‘Whaddya Mean Disney+ Banned Peter Pan!?’

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If you were reading the news the last week or so, you may have noticed some headlines like, “Disney Censors Peter Pan,” or “Disney+ Blocks Dumbo.”

So … did they?

Yes. No. Well, kind of. As is often the case once you get past the headlines, things are a little more complex than those attention-grabbing statements might imply.

Disney+ did make the decision to block availability of four films—Dumbo, Peter Pan, The Aristocats and Swiss Family Robinson—due to concerns that each of those films had language or images that contributed to unhealthy and racial stereotyping. Specifically, those films are no longer available for kids under 7 for parents who’ve set up profiles for children that age or below, which means they kids can’t  click on the movie and watch it on their own.

Disney’s decision to limit access to these films could seem like political correctness run amok. I mean, really? Peter Pan isn’t suitable for young children? It takes a moment to let that sink in.

But when we dig a bit deeper, there’s a much bigger conversation to be had about ratings, content, limits and who gets to—and who should—be making decisions about these important issues.

This week, I had a chance to unpack this conversation further in an Op-Ed piece for USA Today: “Why Disney+ blocking classics should not alarm us.” I’d invite you to take a look … and to let us know what you think about this cultural conversation in the comments section below.

Adam R. Holz

After serving as an associate editor at NavPress’ Discipleship Journal and consulting editor for Current Thoughts and Trends, Adam now oversees the editing and publishing of Plugged In’s reviews as the site’s director. He and his wife, Jennifer, have three children. In their free time, the Holzes enjoy playing games, a variety of musical instruments, swimming and … watching movies.

43 Responses

  1. -There’s more death killing bloodshed in all the marvel movies
    But they’re going to ban Peter pan and Dumbo
    So killing innocent people in all the marvel movies is okay

    1. -I don’t follow your logic. There’s plenty of issues in other movies available on Disney+ that are not “ok.” Keeping them there is not calling those things “ok.” It just means Disney assumes kids can tell that those things are wrong. (And coming to that conclusion—that the killing of innocents is wrong—is made mighty easy thanks to Marvel’s Civil War.)

    2. – First thing, Marvel Movies are rated pg-13 for their action/adventure content. Second off, Peter Pan made a racial snap at native Americans. If you were a Native American, You would be offended.

  2. -I decided to watch Peter Pan this afternoon to see how offensive it is and… yeah, from a modern perspective, all the talk of “the red man” and “injuns” is rather racially insensitive. It’s still an enjoyable movie, but I couldn’t help thinking about how a Native American child might feel impacted by it. So, the disclaimer is understandable. This is more offensive than The Aristocats, IMO. That’s a brief cameo by an “Asian” kitty that isn’t any more offensive than the rest of the silly stereotypes in that film.

    Dumbo has a very offensive “Jim Crow” segment in it, with a bunch of “dumb black crows” intended to represent poor southern Blacks. I remember that quite well.

    Swiss Family Robinson offends me more for the obvious animal abuse rampant throughout the film than the Chinese pirates. They set two Great Danes on and terrorized a tiger for an action scene, they electro-shocked a zebra in the mud-hole scene, they show scenes of floating animals in the ocean and two dogs almost dying in an undertow, they are wrangling around an ostrich and attempting to ride it, etc. How about a disclaimer for animal abuse, Disney?

    1. -What I think is offensive how people, such as you, like to tell others what they are supposed to be offended by.

      1. -Presenting this as a suggestion for further civil discourse on the topic of debating classic films, why not be open towards looking at these films through the lens of others who have actual claims as to why they are offensive? (Then again, one must remember entire groups are not monolithic in their thinking. This fact, I fear, has been forgotten amongst those presenting arguments.)

        True, these creations came out of a different period of thought, albeit quite ignorant when one takes into account the history certain races went through for equality amongst their fellow man. Still we are human and it is certain they did not foresee such problems when making these films.

        As a child I was already thoroughly knowledgeable in Native American history and came to the conclusion that those scenes in Peter Pan were only caricatures inspired by the innocent thinking of children since Neverland is intended to be a fantasy from a child’s point of view. Watching the documentaries concerning this film, and reading articles from Walt himself, it is clear that was how they viewed it. I am not arguing it is correct, but stating what is already there.

        In truth, one cannot simply erase the chance for stereotypes from a person’s mind. We most certainly should steer away from ignorance, but always be open for conversation and cultural exchange. In the case of Dumbo, re-watching the entire film in context the Crows were a small step toward diversifying films by having (with the exception of the obviously painful example of Jim Crow) be voiced by African-Americans. (This of course isn’t a perfect step, but a step nonetheless.) The film portrayed them as a team of street-wise, quippy, but ultimately good at heart fellows who eventually help Dumbo fly. (And having studied a good amount of older cartoons, Dumbo is far from racist when one holds it up against cartoons such as “Scrub Me Mama With A Boogie Beat (1941)” which is without a doubt racist in their portrayal of African Americans.)

        In conclusion, perhaps place a warning in the description, or in the beginning of the film, but overall banning it robs a chance for discourse.

        1. -Couldn’t agree with you more! Infact, I think allowing our children to watch these movies, made in a different era and time of thinking, gives us a chance for discussion about these exact topics, differences and perspectives. A “history lesson”, of a different kind, if you will. How can they learn from these things if we just take them away altogether? That robs them of the opportunity for healthy learning of historical perspective differences and the progress we (hopefully), have made as a culture.

