You think you know the Disney brand, right? Princesses, wacky animal sidekicks, and dead parents. But nowadays it seems like Disney absorbs brands quicker than The Empire absorbs territory (I’m looking at you, Marvel Universe). It may surprise you, but this isn't new.
In an attempt to be constant top-dog in family entertainment, Disney has expanded its brand into some pretty kooky places over the years! From uncanny box office flops to serious political statements, these forgotten projects remaining forgotten probably work out in Disney’s favor.
You've definitely never heard of some of these obscure Disney projects!
If you have never been to Disneyland then you have never experienced Splash Mountain. And if you have been on Splash Mountain you still might not know where Br'er Rabbit and "Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah" come from. Song of the South is a terrible secret hiding in plain sight. It's the movie Splash Mountain is based on, even though the film itself was removed from circulation long before the attraction’s 1980s construction.
Set in a irreverent and warmly remembered south that never was, the film follows storyteller Uncle Remus as he tells two young white children stories about the adventures of Br'er Rabbit. The film is unclear about Remus’s status as either a servant or slave. As Matt Singer eloquently puts it,
“Disney essentially turned the plantation system into a ludicrous utopia where blacks and whites live in a harmony — a harmony where the only thing that’s clear is that the blacks are inferior and servile to the whites, but are content to work the fields anyway.”
Also Rankedsee more on Song of the South
Der Fuehrer’s Face
As the nice man at the head of the video will explain to you, Disney made a few propaganda films back in the day. But he dosent tell you the real reason why! 1940 was a bad year for Disney, the initial release of Fantasia nearly bankrupted the company. While it was met with critical success, it was a box office flop, and the company lost the modern equivalent of 15 million dollars.
In order to stay afloat the studio took on various off-brand commercial clients, including a contract with the US government for 32 short films - some for the public and some for military training. Some have had a longer life than others, but this Donald Duck Nazi nightmare is definitely the most famous. Even the song in the short has endured a longer history, as it was referenced in Mash, All in the Family and a Buffy the Vampire Slayer spinoff comic!
If you spend a lot of time online, you might remember seeing screen grabs from Der Fuehrer's Face. The short endured an internet revival almost a decade ago, elevating Nazi Donald into meme infamy on sites like Reddit and 4chan. So big in Europe, Russia had to ban the film from its Internet from 2010 to 2016 for fear of it stoking a fascist resurgence.
At the end of the film Donald Duck wakes up thankful that he's not living in a fascist country. Hopefully we all can continue to do the same.
The Story Of Menstruation
This video is exactly what it sounds like, and since it's from the '50s it's also super sexist. The chastising narrator can be quoted telling young girls to “stop feeling sorry for yourself” regarding menses' cramps and low energy. In the video, menstruation is treated as a matter of hygiene instead of reproduction. Any semblance of period blood is, of course, white not red. Ladies we've come a looong way.
Commissioned by a cotton company, this is another project Disney took on after the commercial failure of Fantasia. In 1946, The Story of Menstruation was shown in classrooms all across America, to girls AND boys. It was accompanied by Kotex’s Very Personally Yours pamphlet.
Perhaps this film's most lasting impact, was the capitalist precedent it set: it was the first film backed by a corporate interest to be shown in American highschools. Some might say this film existed to sell sell pin belts (the predecessor of the sanitary napkin) and to discourage the use of rival company Tampax’s product: tampons.
You can blame the economy OR the advent of the internet for the Dadaist resurgence happening in millennial art, but maybe its because of all spooky puppet shows that basically babysat millennial kids. Adventures in Wonderland is a prime example of this. It's a bizarre cocktail of puppetry, practical effects, and early CGI that landed the show waist-deep in the uncanny valley.
If you stayed home sick watching the Disney Channel as a 90s kid, memories of Adventures in Wonderland might be lurking in the corners of your consciousness. It wasn't a dream, it really wasn't! And if you can get your hands on one of these rare VHS tapes, well, you're in for a better time than watching H. R. Pufnstuf or Lidsville.
Adventures in Wonderland was in production from 1992 to 1995, but ran on the Disney Channel until 1997. Its short run was possibly due to the many visual effects it boasted becoming quickly outdated, which is a shame because the show was everything you ever wanted public access television to be: diverse and filled with musical numbers.see more on Adventures in Wonderland