The centaur scene in Disney’s highly acclaimed cartoon Fantasia (1940) clearly communicates gendered expectations for men and women, but there are also racial politics. First, note that, in the film as released, all of the centaurs end up in color-matched heterosexual pairs. Second, most people do not know that the original centaur scene included a pickaninny slave to the centaur females and exotic, brown-skinned zebra-girl servants.
Here’s a link to the whole thing (embedding disabled, but it works as of Feb. ’11).
A clear still in black and white:
Fuzzy color stills from the youtube clip:
Don’t miss our post showing bugs bunny in blackface, too.
Sociological Images » “Plane Dumb”: Another Vintage Cartoon With Blackface — May 2, 2009
[...] more vintage racist cartoons, see these clips from Fantasia, these Bugs Bunny stills, this racist reinterpretation of Snow White, and this Bugs Bunny cartoon [...]
Race and Gender in “The Princess and the Frog” » Sociological Images — August 27, 2009
[...] long history of negative or stereotypical portrayals of non-White characters (i.e., “Fantasia“) meant many were concerned about what the final product might be. Leontine G. sent us the [...]
zippa — October 25, 2009
None of the videos are working for me. They all come up as "removed".
Lisa Wade, PhD — October 25, 2009
Thanks Zippa. I fixed it as best I could. The link I added at the top will show you the entire sequence.
Garth Books and More Interesting Sites | General Blogger Here — October 26, 2009
[...] Racism In Disney’s Fantasia . [...]
Akasha — October 27, 2009
I understand that many find these images and videos racist, and maybe they are when looked at in this time, but one must remember that in that time political correctness was unheard of, and what we consider racist today wasn't then.
As a woman of mixed race I can find a numerous examples of racist interpretations in past works of art, fiction, and literature, but all of it should be taken into context as to where the world was during the time that it was made.
Maybe it's because intellectually I understand that people are not necessarily being mean when they say things that are not considered politically correct. One of my very best friends was raised by her grandmother who is a tried and true, born in the deep, south southern belle. Because of her upbringing she constantly called me that lovely colored girl. Michelle was mortified and constantly apologizing to me about it, but I was never bothered. Not because I am too dumb to understand the insult, but because there was no insult intended. She was just raised and brought up in a different time.
I was more insulted when a colleague was surprised to find that I spoke three languages, and actually said that she was unaware that someone who had dropped out of college had the intelligence to learn to speak other languages. Or the day while surfing when someone said to me that they didn't know black people could swim.
I do not get offended when I watch Gone With the Wind, but I imagine if it were to be analyzed by today's standards Scarlet would be the spoiled psycho boiling Ashley's bunny, Melanie would be the the dumb, trusting girl who is to stupid to know that she is being picked on by the mean girl, and Rhett would be a misogynist, rapist, bastard. The characters of Mamie and Prissy would be relegated to dumb negro slave stereotypes. On the surface you could look at it like that, but if you really take a look at the film and the book all of these people are quite a bit more than what they seem. I can't even imagine what a remake of Gone with the Wind would look like.
The remaking of cartoons or removal of certain scenes, or the banning of certain books to support today's standards is more insulting to me than the original works themselves. It's like saying there was never a racial divide in United States and the struggles that minorities have been through were never there. It would be like removing all artistic and literary references of the Holocaust.
As a child I loved Song of the South, but due to today's hyper politically correctness Disney is refusing to re-release it in the United States. I find it interesting that the rest of the world is able to see this film, but the people of the US are too, what? Backwards? to understand the deeper meaning. Or maybe it's because Uncle Remus comes off to some people as the silly singing black slave, and they are insulted by it. I personally always found him to be the self-educated philosopher, and were my grandparents alive I'm sure they wouldn't find him insulting either. Maybe it's the people who find it insulting that have the problem. That THEY think of black people as inferior. That deep down THEY are racist and all of this bluster is to assuage THEIR guilt.
