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Is Disney Racist?

Shermia enjoys writing about film, television, and politics.

Was the grandfather of animation a racist?

Was the grandfather of animation a racist?

Walt Disney, Racist?

For years, rumors have been going around that the beloved grandfather of animation, Walt Disney and the Disney Corporation, were/are racist entities that use their animations to project their racism on the unsuspecting masses. Of course, the Disney corporation denies any allegations that could taint their wholesome name, but could the Disney corporation seriously have proof stacked up against them?

In 1948, Disney published a children's book called "Mickey Mouse and the Boy Thursday" that followed the beloved cartoon character, Mickey Mouse, and his West African "friend," Thursday.

In 1948, Disney published a children's book called "Mickey Mouse and the Boy Thursday" that followed the beloved cartoon character, Mickey Mouse, and his West African "friend," Thursday.

My Dislike for Disney

Anyone that knows me well knows that I am a very extreme animation enthusiast, but unlike many other animation enthusiasts, I can't bring myself to say that Walt Disney was my hero or inspiration. I do give Walt Disney credit where credit is due, but because of Disney animations' racist undertones in their animations, I have turned a disgusted eye towards the Disney corporation.

This article isn't to bash Disney, but rather to make people aware, to show everyone their options, to help people make their own decisions. If, however, you decide that you don't like anything in this article, I readily welcome any comments or replies.

1. Sebastian - Little Mermaid

Sebastian is a Jamaican-sounding crab that was King Triton's right-hand man in Disney's The Little Mermaid Disney created in 1989. The age-old stereotype that Jamaicans are lazy and hate to work is in the lyrics of Sebastian's song called "Under the Sea".

"Up on the shore they work all day
Out in the sun they slave away
While we devotin'
Full time to floatin'
Under the sea!"

The Duke of Soul

The Duke of Soul

Or how about how the lyrics state "The fluke is the Duke of Soul." Don't you see something wrong with the way Gene Chandler - The Duke of Soul - is portrayed and drawn? Certainly a racialized character.

"The black fish, she sings."

"The black fish, she sings."

If you aren't convinced yet, how about the little black fish that stereotypes the black female singers of the early 1900s.

As the lyrics go, "The black fish, she sings."


Pedro from Lady and the Tramp.

Pedro from Lady and the Tramp.

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Read More From Reelrundown

In Disney's Lady and the Tramp, when Lady gets put into the pound, she encounters a chihuahua with a Mexican accent.

Si & Am

Si & Am, the Siamese twin cats.

Si & Am, the Siamese twin cats.

Si & Am, the two Siamese cats visibly have Asian features and stereotypical Asian-like broken English.


Tito from "Oliver and Company."

Tito from "Oliver and Company."

From Oliver and Company, Tito - the chihuahua in Dodger's gang - is a conniving, spastic, chihuahua with anger management issues.

The original Disney princesses: Belle, Jasmine, Ariel, Arora, Cinderella, and Snow White.

The original Disney princesses: Belle, Jasmine, Ariel, Arora, Cinderella, and Snow White.

Belle, Ariel, Tiana, Snow White, Aurora, Rapunzel

Where's Jasmine? She seems to be absent, isn't she?

Where's Jasmine? She seems to be absent, isn't she?

For years, the "original" Disney princesses consisted of Belle, Jasmine, Ariel, Arora, Cinderella, and Snow White. The problem is that Disney forgot that they had Pocahontas as a princess as well. Why, exactly did Disney choose not to add her? Why is it that Disney can only have one person of color in their princess lineup? Haven't you ever noticed that after Disney's Princess and the Frog, anything with the Disney princesses on them has Tiana - which is good - but what happened to Jasmine?

All of Disney's Leading Ladies

All of Disney's leading ladies, not just their princesses.

All of Disney's leading ladies, not just their princesses.

Disney Princess Alternative

Instead of Disney just having a princess franchise, why don't Disney try a "Leading Lady" franchise? Disney has forgotten at least two princesses that should be included in their princess franchise lineup. Kida - from their movie Atlantis: The Lost Empire - and Pocahontas. Where are these two leading ladies in the Disney princess franchise lineup?

Tiana - First Look

First audience seen character concept for Tiana, heroine of Disney's Princess and the Frog.

First audience seen character concept for Tiana, heroine of Disney's Princess and the Frog.

Tiana 2009

Princess Tiana final character concept.

Princess Tiana final character concept.

Disney Princess Proof?

With the 2009 Disney movie The Princess and the Frog - Originally entitled 'The Frog Princess -, Disney broke the black ethnicity barrier that had eluded the Disney corporation for over 80 years. An African American leading hero(ine).

The Princess and the Frog followed their hard-working leading lady, Tiana - an African American, as she tried to fulfill her dream of owning her own restaurant. Tiana meets a prince - who is very spoiled, self-centered, and status-seeking - who, because of his character and gullibility, is transformed into a frog. Disney's Princess and the Frog has a great storyline full of colorful characters, beautiful music, suspense, romance, discovery, and a very great moral for everyone - including adults.

When the character concept for Tiana first leaked out, it seemed that most of the black community wasn't satisfied with Disney even simply creating a black princess. Tiana's original name was Maddy and she was supposed to be a poor chambermaid living among the wealthy in the New Orleans French Quarter. There was even talk of people boycotting Disney's Princess and the Frog. After being contacted by the NAACP and an online petition sporting over 3,000 e-signatures, Disney went back to work tweaking Maddy's appearance and storyline.

