Song of the South


1h 35m 1946

Brief Synopsis

Uncle Remus draws upon his tales of Brer Rabbit to help little Johnny deal his confusion over his parents' separation as well as his new life on the plantation. The tales: The Briar Patch, The Tar Baby and Brer Rabbit's Laughing place.

Film Details

Also Known As
Uncle Remus
MPAA Rating
G
Genre
Comedy
Drama
Release Date
Nov 20, 1946
Premiere Information
World premiere in Atlanta, GA: 12 Nov 1946
Production Company
Walt Disney Productions
Distribution Company
RKO Radio Pictures, Inc.
Country
United States
Location
Phoenix, Arizona, United States
Screenplay Information
Based on the book Uncle Remus: His Songs and Sayings, the Folk-Lore of the Old Plantation by Joel Chandler Harris (New York, 1881).

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 35m
Sound
Mono (RCA Sound System)
Color
Color (Technicolor)
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
1.37 : 1
Film Length
8,493ft (11 reels)

Synopsis

In the late nineteenth century, newspaperman John and his wife Sally travel from their home in Atlanta to the rural plantation of Sally's mother, Miss Doshy, accompanied by their young son Johnny and his black nursemaid, Aunt Tempy. Johnny is excited about meeting Uncle Remus, a legendary black storyteller who amused John and Sally during their childhood, but is confused by his parents' anger toward each other. John, whose controversial writings have strained his marriage, returns to Atlanta alone, and Sally remains at the plantation with Johnny. Hurt by what he perceives as his father's desertion of him, Johnny sneaks out of the house with the intention of running away. As he walks along, Johnny finds the elderly Uncle Remus telling stories to a group of black children. Johnny stops to listen but runs off when Tempy and another servant, Chloe, come looking for him. Remus catches Johnny in the woods and agrees to run away to Atlanta with him, but insists on stopping at his cabin for provisions. While there, Remus tells Johnny a story of Brer Rabbit, who also tried to run away despite Remus' warning that there is no place far away enough to escape trouble: Brer Rabbit is captured by Brer Fox and Brer Bear, who intend to make a tasty meal of him, but the rabbit easily outwits them, escapes and returns to his briar patch. Strengthened by the story's moral, Johnny goes home with Toby, the young black servant assigned to look after him. Sally is devastated by his attempt to run away, however, and unfairly blames his behavior on Uncle Remus. Later, Sally orders Johnny to wear a suit with a lace collar, and while the boy wanders about miserably, he is taunted by Joe and Jake Favers, poor white youngsters who are threatening to drown their sister Ginny's puppy. Ginny and Johnny become friends, and she gives him the puppy, Teenchie. Sally refuses to let him keep the puppy, however, and orders him to return it. Instead, Johnny takes Teenchie to Uncle Remus, who agrees to keep it for him, but the next day, the Favers boys threaten Johnny with violence unless he returns the puppy. Uncle Remus tells the distressed Johnny about the time Brer Fox and Brer Bear used a tar baby to trap Brer Rabbit, but were once again outwitted by Brer Rabbit, who begged them not to fling him into the briar patch. Johnny uses the lesson of reverse psychology to get the Favers boys to complain to their mother about the puppy, and Mrs. Favers gives them a sound whipping. The angry boys then tell Sally their story, and Sally accuses Uncle Remus of "warping" Johnny with his stories and orders him to stop telling them to her son. Heartbroken, Uncle Remus returns Teenchie to the Favers boys, then roughly tells Johnny to leave him alone. A week later, Sally throws a birthday party for Johnny and allows him to invite Ginny, despite her misgivings about Ginny's humble upbringing. Johnny happily skips to Ginny's house, but her brothers muddy her only good dress. After fighting with the boys and becoming disheveled himself, Johnny tries to placate Ginny but only makes her cry more. Uncle Remus cannot resist comforting the children with a story and tells them about the time Brer Rabbit again freed himself from the clutches of Brer Fox and Brer Bear by leading them to his "laughing place." The wise old man informs the children that everyone has a laughing place, and when they run off to look for theirs, Sally finds them and chastises them for missing the party. Sally then upbraids Uncle Remus and orders him to stay away from Johnny completely. The old man decides that he is of no use anymore and, after packing his few belongings, prepares to depart. Johnny, who has realized that Uncle Remus' cabin is his laughing place, sees his friend leaving and cuts through a field to stop him. The bull in the field chases Johnny and knocks him down, and the unconscious child is rushed to the plantation house. John immediately comes down from Atlanta, but even his presence does not help his delirious son, who calls for Uncle Remus. Miss Doshy sends for him, and as Uncle Remus holds Johnny's hand and tells him another story, the child revives. Finally realizing that they must set aside their problems for the sake of their son, John and Sally decide to stay at the plantation. Later, Uncle Remus contentedly watches Johnny, Ginny and Toby play with Teenchie. He is amazed to see Brer Rabbit and his other story folk join the children, but soon runs after them and enters their joyous world.

