Controversial Disney Characters

Controversial Disney Characters

Disney has been one of the pioneers of animated feature films, and we’ve all grown up with their classic movies. But, as one blogger, Amy Cook, brought to my attention, “Disney movies actually entail some pretty blatant racist and sexist overtones.” Are there messages in these cartoons that some would find offensive? Amy’s blog features 10 Disney characters that stirred up controversy.


Sunflower on the left (Fantasia 1940)

I’ve seen most of the movies she mentions in her blog, but as a child you don’t really think about racist messages. Looking back at some of the video clips she provided, it’s easy to see that some people may find these characters offensive. The character Sunflower was cut from Fantasia. She was an African-American half-donkey centaur, which appeared to be a servant to the beautiful Caucasian-looking centaurs. The character was later edited out. You can watch the uncut version of the sequence here. I definitely didn’t have that version of the movie.


Crows from Dumbo (1941)

I do remember the crows from Dumbo being blatant African-American caricatures who “be done seen about everything.” (Really!?…yikes on the grammar check) Amy Cook does a great job of analysis these characters, and they have both positive and negative interpretations. Although they are jive-talking, seemingly lazy, and poor, they are also “the only characters in the entire movie to ever offer the eponymous elephant any ounce of compassion or understanding.”

What I didn’t remember however was the “Song of the Roustabouts.” Again, being a child, you just watch a movie and don’t read between the lines entirely. I certainly didn’t remember the songs lyrics, which are song by faceless African-American workers. Just take a look at the first verse:

Hike! Ugh! Hike! Ugh! Hike! Ugh! Hike!
We work all day, we work all night
We never learned to read or write
Were happy-hearted roustabouts

So why are these characters controversial?
Read Amy Cook’s full blog to find out!


Do you find the characters on the list offensive or are we just overreacting?

Thanks to Amy for sending me this blog topic. If you have a blog idea for Alter Ego Maniac email me at You can also find me on Facebook and Twitter!


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  • Disney *definitely* had racist stuff. I agree with you, that as a kid, we don't recognize the racial stuff in the cartoons. It takes learning from society what racism is to see it. But Disney-wise, what I think was REALLY pathetic was that the star of Song of the South, James Baskett who played Uncle Remus, wasn't even ALLOWED to see the film's premiere, because Atlanta was still a segregated city then. It's so strange (though not surprising) that many people back then didn't even realize how racist & wrong that was. I can't even imagine living that way!

  • In reply to Jenny:

    That's pretty sad to think about. I honestly can't imagine living in such a segregated world. I think we has a people have progressed so much in viewing other cultures and excepting them. I mean Disney finally has an African-American princess, which I think was a long time coming.

  • Maybe it goes to show something, however, that children are all blind to racism. If only that's something we kept as we grow into adults... then, maybe, racism just wouldn't exist, period.

    I, personally, have a sense of humor about everything now a days... and I think it's silly to let things from years upon years ago stir up emotions like that. If someone is doing something in the present, sure, call them out... but when it's from waaaay in the past, then it's just a part of history and there's no point in getting angry about what people, who are likely dead now, did. Instead, we can learn from it.

    If I didn't have a sense of humor I surely could get mad about blonde jokes and the blue collar comedy tour... hahah.

    All in all, I think that ALL people need to lighten up in the entire world... then, maybe, we wouldn't have so many wars and so much crime. But, alas, most people like to hold grudges from thousands of years ago (which is why there are still religious wars as well).

    I won't go on the topic anymore, though... because it's a big soap box... maybe I'm too much of a hippie thinker sometimes ;-)

  • In reply to turbomelanieb:

    Well ignorance is bliss indeed, and kids just don't know about's something that is learned.

    I agree that people should learn to lighten up about certain stuff, but people also have feelings, and you have to be careful with some things. So in the whole lightening up thing, I also think people should also respect other cultures too.

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