The thing that I find the most amusing is that I have never heard little people complaining about their portrayals in these films, nor of people getting on a soapbox for them. I think that little people would have a much greater case about the slavery in Snow White than people of color would have about the slavery in Fantasia. They go and slave in a mine all day, then they come home to find a woman has, in essence home invaded them, and is now forcing them to live by her rules of cleanliness and nutrition. Saying that since they are of diminutive stature that they are no smarter than children and have to be taken care of. Personally, their house didn't look that much dirtier than college frat house. I won't even go into The Wizard of Oz and it's portrayal of little people as singing, dancing cute little Munchkins. Or it's use of evil flying monkey's (which back them black people were still called).
Throughout history there have been books written, films made, or art created that by today's standards are no longer politically correct, or if dissected could be looked at in a an entirely different way.
The women depicted in the paintings of Peter Paul Rubens would be considered fat, unattractive, and very unhealthy by today's standards because being underweight is the new beautiful. In Rubens time only servants, and the poor were underweight, so the supermodels of today would have been considered ugly, unintelligent, and lower class.
It's all a matter of time and perception.
Curmudgeon — October 27, 2009
Very well said.
In my humble opinion, the vast majority of this "politically correct" society come across as overly sensitive.
Holding individuals from the first half of the 20th century to the standards of today (in any form...literary, medical, scientific...)just doesn't make since. The leaps and bounds that have been made in just the last 20 years or so in computer technology alone should demonstrate that. My first computer, purchased in 1993, would be considered archaic by todays standards. And before anyone jumps up and starts screaming and waving their arms about, I understand that statement is a complete simplification of a point of view. But my primise still stands.
Jenna — October 27, 2009
What's so wrong with 'color-matched, heterosexual pairs?'
HEALTHY BLACK QUEENS — October 28, 2009
"One of my very best friends was raised by her grandmother who is a tried and true, born in the deep, south southern belle. Because of her upbringing she constantly called me that lovely colored girl. Michelle was mortified and constantly apologizing to me about it, but I was never bothered. Not because I am too dumb to understand the insult, but because there was no insult intended. She was just raised and brought up in a different time."
Context is no excuse. Of course the Disney cartoon can't change itself but your friend's grandmother can. She's old enough to know that times have changed. There's no excuse for her to keep using that language. It's like saying her grandmother could call you 'slave' because she comes from a different era. At what point do you say they're young enough to know better?
K — October 30, 2009
Seems to me that political correctness is actually just considering the context and baseline assumptions that inform our attitudes.
What is problematic, IMHO, is that most of us have learned that overt racism/sexism/heterosexim/[insert other unhealthy attitudes here] is wrong, but don't want to admit that we might have unhealthy attitudes buried underneath (sometimes not too deeply at all), so we:
* Dismiss political correctness because it makes us feel uneasy and defensive about the concept that we might have any privilege
* Make huge assumptions about what the Other will necessarily find offensive without asking because a) we're not comfy enough with them to just ask, and b) it doesn't occur to us to check because our assumption is that we're right - our attitudes must be the default setting.
The big thing is to learn to actually set aside our stuff while we listen to others and allow ourselves to admit the possibility that we might be mistaken in some of our thinking - not so that we can live driven by guilt, but so that we can all be that but free-er.
Racism in Bull Durham Tobacco Ads » Sociological Images — November 21, 2009
[...] more historical U.S. representations of blacks, see these posts: one, twp, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten, eleven, thirteen, fourteen, fifteen, sixteen, [...]
fred — April 8, 2011
Has anyone considered that calling another person's attitude about moral issues "wrong" is being ridiculous? Our social mores are legitimate whether
accepted by any other human. I apologize not at all for my attitide about
the non-acceptability of homosexuality activity.
Has anyone noticed that evolutionists portray those creatures supposedly
predating US as of a greatly darker skin color than we whites? Blacks as well as whites allow this to be perpetuated in our children's textbooks and pay for
this politically incorrect inference with tax money.
Has anyone noticed that in India, many wives are rejected because they have been described as of lighter skin than they are? Or that in our TV ads no black man has a wife or girl friend as dark as himself.
I don't intend to justify intentional words or actions with the intent to degrade others. It'just quite complex. I appreciate the discussions.
Alarmed» Blog Archive » disneys fantasia pictures — June 11, 2011
[...] Racism In Disney's Fantasia В» Sociological Images Mar 7, 2008 … The centaur scene in Disney's highly acclaimed cartoon Fantasia (1940) clearly communicates gendered … [...]