Crew

Hal Ambro

Animation

Daniele Amfitheatrof

Photoplay score

Kenneth Anderson

Cartoon art Director

Myrtle Anderson

Stand-in for Anita Brown

Jack Atwood

Assistant Director

Philip Barber

Cartoon art Director

Mary Blair

Background and col stylist

Jack Campbell

Animation

Foster Carling

Composer

Brad Case

Effects anim

Les Clark

Director anim

Claude Coats

Background and col stylist

Al Coe

Animation

Sam Coslow

Composer

Eliot Daniel

Composer

Ken Darby

Voc Director

Ken Darby

Composer

Marc Davis

Director anim

Al Dempster

Background artist

Walt Disney

Presented By

Harold Doughty

Cartoon art Director

Perry Ferguson

Art Director

Harve Foster

Photoplay Director

Blaine Gibson

Effects anim

Ray Gilbert

Composer

Morton Grant

Screenwriter

Hy Heath

Composer

Hugh Hennesy

Cartoon art Director

Ray Huffine

Background artist

Ralph Hulett

Background artist

Ub Iwerks

Special processes

Wilfred Jackson

Cartoon Director

Arthur Johnston

Composer

Ollie Johnston

Director anim

Milt Kahl

Director anim

Natalie Kalmus

Technicolor color Director

Hal King

Animation

Mitchell Kovaleski

Associate (Color)

Annie Laurie Fuller Kurtz

Technical Advisor

Wilbur G. Kurtz

Technical Advisor

Johnny Lange

Composer

Rudy Larriva

Animation

Eric Larson

Director anim

Fred Lau

Sound Recording

John Lounsbery

Director anim

Don Lusk

Animation

Robert Macgimsey

Composer

Brice Mack

Background artist

Tom Massey

Animation

Murray Mcclellan

Animation

Bill Mcgarry

Assistant Director

Josh Meador

Effects anim

William M. Morgan

Film Editor

Cliff Nordberg

Animation

Ken O'brien

Animation

Perce Pearce

Associate Producer

William Peed

Cartoon story

Charles Philippi

Cartoon art Director

Edward Plumb

Orchestration

Elmer Plummer

Art trmt

Maurice Rapf

Screenwriter

Dalton Reymond

Original Story

Dalton Reymond

Screenwriter

George Rowley

Effects anim

C. O. Slyfield

Sound Director

Paul J. Smith

Cartoon score

Elizabeth Spratley

Stand-in for Hattie McDaniel

George Stallings

Cartoon story

Edgar Starr

Background artist

Harold Steck

Sound Recording

Gregg Toland

Photography

Harvey Toombs

Animation

Mary Wills

Costume Design

Charles Wolcott

Music Director

Charles Wolcott

Composer

Ralph Wright

Cartoon story

Allie Wrubel

Composer

Film Details

Also Known As
Uncle Remus
MPAA Rating
G
Genre
Comedy
Drama
Release Date
Nov 20, 1946
Premiere Information
World premiere in Atlanta, GA: 12 Nov 1946
Production Company
Walt Disney Productions
Distribution Company
RKO Radio Pictures, Inc.
Country
United States
Location
Phoenix, Arizona, United States
Screenplay Information
Based on the book Uncle Remus: His Songs and Sayings, the Folk-Lore of the Old Plantation by Joel Chandler Harris (New York, 1881).

