and all.

"Well, we can't have that. She was removed from the 1960 release of Fantasia, and edited out of the 1990 50th Anniversary edition, and laser disks. The 50th anniversary DVD is so badly edited that after removal of the third appearance of dear Sunflower, the sound track isn't matching up with the film any more. In fact it's really out of sync.

"What's fun though is that Disney says they never had such a character! We're all delusional! Fortunately, people who are more evil than Disney can find a copy of it. Was it was "acceptable" back then to portray characters that had such blatant racist features? I vaguely recall a few Bugs Bunny cartoons being withheld from release on some recent Big Deal Anniversary because it was decided they were racist or unacceptable, going by today's standards. Still, it's strange to deny it existed when..well, there it is. If you pay close attention to Disney's animation now, they're still full of racism and sexism. I guess the acceptable, trendy kind."


The portions with Sunflower removed in the current versions of Fantasia feature out-of-sync edits on the music as well ugly zooms in on the white centaurs.

Video description:
"This is the second of 3 scenes originally produced for the 1940 release of Disney's Fantasia. It wasn't until a 1960's theatrical re-release of the film which such scenes were censored from the film due to the characters being considered ethnically offensive during the civil rights movement."

And, um, here's a cool clip from the movie (this makes me see how it was logical for Disney to do Hercules):

More Racism in Animation...

Racism in Animation 3 - Pluto's Dream House (1940):

Racism in Animation 2 - Santa's Surprise (1940):

Racism in Animation 1 - Fantasia (1940):



  1. Um that wasn't Hercules. It is Zeus from Greek mythology. He is the one who wields the lightning bolts and the guy that is working for him is Hephaestus in the video.


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