Wait… what? « Invasion of the Neurons from Outer Space — September 29, 2011
[...] it featured a black centaur behaving like a stereotypical ‘40s black house aide? Oh wait, that already happened. It seems to me that a lot of people these days aren’t even trying to be useful, but are [...]
Bigbeef2 — February 26, 2012
You are a racist. You've got racism up your ignorant ass. You'll find it everywhere because you want to find it.
Mike Lane — February 1, 2013
Back when cartoons were worth while. Now I want to watch Fantasia.
A — February 5, 2015
That's not real. I'm watching Fantasia right now.
Flag Bag — September 17, 2015
Rob brought me here.
Daniel — July 21, 2018
These look like fakes, honestly. Perhaps the video (now taken down) is a well-done fake, but it looks fake. This "slave centaur" doesn't match the artist's style, so that's a big eyebrow raiser there, and beyond this website there's no mention of this centaur anywhere; not in the narrative, not in the concept art, nothing.
Undoubtedly Disney had some pretty racist stuff in the past, but on this one I call BS.
Disc-Free Gaming Is an Archival Nightmare | e-News.US — April 22, 2019
[…] cultural stewards. Disney has carefully managed its own racist past, recutting Fantasia to remove racist caricature and, for decades, keeping Song of the South out of circulation as best they could. Game companies […]
Disc-Free Gaming Is an Archival Nightmare – Shirley Coyle — April 22, 2019
[…] cultural stewards. Disney has carefully managed its own racist past, recutting Fantasia to remove racist caricature and, for decades, keeping Song of the South out of circulation as best they could. Game companies […]
Lese — January 2, 2020
Just watched on Disney + the images of the half black half zebra still in there tending to the fat white dude..smh
Random — January 2, 2020
Lese... You mean the centaur is still tending to the God? smdh...
wtf is wrong with you people?
Disney’s Dirty Censorship Tricks – Uptights Despoil Kids Of Fun! | rossrightangle — January 20, 2020
[…] according to some people, creates “gendered expectations” for men and […]
rtberg — January 28, 2020
I was born in 1950 and LOVED Fantasia. I must have seen it ten or a dozen times as a kid (in theaters, of course). The black characters were most certainly in the scenes from Beethoven's Pastoral -- I noticed their absence when I saw it years later. Is it fair to hold the creators to today's standards? Maybe not. But there sure is no reason to expose today's children to those images.
Gar Bulthse — March 8, 2020
Lets just burn the whole thing and pretend it's not still happening.. then lets go smash all the Greek art and all the civil war statues.. smash everything and rewrite history. Anyone ever notice there are no white people smiling in toothpaste commercials? of COURSE there is a reason to expose people to images that are wrong you stupid fool!!
Heroes, Villains & Black Magic: Clements and Musker’s Disney Animations - Shenandoah Film Collaborative — November 16, 2020
[…] egregious representations of African-Americans in Fantasia (1940) and Song of the South (1946), The Princess and the Frog transports Disney’s starpower to […]
Alex Peter — December 4, 2020
Maybe it's because intellectually I understand that people are not necessarily being mean when they say things that are not considered politically correct. Let's just burn the whole thing and pretend it's not still happening.. then let's go smash all the Greek art and all the civil war statues.Visit Sparkyreads!
Dookey breath oshitma — January 10, 2021
ignorant people find racism, sexism. injustice, and inequality everywhere and then vote for democrats, HA how stupid can you be.
Albert Tabler — March 10, 2021
I think it's stupid that anyone would deem this as racist. You can thank this B S cancel culture for that.
yrtytr — March 13, 2021
So what exactly is racist. So everyone has to be white or it is racist, is that the answer. There is a lot of really dumb people out there now.
Grace — April 5, 2021
I love Fantasia but I’m not going to ignore of defend it by saying it was a different time. Simply because it was a different time when it was made doesn’t make it acceptable now. Plus saying stuff like that is just defending racism. I think what Disney did was right with the warning at the beginning.
Toni Stamps — May 13, 2021
To Akasha...It was racist then too. I felt hurt, shamed and angry back then too. I just could not express those feelings! All of this "of its time" bs gets on my nerves! It was MORE oppressive because Black Americans had NO VOICE! JUST because something is MAINSTREAM does not make it correct or okay! It was NOT okay THEN OR NOW!!