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 35m
Sound
Mono (RCA Sound System)
Color
Color (Technicolor)
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
1.37 : 1
Film Length
8,493ft (11 reels)

Award Wins

Best Song

1946

Award Nominations

Best Score

1946

Articles

Ruth Warrick (1915-2005) - Ruth Warrick, (1915-2005)


Ruth Warrick, the actress who will forever be identified as the first Mrs. Kane in Orson Welles' Citizen Kane (1941) to film buffs; and Phoebe Wallingford, the meddlesome nosybody on the long-running soap opera All My Children, to modern television audiences, died at her Manhattan home on January 15 of complications from Pneumonia. She was 89.

She was born on June 29, 1915 in St. Joseph, Missouri. After attaining a degree in theatre from the University of Kansas City, she left for New York, where in 1938, she joined the Mercury Theater troupe, headed by a young artist on the rise by the name of Orson Welles. When Welles prepared to film Citizen Kane (1941) he took several players from his Mercury Theater (Joseph Cotten, Everett Sloan, Agnes Moorehead) and of course, Ruth Warrick. She made her film debut in Welles' cinematic epic as Emily Norton Kane. Indeed, to many film buffs, Warrick's icy charms are indispensable to the celebrated montage sequence opposite Welles at the breakfast table; particularly when he broaches the subject of her husband's infidelity:

Emily Kane: Charles, people will think...
Charles Kane: What I tell them to think!

Warrick received fine reviews for her performance, and she had good roles in her next two films The Corsican Brothers (1941), with Douglas Fairbanks Jr., and Journey Into Fear (1942), opposite Joseph Cotton. Sadly, Hollywood, not knowing what to do with a well-trained, mature actress like Warrick, began to cast her into routine, forgettable fare: Mr. Winkle Goes to War (1944), China Sky (1945), and Swell Guy (1946). Disney's Song of the South (1947), was a box-office hit, and was her best film in a while, but overall, the material she received over the next few years, simply wasn't worthy of her talents.

Things turned around for her in the mid-50s, when Warrick discovered the medium of television. She had regular roles on The Guiding Light (1953-54), As the World Turns (1956-60), Father of the Bride (1960-61), and was unforgettable as the sinister housekeeper, Hannah Cord, in Peyton Place (1965-67). Yet it was her 35-year run in the role of Phoebe Wallingford in All My Children (1970-2005), that Warrick achieved her greatest triumph. As the rich, intrusive matriarch of the fictitious, affluent town known as Pine Valley, Warrick found a role that could be at once gloriously hammy and quietly conniving - qualities that highlighted her renown versatility as an actress. To honor her contribution to television, Warrick received a lifetime achievement award from the Daytime Emmys last December. She is survived by three children, a grandson, and six great-grandchildren.

by Michael T. Toole
Ruth Warrick (1915-2005) - Ruth Warrick, (1915-2005)

Ruth Warrick (1915-2005) - Ruth Warrick, (1915-2005)

Ruth Warrick, the actress who will forever be identified as the first Mrs. Kane in Orson Welles' Citizen Kane (1941) to film buffs; and Phoebe Wallingford, the meddlesome nosybody on the long-running soap opera All My Children, to modern television audiences, died at her Manhattan home on January 15 of complications from Pneumonia. She was 89. She was born on June 29, 1915 in St. Joseph, Missouri. After attaining a degree in theatre from the University of Kansas City, she left for New York, where in 1938, she joined the Mercury Theater troupe, headed by a young artist on the rise by the name of Orson Welles. When Welles prepared to film Citizen Kane (1941) he took several players from his Mercury Theater (Joseph Cotten, Everett Sloan, Agnes Moorehead) and of course, Ruth Warrick. She made her film debut in Welles' cinematic epic as Emily Norton Kane. Indeed, to many film buffs, Warrick's icy charms are indispensable to the celebrated montage sequence opposite Welles at the breakfast table; particularly when he broaches the subject of her husband's infidelity: Emily Kane: Charles, people will think... Charles Kane: What I tell them to think! Warrick received fine reviews for her performance, and she had good roles in her next two films The Corsican Brothers (1941), with Douglas Fairbanks Jr., and Journey Into Fear (1942), opposite Joseph Cotton. Sadly, Hollywood, not knowing what to do with a well-trained, mature actress like Warrick, began to cast her into routine, forgettable fare: Mr. Winkle Goes to War (1944), China Sky (1945), and Swell Guy (1946). Disney's Song of the South (1947), was a box-office hit, and was her best film in a while, but overall, the material she received over the next few years, simply wasn't worthy of her talents. Things turned around for her in the mid-50s, when Warrick discovered the medium of television. She had regular roles on The Guiding Light (1953-54), As the World Turns (1956-60), Father of the Bride (1960-61), and was unforgettable as the sinister housekeeper, Hannah Cord, in Peyton Place (1965-67). Yet it was her 35-year run in the role of Phoebe Wallingford in All My Children (1970-2005), that Warrick achieved her greatest triumph. As the rich, intrusive matriarch of the fictitious, affluent town known as Pine Valley, Warrick found a role that could be at once gloriously hammy and quietly conniving - qualities that highlighted her renown versatility as an actress. To honor her contribution to television, Warrick received a lifetime achievement award from the Daytime Emmys last December. She is survived by three children, a grandson, and six great-grandchildren. by Michael T. Toole

