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Disney Plus just removed Peter Pan and Dumbo for kids — here’s why

Disney Plus
(Image credit: Shutterstock)

Disney Plus is changing what kids can find easily, and removing four older movies from access from kids profiles. Disney says the titles in question are all being hidden from children due to negative and stereotypical depictions of different peoples from around the world.

Some parents might find this a bit annoying, but Disney's move to add content warnings give its films more context, so younger audiences don't think these depictions in films are normal or still acceptable. 

Specifically, Disney Plus' online Help Center notes that "Titles with a content advisory notice related to negative depictions and/or mistreatment of people or cultures have been excluded."

Disney offers a deeper explanation on its website, in a section titled Stories Matter, with a breakdown of four of the films you won't find in a Kids Profile anymore. Note that these films are not “canceled,” as they are still easily accessible through Disney Plus adult accounts.

Disney did not make these decisions on its own. The company has a third-party advisory council of groups "composed of leading organizations who advocate for the communities they represent and are at the forefront of driving narrative change in media and entertainment." 

Those groups are: the African-American Film Critics Association (AAFCA), CAPE (Coalition of Asian Pacifics in Entertainment), Define American, Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media, GLAAD Media Institute, Hollywood, Health & Society, IllumiNative, The National Association of Latino Independent Producers (NALIP), RespectAbility, The Science & Entertainment Exchange and Tanenbaum.

When you hit play on these movies, you'll see the below message:

This program includes negative depictions and/or mistreatment of people or cultures. These stereotypes were wrong then and are wrong now. Rather than remove this content, we want to acknowledge its harmful impact, learn from it and spark conversation to create a more inclusive future together.

Disney is committed to creating stories with inspirational and aspirational themes that reflect the rich diversity of the human experience around the globe.

We looked for it ourselves, and found the message on The Aristocats, Dumbo and Peter Pan — but not Swiss Family Robinson. We're guessing that will be added shortly.

Aristocats (1970)

In the animated film Aristocats, one feline named Shun Gon is depicted in a pretty jarring caricature of an East Asian person. Inarguably racist features include buck teeth, slanted eyes and poor, mangled English. 

In the song "Everybody wants to be a cat" we see the cat sing the lyrics "Shanghai, Hong Kong, Egg Foo Young. Fortune cookie always wrong," which are not the kind of words that a Disney movie released today would offer.

Dumbo (1941)

While Dumbo is mostly about the large-eared elephant, the group of crows in the film are a representation of racist minstrel shows. If their performance and mannerisms didn't make it obvious enough, the group's leader is named Jim Crow, a reference to the racial segregation laws that sprung up after the Civil War.

The Dumbo crows sing a song called "The Song of the Roustabouts," which includes the racist line "When we get our pay, we throw our money all away."

Peter Pan (1953)

The depiction of Native Americans in Peter Pan is another moment in Disney history that the company believes needs re-examination. The Native people encountered by Peter and the Lost Boys chant in an incoherent and unintelligible language, and are repeatedly called "redskins."

And while Peter and the Lost Boys are the good guys in the film, they don't look that noble when they appropriate the Native peoples' culture, clothing and mannerisms.

Swiss Family Robinson (1960)

The only live-action movie called out by Disney in its Stories Matter page features a series of pirates who are your run-of-the-mill foreign baddies. Many characters are in brown-face and yellow-face, and their garments are not historically accurate — as they were dressed in over-the-top manner. 

Much like the Native people in Peter Pan, they all speak in a random, nonsense language. These characters merge a series of different racist caricatures into one hodge-podge of inappropriateness.