Paul — July 29, 2021
Thanks, Grace and Toni!
I completely agree with your point! White people that claim cancel culture and defend racist images by saying it was a "diffferent time" are only doing so because they, themselves, are racist (whether or not they accept it) and want to protect and defend their way of life by marginalizing those offended.
I am comfortable in saying that at least 98% of those condemning racism, but also defending imagery like this as "it wasn't racist back then, but we no better now" have grown up with white privilege and very little social struggle or prejudice. It WAS racist back then, but it was socially acceptable to BE racist.
"Grace — April 5, 2021
I love Fantasia but I’m not going to ignore of defend it by saying it was a different time. Simply because it was a different time when it was made doesn’t make it acceptable now. Plus saying stuff like that is just defending racism. I think what Disney did was right with the warning at the beginning."
wardrose — February 18, 2022
The thing that amuses me the most is that I've never heard tiny kids complain about how they're portrayed in these movies, nor have I ever seen someone jump on a soapbox for them. Little people, in my opinion, would have a stronger argument against slavery in Snow White than people of color would have against slavery in Fantasia. They go to work in a mine all day cookie clicker, then return home to discover that a woman has invaded their house and is forcing them to follow her norms of hygiene and nourishment. Saying that because of their small height, they are no brighter than children and must be cared for.
Anonymous — April 22, 2022
noone cares about a bunch of nignog ni g g ers anyway. ooga booga keep shooting up your neighbourhoods, monkeys
Mom — April 28, 2022
Wow, when did go from its perfectly fine for a man and woman to be together to a man and woman being together is affensive? When did we as parents lose the right to deside what our children watch? The racism shit has gotten out of hand. People are assuming that all whites are bad, well sorry I can't give more examples because that would be racism. I have tried to teach my children not to look at people's skin color cause to me there's not a difference, but then they get picked but others for trying to do so. My son was actually told by an older student of another race, that he can't talk to him because he is below him because his family are racist. That our family were slave owners. My son is 6 years old. He came home crying his eyes out and now doesn't like talking to people. He is 6 years old. There was no need for that. I don't agree with what happened. The older kid was just going by what he heard and saw on public media. All this mess is doing is teaching the young generation to be racist. It's so sad. Watch some one. Is going to call me a racist for saying what I said.
Stop looking at the color — April 28, 2022
There so many whites that are poor that live on the street. There are other races that are in the same boat. My family is whe, we live pay check to pay check. There's times where we have to chose to either pay rent or buy food. There multiple races that are actors and are in higher up politics, doctors. My doctor isn't white. But she is a good doctor, she worked hard to get where she is at. That's her words. I work hard to take care of my family. I am a house keeper at a hotel and all the races that come in and out look down on me because of my job. They think they are better than me, I clean up after them. So am I supposed to be ok with that treatment just because they have a different color skin then me? So because back a couple hundred years ago there was slavery, even though my parents parents weren't even born yet, I'm supposed to be treated like shit even though I don't agree with what they did? How much since does that make. By the way my family didn't come to the US till at least 40 years after slavery was stopped.
Anonymous — April 28, 2022
If your affened by it don't watch it. If your affened by it don't listen to it. If your affened by it ask said person to stop it affends you. Don't take others rights away from them just cause you are affened. We are supposed to be a free country but yet we are looking for racism in everything. I never thought I would see the day that we lost our right to read and watch what we want. Porn affends me. So are we going to throw a fit about porn and ban it?????? Of cousre not. I'm affeneded by the fact I get accused of being racist by complete strangers, that know nothing about me. So should they be banned? No they shouldn't cause they have the right to their opinion. They have the right to be racist even though they say they are fighting against it. That's their right. But I guess we are just losing our rights.
YET AGIAN IF IT AFFENDS YOU DONT WATCH IT DONT READ IT DONT LISTEN TO IT. ITS YOUR CHOICE NO ONE IS FORCING YOU TO WATCH FANTASIA.
Build Now GG — May 20, 2022
Thank you for producing such a fascinating essay on this subject. This has sparked a lot of thought in me, and I'm looking forward to reading more.