Quotes

I'm gonna knock his head clean off!
- Br'er Bear
There's other ways of learnin' 'bout the behind feet of a mule than gettin' kicked by him, sure as I'm named Remus. And just because these here tales is about critters like Br'er Rabbit an' Br'er Fox, that don't mean it can't happen to folks! So 'scuse me for sayin' so, but them who can't learn from a tale about critters, just ain't got the ears tuned for listenin'.
- Uncle Remus
It happum on one ah dem Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah Days. Now dat's the kinda day where you can't opem yo mouf widout a song jumpin right out of it!
- Uncle Remus
Please don't throw me in dat briar patch!
- Brer Rabbit
Miss Sally, Johnny didn't mean no harm. He was just tryin' to be like Brer Rabbit.
- Uncle Remus
You can't run away from trouble. There ain't no place that far.
- Uncle Remus

Trivia

Because of its unrealistic depiction of the post-Civil War "Reconstruction" era, this film has been quietly retired by the Walt Disney Company in the USA since 1986 (40th Anniversary re-release).

James Baskett initially auditioned for a small voice part in the film. He not only got the part of Br'er Fox, but also Uncle Remus, making him the first live-action actor to be hired by Disney.

The working title for "Song of the South" was "Uncle Remus".

Most of the outdoor live action scenes were filmed in Phoenix, Arizona.

All but five minutes of Song of the South contains music.

This film has never been released on video or DVD in the USA.