The Wonderful World of Color 1961


Despite what anyone says about Walt Disney - good or bad - he was quite the brilliant man. He was not the creator of animation, but Walt Disney was among the first to present full-color programming with his Wonderful World of Color in 1961. He was the first person to create a full-length cel animated feature film ever in history - Snow White.

From Snow White to Rapunzel, Disney has made great and timeless animated films time and time again. Maybe one day Disney will wise up and add a whole new colorful cast of princesses to add to their Disney princesses franchise lineup.

There are so many examples of racism in Disney, it's almost revolting. Above I have named just a few examples. Do you know any more? Do you think that this is actually proof of the Disney corporation's evil racist ways? Why or why not? I'd love to hear comments from you! Happy reading.


Shermia Trueheart (author) from Texas, USA on September 23, 2017:

Oh, I agree with you wholeheartedly, but I do feel like there are some racial depictions. Even recent Disney propaganda it's evident. But everybody has their own opinion.

Mickey Bitso on September 13, 2017:

Oh please. Do we REALLY care what Disney cartoons looked like in 1940? As for the more modern cartoons: So what? Every depiction of EVERYONE is a "stereotype". I'm quite aware that Jamaicans are not crabs.

And are we just going to ignore the fact that Disney routinely depicts white people as rodents and retarded dogs?

Race will remain an issue only as long as we want it to. It's an industry. And a way for people with no lives to have an identity. If you want to see racism you'll always see it. Enjoy.

Pamela Lipscomb from Charlotte, North Carolina on July 03, 2017:

Disney has always mirrored American culture down through the ages. Unfortunately, their cartoons reveal we have not come that far at all.

Mackenzie Sage Wright on August 07, 2013:

I don't see blatant racism. I see certain things as just being a product of their time, the rest I see people reading into it heavily. I see the depicting a lot of different characters to reflect what you find in the real world. The very cool crows in Dumbo "act black" and they have black feathers. Is 'acting black' wrong? Because the only way I could see it as racism is to say there is something wrong with the way they were behaving, but those crows were very cool, fun guys hanging around having a laugh. I don't see anything wrong with that, just like I don't see anything wrong with the vultures in The Jungle Book acting British. In Lady & the Tramp, all the dogs that are connected with certain countries had the accent of that country-- the Scottish terrier, the Russian wolfhound, the British bulldog. Why is all that okay, but the Mexican chihuahua racist? Sebastian is just singing about life under the sea being beautiful and easygoing-- if you notice the rest of the movie he's a very hard working aid to the king. The hyenas in the Lion King are streetwise-- that one sounds black because the actress portraying her is black. Know who else 'sounds black' in Lion King? Mufasa. And I never saw what was wrong with the name "Maddy" or being a chamber maid vs. being a waitress. As for the video, i thought these people were absurd-- they're talking about King Louie the orangatang-- he's not even 'acting black'-- the character was modeled after and voiced by a very famous white singer at the time-- Louie Prima-- who actually talks and sings like that. Very interesting hub, I just don't agree. People motivated to see racism will see it everywhere.

mintinfo on December 24, 2012:

Fashioning a character based on a stereotype is a racist act and just because the president is colored does not mean that racism has disappeared. Racism is dead in your own head Shaddie. I think that you are one of those people who believe that Blacks have gained acceptance rather than whites are getting saner. Racism is a mental disorder that makes one race look down on another. They consider themselves the measure of perfection that others have to aspire to. Art is not exempt from correction. In any other genre (science, mathematics, history, ets) once an error is detected it is corrected, why not art and entertainment? These seemingly innocent injustices, like the "black face" will be erased one way or another.

Shaddie from Washington state on December 21, 2012:

We have a black president. Racism is pretty much dead. There is no point yammering on about how someone might have been racist or not back in the '30s. First of all, a lot of people were, and I really don't care if Disney was among them. Times were much different back then than they are now, thank goodness. But I find the movies listed above to be among the best ever created, and I am tired of people complaining about issues that were only issues in the past. You're basically keeping racism alive simply by still complaining about it.

Second of all, how in the word is portraying animals with accents considered racist? Was Scotty, the Scottish terrier from Lady and the Tramp racist against Scottish folk? Is Trusty racist against Americans from Southern states? It is absolutely preposterous how people think, "Well golly, that character has an accent, automatically whatever the writers portray this character doing will reflect directly on the entire country/continent/people this character supposedly originates from!"

Absurd. Why can't you just enjoy Disney movies for what they are? They are uplifting films that are fully enjoyed all across the world. I grew up on these films, and never once did I turn into a bigot, or consider that one race was better than another. So a bunch of the princesses were white. Big deal. You want to know something else? All the bad guys were white too. In fact, in at least one movie off the top of my head, the heroine was of unknown, muddled descent (Ezmeralda) and the villain was clearly white. Is this racist towards Caucasians?

It's not like people grew up watching Disney thinking people of a different color were bad. On the contrary, Disney teaches us that characters from all over the world - France, Africa, London, Canada, Mexico, the middle east, even different places in the U.S - are good souls and full of knowledge, humor, and emotion. I think Disney has done immensely more amounts of good than bad (if they did anything bad at all).

By the way, you should check out some of the old "censored eleven" cartoons that Warner Brothers put out many years ago. WB was directly rivaled with Disney, yet they created more out-rightly racist films than Disney ever could have dreamed of. You want a point a finger somewhere and complain about unfair representation, start with WB.

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