MIG — July 8, 2022
Disney films are now deep inside most people in the western world. In fact, Disney helped very much by molding the collective unconscious to create the monster that is the US now... the evil empire.
anonymous — August 22, 2022
wow this comment section is not it. we’re here to teach one another not to belittle and bully each other into what is right. it’s 2022. i can guarantee majority of the people here defending this movie have no sense of respect or understanding of anyone. i for one have never seen it until i went to watch it the other day and the warning popped up. i looked up the movie immediately, which brought me here. the original poster of the article was bringing awareness and teaching the wrongs of the movie. if you see no problem with this movie, you’re part of the problem. coming at this aggressively and seeing racism in the words being written is not the way to go about this. the problem is right in front of you. you just refuse to see it because it doesn’t align with your mentality or you don’t think it affects you. i’ve always been taught if you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all. some of y’all need to soak that up. we live on a floating rock. get it together people. it’s really not that hard to be a decent person and take accountability for your negativity and past wrongs. the only thing you can do is change for the future. we’re not meant to stay the same, we’re meant to grow and evolve our mindset. this thing of “it was a different time”, yes it was. but that doesn’t mean you can’t take accountability for past actions. i believe disney did the best thing they could’ve done by leaving the movie out to the public on their platform and adding the advisory to the very beginning bringing awareness to their mistakes. i will say, i wish they would give you more time to fully read what it has for say before it goes away after 10 seconds. that being said, i understand you can’t change the past or take back what was said, but you can sit down, read this article, read the comments, and feel the feelings of the person who wrote that comment. understand them. put yourself in their shoes. it’s time to change. it’s been time. people are hurt and all they want is to be understood and respected. everyone deserves that. i hope to future readers who see this comment see that i’m coming from a place of genuine love and yearning to just be able to communicate to one another and learn how to grow from our own and other experiences. on the other hand to the original poster of the article, i see that this was posted in 2008 but you are an associate professor at a university, if you’re still receiving notifications for this post, please do better at monitoring the comment section. you’re the original creator of the post, some of these comments are simply disrespectful and there is absolutely no need for it. if people can’t speak respectfully and discuss the issue at hand in a civil matter, their comment should never been seen other than the moderator.
LisaHD — October 9, 2022
I’m glad they deleted the ‘pickaninny’ characters. (When I was little my parents had a cartoon reel of Little Lulu with a Black mammy. Not all that funny, either.)
It’s been awhile since I saw Fantasia, but I remember the centaurs being pink, purple, blue — all pigments not normal seen in human-like creatures. Having the like colours pair up could just be to indicate to the not-so-bright audiences who would be matched with whom, but they are not all pair that way. Some only have the same hair colour. In some couples they are entirely different hues. The Pegasus’ foals are a variety of different colours, so we know what’s been going on with that gorgeous pair!
Matt — October 24, 2022
I love all the apologists who come here and say that racism, in any era, can be explained away, or else who try to dismiss it as being "overly sensitive." Sunflower in Fantasia, Jim Crow in Dumbo, Mickey Mouse....they're all based on racist caricatures drawn from minstrelsy. It was racist in the 19th century. It was racist in the 20th century. It's racist now. However, i'm NOT happy that Disney erased the character because that obscures the institution's history of racism, and that's something we need to be able to talk about as a reminder not to make those same mistakes again. Representation matters. If you need evidence, look at the fragile white responses to the Little Mermaid casting.....some of y'all just like to cherry pick when you feel outraged then turn around and put other people down for those same feelings in a different context or moment. Sit down.
OMHBG — November 13, 2022
Only God can Judge !!!
OMHBG — November 13, 2022
The thing that amuses me the most is that I've never heard tiny kids complain about how they're portrayed in these movies, nor have I ever seen someone jump on a soapbox for them. Little people, in my opinion, would have a stronger argument against slavery in Snow White than people of color would have against slavery in Fantasia. Prayer and Fasting They go to work in a mine all day cookie clicker, then return home to discover that a woman has invaded their house and is forcing them to follow her norms of hygiene and nourishment. Saying that because of their small height, they are no brighter than children and must be cared for.
Christopher — April 17, 2023
WAKE UP, all of you!