Notes

[Note from the Editors: Due to the large amount of available and often contradictory information about Song of the South, a comprehensive discussion of all aspects of the film is not possible here. The reader is advised to consult the citations listed below and the bibliography for additional information on the film.] The working title of this film was Uncle Remus. The film's opening title cards read: "Walt Disney Presents Song of the South with Uncle Remus and his tales of Brer Rabbit." Actor Erik Rolf's name is misspelled as "Eric" in the onscreen credits.
       Joel Chandler Harris' numerous and very popular "Uncle Remus" stories first appeared in his Atlanta Constitution column in 1876. With his son Julian, Harris, whose stories were collected in several books, established Uncle Remus's Magazine in 1907, after his retirement from Atlanta Constitution. According to a modern source, Disney first purchased the rights to Harris' stories in 1939, for ten thousand dollars. Contemporary studio publicity noted that the "Uncle Remus" stories were a childhood favorite of Disney. According to a August 23, 1946 Atlanta Journal editorial, the studio's decision to change the film's title from Uncle Remus to Song of the South displeased many Southerners, including Harris' son, Joel Harris, who protested the change in a letter to Disney. In his reply to Harris, quoted in the editorial, Disney stated that "Song of the South better presented our picturization of the story than did the original title." According to modern sources, the studio changed the title in order to distance the film from potential criticism from African Americans concerned about the use of the "Uncle Remus" tales.
       While Harris' stories identify "Uncle Remus" as a former slave, the film does not clearly establish Remus' status nor the exact time period of the story. According to the film's file in the MPAA/PCA Collection at the AMPAS Library, PCA officials advised the studio that in order to minimize "adverse reactions from certain Negro groups," they should "be certain that the frontispiece of the book (appearing in the opening credits) establishes the date in the 1870s." Despite Breen's admonition, the frontispiece does not specify the time period, and both contemporary and modern sources disagree as to whether the film is set before or after the Civil War. In response to a July 14, 1944 screenplay submitted by the studio, PCA official Joseph I. Breen suggested that before proceeding further, the studio "secure the services of a competent person to advise you concerning the...acceptability of this story from the standpoint of the American Negroes. These good people, in recent months, have become most critical regarding the portrayal on the motion picture screen of the members of their race."
       According to the program for the world premiere, the Harris family had hoped for many years that Disney would dramatize the "Uncle Remus" stories, perhaps as two-reel animated shorts, but "during the years of discussion leading up to final negotiation [in 1939], the idea of full-length animated cartoon pictures interested the Disney studios and later gripped the public." Pre-production news items indicated that Disney originally intended to produce the film as an all-animation feature, but by the time production began, it was decided to have the picture feature live action. Although the Disney Studio had previously experimented with mixing animation and live action in The Reluctant Dragon, Saludos Amigos (see entries above) and The Three Caballeros (see below), Song of the South was the first feature-length Disney picture to integrate animation fully with live actors in a dramatic storyline. According to an article in the December 5, 1980 issue of Disney Newsreel, when Disney was asked why so much live action was included in Song of the South, he replied, "In this case, a living cast was absolutely necessary to get the full emotional impact and the entertainment value of the animated legends." Other modern sources assert that economic necessity prompted the studio to place more emphasis on live action, which could be produced more quickly and less expensively than animation.
       Contemporary press materials stated that before beginning work on the animated sequences, artists from the studio visited Atlanta and neighboring regions to sketch the countryside. A October 4, 1944 Atlanta Constitution article noted that studio artist Mary Blair was consulting with Atlanta artists and historians Wilbur G. and Annie Laurie Fuller Kurtz on "matters of architecture, costumes, natural background...and 'just props.'" According to a contemporary press release, the animated sequences and characters were being worked on "months previous" to the beginning of live action filming, and then the integration of the two was accomplished "during the filming of the live action on location and on studio sets." Studio publicity materials for the later re-releases, however, state that the animation, while planned ahead of the live action, did not actually begin until the live sequences were completed. According to a modern interview with cartoon art director Kenneth Anderson, "The positions where Uncle Remus looked were predetermined by placing concealed sticks which indicated the cartoon character. These sticks were covered later by the addition of an overlay painted cel. The character animation was also done later with the animators working with frame blowups of the live action film."
       A November 3, 1946 Atlanta Journal article stated that Disney originally considered shooting the live action footage on location in Georgia but was prevented from doing so by "technical difficulties." Instead, the exteriors were shot on a ranch in Phoenix, AZ, while studio scenes were filmed at Samuel Goldwyn Studios, according to contemporary news items. Location filming began in November 1944.
