Hey guys and welcome back to another weekly blog post. This week we learned all about Walt Disney, and the rise of Disneyland. Here’s a little quick fact about Disneyland before we get into it; Disneyland was originally the name for Walt Disney’s first TV show. Now, Disneyland is seen as a place that captures the past and history of USA in one area, so since its opening in 1955, the amusement park has been a major attraction for visitors of all ages and nationalities.
When the amusement park first opened, there were about 13 attractions for guests to see and experience. One of these attractions was Peter Pan’s Flight. This attraction allowed guests to fly through the different settings of the original Peter Pan story, from the view of Peter Pan. This ended up being a slight problem, as the first guests didn’t actually realize that they were Peter Pan. Many guests would leave the ride wondering Peter Pan really was.
Now this attraction hasn’t undergone the same amount of changes that the other original attractions have. The only major change it has underwent in the past 65 years were an update in the lighting and special effects of the ride. Nevertheless, this ride has been the subject of a lot of heated debate the past few years for a number of reasons.
If any of you are familiar with the story of Peter Pan, you know he visits a First Nations village on his journey. Well this scene is included in the 1953 film by Walt Disney. Not only is this scene included, but it includes a song titled “What Makes the Red Man Red?” The Aboriginal people are referred to as ‘red men.’ It is truly an outright racist portion of this film. This wasn’t necessarily uncommon for the time, but other films and books had been altered to omit blatantly racist scenes or names. For example, a book by Agatha Christie was titled And Then There Were None. This name was changed from Ten Little Ni*****. A quite horrible name for a book written by a white woman. But Peter Pan has not received the same attention for their own racist moments.
In fact, the ride Peter Pan’s Flight includes the “Indian Village” and Tiger Lily. The characters are obviously drawn red in an exaggerated way to emphasize how “different” they are from Peter Pan. So not only has the movie and book avoided backlash, but the ride has remained unchanged for over 65 years. Until now! In February of 2021, Disney released a digital ride-a-long of the ride. Many people noticed that the village was nowhere to be seen. Disney has decided to omit the section from the attraction.
This choice received a lot of criticism. Many long time fans felt the change was unnecessary, as the characters were not being discriminated against in the ride itself. Others kept it simple: don’t change the classics. One person even tweeted “Leave it alone people! If you don’t like don’t watch the film or wait in a long line to go on the ride!” It seems easy to understand their frustration with this decision, but the problem with these characters being included is the way they are portrayed. Obviously drawn to stand out, the intentions of the artist were to separate “Indian from white.”
I don’t know why people get so upset about changes being made to rides because we’ve grown as a society to realize that certain stereotypes, even those that we’ve used in the past, are wrong.
That being said, I don’t get why the Indians should be removed from the ride. Sure, the song and some of their actions in the movie are something that most likely wouldn’t be done today. But in the ride, they are just sitting around. They aren’t doing anything offensive. The only possibly offensive thing about them is that they seem a bit like caricatures. But, really, couldn’t you say that for all of the humans in Disney cartoons?
– Quote from Disney Fan
Frankly, I am amazed that this has remained for such a long time. I don’t think the scene should be removed from the film, as it serves a great insight into how racist things like this were accepted in that culture. I do think it should be removed from the ride though. Other racist characters have been removed recently from Disney rides, so to leave something like this seems purposely ignorant. Racism still exists today, but taking steps like these are crucial in creating a world where everyone is treated as an equal.