Christopher — April 17, 2023
Continued... ALL cartoon characters, of ALL COLORS and ethnicities, in the '20s, '30s, '40s and '50s, were drawn, spoke, and depicted with stereotypes of their respective origins. The wonderful Max Fleischer cartoons of the '30s depicted humorous (that's the key word, 'humorous') characters from ALL backgrounds. How dare the Marxist-useful-idiots of today insist that only African-Americans were stereotyped or depicted in ridiculous appearances! If you open your eyes and minds, you will see that many, many white-ethnic characters were frequently portrayed in stereotypical fashion - e.g. Italian street peddlers, Irish cops with heavy brogues, Eastern-European Jewish tailors, etc.
Anonymous — April 17, 2023
The relentless Marxist propaganda from the last 50+ years has conditioned 2 or 3 generations of blindly-led 'useful-idiots' to believe that these cartoons were targeting 'minorities' for vicious reasons or for laughter at their expense! Clearly, if you bother to research these cartoons OR to watch them (the ones that the Marxist-Fascists haven't yet banned or mutilated with 'editing'), you will see that cartoons ARE people and animals drawn and depicted with exaggerated appearances - e.g. Popeye has a bulbous nose, one eye closed, and speaks in mumbles! He's a working-class WHITE guy, so is his appearance supposed to insult ALL working-class white people? OF COURSE NOT!! Is Mr. Magoo's bulbous nose, half-blind vision, and foolish antics meant to insult Caucasions? CARTOONS ARE CHARICATURES OF EVERYBODY. If drawing somebody in a humorous or exaggerated way was considered an insult, then there would be no cartoons at all!! WAKE UP you fools. What I just said would have been considered sooooo obvious 40 or 50 years ago - it's called 'common sense'. But, it shows you how most people today have been 'trained' by their Marxist-Masters to have knee-jerk reactions to everything! So. once again, was the walrus cop in Woody Woodpecker, depicted with a heavy Irish accent, meant to offend the Irish? ALL TOGETHER NOW...... NOOOOOOO, it wasn't... Try hard to become de-conditioned from your Marxist brainwashing... or they will be laughing all the way to the bank and to the corporate hierarchy, while you will be crying all the way to the 're-education camps' and gulags!! There is very little time left to wake up sheeple.....,..
Isabelle Park — May 9, 2023
This is so stupid Fantasia is not raciest, this is how they thought at the time fantasia came out. This woke liberal stuff in Disney is really starting to get on my nerves.Ps the centaurs are all sorts of different colors it none of it requires black or white expect for the zebra ones, which could be applied to culture and or representing the characters. I for one think that it is crap and that we should just ignore it and enjoy the show as one.
Fudd — May 9, 2023
Skeptic42 — May 18, 2023
The hilarity here is boundless (as is the idiocy)
The vast majority of people don't know what racism is (hint: it involved a belief in superiority).
Insensitivity and ignorance don't equal racism. Intent matters.
Historical context matters, so does current context. Don't bother judging the past on today's standards, but understand there are reasons we no longer do certain things.
Don't whitewash the past. Learn from it.
What will people 50-100 years from today think of us? If it doesn't matter, then don't bother judging the past. If it does matter, stop worrying.
Just because you don't like something doesn't make it wrong. Get over yourself.
Other people don't have to agree with you. Get over yourself.
Words like "Marxism," "woke," "cancel culture," "political correctness," and many others slung around without care have no meaning.
Whoever owns something can decide what to do with it. That's their right. If you don't like it, so what. Get over yourself.
It's not about racism (or sexism, ablism, [whatever]-ism), it's all about capitalism. If you don't like capitalism, then you're in the wrong country.
Offense is often a choice. Don't let others rule your emotions or thinking.
Outrage is an addiction. More often than not, it's just virtue signaling.
If you don't like something, fine. That's your right. Stop looking to others to tell you what to think.
You're just an NPC in someone else's world. Get over yourself.
If you have to resort to insults, then you have nothing of value to say. Get over yourself.
If you're a christian, stop judging others. They don't answer to you, and you will be judged by the same standard.
Respect is earned, but courtesy is given. Try it out sometime.
Live your best life and let others live theirs. We're all just trying to get by as best we can.
Yem Morgan — May 19, 2023
This does not get rid of racism. It only covers it. Sunflower should’ve been reanimated to fit in with the other girls, made beautiful and a character of grace.
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