       H. C. Potter was first hired to direct the live action, but according to a January 24, 1945 Los Angeles Times news item, he was replaced "since he and Walt [Disney] couldn't see eye to eye on handling of the story." A January 29, 1945 Hollywood Citizen-News item noted that Harve Foster, who had been acting as assistant director, would take over as director. Although it appears that Potter did direct some sequences, it is not known whether any of his work was included in the finished film. According to a May 2, 1945 Hollywood Reporter news item, Potter filed a lawsuit against Disney, alleging that "he was fired without cause although his contract with Disney has some weeks to run." The disposition of the suit has not been determined. According to a October 27, 1944 Hollywood Reporter news item, Disney originally signed Robert MacGimpsey to score Song of the South. [MacGimpsey did contribute one song to the film.]
       On November 8, 1944, Hollywood Reporter noted that "John Loder has been signed by Walt Disney to play Uncle Remus in The Three Caballeros." The character of Uncle Remus does not appear in The Three Caballeros, however, nor does it seem likely that Loder was seriously considered for that role, although apparently he was considered for the part of "John." A October 4, 1944 Los Angeles Times item stated that Loder would be starring in the picture with Janet Gaynor and Eddie "Rochester" Anderson. A November 25, 1944 Pittsburgh Courier news item reported that Anderson would be unable to accept the part offered to him, however, due to personal appearance commitments. A modern source states that Disney first offered the part of Uncle Remus to Rex Ingram, who turned it down.
       According to contemporary sources, Clarence Muse was involved with the production early on, either as an advisor on the screenplay or a potential cast member. According to a January 6, 1946 The Daily Worker news item, both Muse and band leader Tiny Bradshaw turned down roles in the film because they felt the picture would be "detrimental to the cultural advancement of the Negro people." Bradshaw and Muse publicly expressed their discomfort with the screenplay's extreme dialect, and numerous groups contacted the Disney Studio with their concerns that the African-American characters would be portrayed in a stereotypical fashion. According to a August 26, 1944 Pittsburgh Courier article, when reporter Herman Hill contacted a studio representative about the growing concerns over the picture and the dialect, the representative stated that "it would not be plausible or realistic to use 'Oxford English' in a picture laid in 1850." A August 24, 1944 Los Angeles Sentinel article reported that Ben Carter turned down a role in the film, as did Mantan Moreland, Monte Hawley, Ernest Whiteman and Tim Moore.
       Other contemporary sources noted that James Baskett was cast when he came to the studio to audition for a vocal role. According to Los Angeles Sentinel news items, Helen Crozier was originally signed for the role of "Chloe." February 1945 Los Angeles Sentinel news items add the following actors to the cast, although their participation in the completed film has not been confirmed: Phil Jones (Coachman); Walter Knox (Gardner); and Daisy Bufford, Anna Marby, Theo Washington and Virgil Sanchies. Hollywood Citizen-News news items include Marylin Gwaltney and the B. C. Singers in the cast, but their participation in the completed picture has also not been confirmed. A March 1, 1945 Los Angeles Times item reported that Mary Young had been cast in the role of "Aunt Margaret, a meanie, who is the bete noir of little Johnny," but no such character appears in the finished film.
       Child stars Bobby Driscoll and Luana Patten were the first actors signed by Disney to long-term contracts, and contemporary news items noted that Disney intended to feature the young actors together as a team in future films. They appeared in two more films together, So Dear to My Heart and Melody Time (see entries above), as well as individually in several films for the studio. Driscoll's last film for the studio was 1953's Peter Pan, for which he supplied the voice of the title character. After a troubled adolescence, Driscoll died in 1968, at the age of thirty-one, from long-term effects of drug addiction. Patten, who had previously been a model, made her screen acting debut in Song of the South. After appearing in several other Disney pictures, she took time off from acting to pursue academic studies, then returned to the studio in 1957 to appear in Johnny Tremain and in 1966 for Follow Me, Boys! At the time of filming Song of the South, Ruth Warrick and Erik Rolf were married, but by the picture's premiere, they were divorced. This was the only film in which they appeared together.
       The film marked the debut of young Glenn Leedy, who, according to studio publicity, was "discovered" at a school playground during location shooting in Phoenix. Although many contemporary sources asserted that Baskett made his screen debut in Song of the South, he had appeared in several African-American films during the 1930s under the name "Jimmy Baskette." Mainly a stage and radio performer, Baskett was well-known at the time of filming for his portrayal of lawyer "Gabby Gibson" on the popular Amos 'n' Andy radio series. Song of the South was Baskett's last film, however; he died on July 9, 1948 of a heart attack and complications from diabetes. According to modern sources, Baskett replaced Johnny Lee as the voice of "Brer Rabbit" during the "Laughing Place" segment because Lee was on a USO tour. A modern source notes that the cast included Ernestine Jones, who supplied the voice of a butterfly, while other modern sources state that Baskett provided the butterfly's voice.
       According to contemporary news items, the studio made elaborate preparations for the picture's premiere and general release. In order to publicize the premiere, four reporters from Atlanta Constitution and Atlanta Journal visited the studio in early October 1946 to begin a series of stories that would run daily in Atlanta newspapers until the premiere. Many recording artists released versions of the film's music in advance of the premiere, including Dinah Shore, the Merry Macs, Woody Herman and the Modernaires, according to a September 25, 1946 Hollywood Reporter news item. On November 1, 1946, artists Fred Moore and Dick Mitchell, along with "production expert" Frank Bresson and Clarence Nash (the vocal artist who was the voice of Donald Duck) opened a "miniature studio" at the Belle Isle Arcade in Atlanta. The exhibit included Moore and Mitchell drawing sketches for visitors, demonstrations of the animation process and showings of a preview of the picture and scenes from the 1941 Disney film The Reluctant Dragon, which contains a tour of the actual Walt Disney Studios.
       Other festivities preceding the premiere included the dedication by Walt Disney of an Uncle Remus cabin at Wren's Nest, the former home of Harris, and an Armistice Day parade on November 11, 1946, which showcased characters from the film. Hollywood Reporter news items noted that radio shows participating in the film's premiere included Queen for a Day, Bride and Groom, Art Linkletter's GE Houseparty and Vox Pop. The premiere, which benefitted charities overseen by Atlanta's Junior League and the Uncle Remus Memorial Society's renovation of Wren's Nest, was attended by over five thousand people. Cast members Warrick, Driscoll and Patten attended, as well as Walt Disney and voice artists Nash, Pinto Colvig (Goofy), Adriana Caselotti (Snow White) and Cliff Edwards (Jiminy Cricket). In describing the premiere, local newspapers recounted the actions of Atlanta's mayor, William B. Hartsfield, who urged Disney to wire Baskett with news of the city's appreciation for his enactment of Uncle Remus. Although some Southern newspapers stated that Baskett could not be present due to his commitment to the Amos 'n' Andy radio show, none of the African-American cast members attended the premiere. Harold Martin, an Atlanta Constitution columnist, pointed out that it was Atlanta's strict segregation laws that prevented Baskett and the other black cast members from attending the premiere. In a October 15, 1946 article, Martin noted that to bring Baskett to Atlanta, where he would not have been allowed to participate in any of the festivities, "would cause him many embarrassments, for his feelings are the same as any man's."
       The film was a box-office success, showing a profit of $226,000 during its initial release, according to modern sources. [Modern sources list the production's cost as $2,125,000.] The picture received mixed reviews, however, with some critics applauding the animated sequences and acting while criticizing the live-action story. Bosley Crowther, the influential New York Times critic, commented, "the ratio of 'live' to cartoon action is approximately two to one-and that is approximately the ratio of its mediocrity to charm." The Time reviewer stated, "Artistically, Song of the South could have used a much heavier helping of cartooning. Technically, the blending of two movie mediums is pure Disney wizardry. Ideologically, the picture is certain to land its maker in hot water."
       On November 27, 1946, Walter White, the executive secretary of the NAACP, sent telegrams to newspapers describing the NAACP's objections to the film. While expressing approval of the film's technical achievements, White stated that the NAACP "regrets, however, that in an effort neither to offend audiences in the North or South, the production helps to perpetuate a dangerously glorified picture of slavery....[the film] unfortunately gives the impression of an idyllic master-slave relationship which is a distortion of the facts." A December 4, 1946 Variety article about the NAACP's view of current films contained a statement from a Disney spokesperson who "expressed surprise over objections to the film. Picture, he said, did not take place during slavery days but after the Civil War and the most sympathetic character in it is a Negro."
       The picture generated much controversy among African-American newspapers, some of which supported it while others did not. The reviewer for The Afro-American declared that he was "thoroughly disgusted" by the film, while the reviewer for Pittsburgh Courier stated that "the truly sympathetic handling of the entire production from a racial standpoint [would] prove of inestimable goodwill in the furthering of interracial relationships." The chief complaints leveled at the film concerned the subservient status, costuming and dialect of the African-American characters. In another New York Times article, Crowther accused Disney of committing "a peculiarly gauche offense in putting out such a story in this troubled day and age." Upon the film's release, groups such as The National Negro Congress, The American Youth for Democracy, The United Negro & Allied Veterans and the American Jewish Council organized racially integrated pickets at theaters in New York City, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Boston, as well as other cities. In New York, Broadway actors such as Kenneth Spencer and Sam Wanamaker joined the picket lines.
       A scrapbook for the film held in the Walt Disney Archives contains an original handbill distributed by the National Negro Congress during its picket of the film at a Los Angeles theater. The handbill proclaims that the picture contains "dangerous stereotyping [that] creates an impression of Negroes in the minds of their fellow Americans which make them appear to be second class citizens." According to a December 12, 1946 Variety news item, the NAACP declined to join the National Negro Congress in its picket of a New York City theater "because it feels nothing can be gained by it." The Boston chapter of the NAACP did participate in picketing the film's exhibition there, however, according to a December 24, 1946 Boston Globe article. An January 18, 1947 Chicago Defender news item noted that although the film was being shown at the "white theaters" in Washington, D.C., it would not be exhibited by the "six theaters catering to Negroes."
       The picketing sparked even more debate among African-American supporters and detractors of the film. Ebony magazine stated that the picture would "disrupt peaceful race relations and set back Negro progress," while the Pittsburgh Courier reviewer, discussing negative statements made by Ebony, Muse and Bradshaw, found their comments to be "unadulterated hogwash symptomatic of the unfortunate racial neurosis that seems to be gripping so many of our humorless brethren these days." In a February 1947 interview, printed in The Criterion, Hattie McDaniel defended the film by saying, "If I had for one moment considered any part of the picture degrading or harmful to my people I would not have appeared therein." In the same article, Baskett commented, "I believe that certain groups are doing my race more harm in seeking to create dissension than can ever possibly come out of the Song of the South."
       Although Baskett was occasionally criticized for accepting such a "demeaning" role, his acting was almost universally praised, and columnist Hedda Hopper was one of the many journalists who declared that he should receive an Academy Award for his work. Baskett was not nominated for Best Actor, but received a special Oscar in 1948, a few months prior to his death. Baskett's Oscar, which honored his "able and heart-warming characterization of Uncle Remus in Song of the South, friend and storyteller to the children of the world," was the first Academy Award received by an African-American actor. [Baskett's Oscar was an honorary one; Sidney Poitier was the first African-American actor to win an Oscar for his performance in the 1963 picture Lilies of the Field (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1961-70; F6.2770). The first African-American actress to win an Oscar was Hattie McDaniel, for her work in Gone With the Wind in 1939 (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1931-40; F3.1674).] Song of the South also received an Academy Award nomination for Best Scoring of a Musical Picture and won an Oscar for the song "Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah" by Allie Wrubel and Ray Gilbert.
       Although Song of the South proved a financial success every time it was reissued (1956, 1972, 1980 and 1986), it has not been reissued as often as most Disney films, which were re-released about every seven years. On February 25, 1970, Variety reported that the Disney studio had put the film "permanently on the shelf as offensive to Negroes and present concepts of race." In 1972, however, the studio stated that the picture had never been shelved and would be re-released due to the large numbers of requests from the public. During its 1972 reissue, the picture became the highest grossing Disney re-release up to that time. The 1986 reissue included a November 15, 1986 "re-premiere" held in Atlanta to celebrate the film's fortieth anniversary. By gubernatorial proclamation, the day of the premiere was declared Song of the South day in Georgia. Proceeds from the 1986 premiere, which was attended by Warrick, benefitted the preservation of Wren's Nest. The reissues have sparked criticism of the film from some reviewers, and the picture has never been released on video in the United States, although it was released in Europe and on video cassette and laser disc in Japan.
       The film's music was the focus of a 1946 lawsuit brought against the studio by the Southern Music Publishing Co., which claimed that it had the exclusive rights to publish all works by songwriter Ray Gilbert, who cowrote "Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah," "Sooner or Later" and "Ev'ry Body Has a Laughing Place." Disney had assigned all rights to the film's music to the Santly-Joy publishing company. The suit was settled out of court in 1948 when the film studio offered Southern a percentage of its royalties from the songs in contention. In 1980, Judge E. Peterson filed a ten million dollar lawsuit against the studio, claiming that he and his partner, James A. Payton, were the true authors of the song "Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah." The studio denied their allegations, stating that there "was no question Ray Gilbert was the author of the song." The disposition of the suit is not known.
       In 1956, a one-hour show, "A Tribute to Joel Chandler Harris," was broadcast on the Disneyland television show. In 1975, Bryanston Pictures released director/animator Ralph Bakshi's live action/animated film Coonskin, an R-rated feature that satirized Song of the South. In 1996, Danny Glover narrated "Brer Rabbit & Boss Lion," an animated featurette made for the Showtime cable network.