          1. -That’s completely right, our children need to grow in mind and heart. Why take away classics that we all want them to see? Just explain to them that some things they say in the movie are wrong! I mean aristocrats was one of my favorites!

  3. -Totally agree, Disney should take all those movies out of circulation. I’m waiting for the Disney Princesses to hit the chopping block. How sexist to assume that all Princesses are pretty and need a Prince for a happy ending. Can we get rid of all movies that show blacks as slaves? Goodbye Gone with the Wind and Uncle Tom’s Cabin. Can we also get rid of movies that portray….oh, never mind; just cancel everything….or, we could teach our kids discernment and how to learn from our past and separate wheat from chaff…..nah….

    1. -Ha! I hear you, Cissy. Won’t be long before publishers will be redacting passages in the Bible or totally remove complete books.. Song of Solomon…

    2. -And… until recent years (I can only think of Moana, Princess with the frog (still 1 parent) and tangled at the moment)… had no mother… why did Disney kill off Moms???

  4. – Why is my comment being held? Other folks posted on the 7th and their comments are up. Is there a problem?

  5. – Banning Peter Pan and Dumbo is just plain stupid. So what if they have Indians and Black crows and a drunk hallucination in it. They’re of a time and a part of history and undeniably sweet and innocent. Frankly the one movie Disney should ban is Hunchback. That movie has Frollo lusting after Esmeralda in the song hellfire and has Quasimodo viciously attacked and humiliated for everyone to see. Those two scenes in Hunchback are far worse and potentially scarring for young children than anything in Peter Pan or Dumbo.

    1. -When this movie came out I had determined not to see it. My sister wanted to take me and my girls to help her with her kids so I relented and went. At the end of the movie my oldest who was almost 12 asked that we never have to watch that again. I apologized for subjecting her and her sister to that film.

    2. -Yes!! Totally agree! I find it complete senseless and hypocritical that they have to out a warning on a movie that clearly was meant to be purely seem as a kids movie with no agenda or I’ll attention yet no one makes a big fuss about the totally overly sexually and purely inappropriate risque ones ie hercules and as mentioned above etc…plus obviously this movies were made a long time ago and obviously alot of things have changed- just saying. That and I think people are focusing way too much on the wrong things ie cancel culture at it’s finest…

    3. -I saw Hunchback once as a kid and once as a teenager. I think that movie scared me more as a teenager than it did as a kid because as a teenager, I actually understood what was going on with Frollo and Esmeralda.

    4. -I agree that Hunchback isn’t a good kid’s movie (my sister innocently took her 10 year old to see it and was horrified), but it’s a spectacular animated film for adults. It’s in my Top 5 Disney movies for sure — and I’m excited they’re doing a live action remake, but only IF they manage not to ruin it. There was such beautiful symbolism in the animated film, it would be a shame to not do it justice.

  6. – Can’t they just take out those certain parts and leave in the rest of the movie? Why ban the whole movie?

    1. -They did not ban them except for kids’ profiles under a certain age — you can still watch them, just with a disclaimer at the beginning.

  7. -If we continue to erase our history and everything negative associated with it, eventually we will have nothing to use to teach our children why they shouldn’t treat others in that manner. If there are no examples as to why something is wrong, how do we show them the consequence? I’m so tired of how short sighted and reactive we have become as a whole. Scary.

    1. -Yes, and to add to that… it means that there are no truths. Truth gets erased in what it means to me or how I perceive things is “my truth.” Reality and truth go hand in hand.

    2. -I agree but sadly, that is the unspoken goal. Not to have any consequences for negative behavior, after everyone has been to boot camp and retrained not to think critically. Morality and religion will then be in the same category as to what we think of today as “myths, ol wives tales, legends, etc.)
      Just look what happened to China. They erased their history and rewrote it and religion is banned (most Christians serve and worship in private) and it’s rulled by one person and has a Marxist or communist bent.
      That’s where we are heading if the body of Christ don’t step up and rethink our strategy in this world….
      We can start by relating on common faith in Jesus, loving those who are different and openly defiant to the Gospel without compromising on the fundamentals, and get uncomfortable and being bold in a biblically loving way to live out the great commission.
      Teach our children to do the same. Respect others without compromising their values and vote with their dollars for pure family content, and candidates that stand for Israel, the sanctity of biblical marriage, etc. and note just for a certain party, race, or gender.
      Just a matter of time

  8. -My Dad always had a comment about such “offensive” stuff that I think would be appropriate today…”Get OVER it and GROW UP !!!!

  9. -I agree. “Hunchback” has some good to it, but I thought it portrayed the church as being evil. One Disney movie I never bought or rented.

    1. -I think that’s a bit unfair. Now, in the original book, there could be something said for that, but in the movie, it’s actually the church that stands between evil. Now, yes, for all intents and purposes, Frollo could be considered a priest, given his supposed piety. But in the movie, he is not a priest or part of the church, he’s a judge. Well, technically speaking, he’s the Minister of Justice. But hypocrisy is not anything new, even in the church, sad to say. Just because someone calls himself a man of God doesn’t mean he’s a godly man.

      But in the movie it’s actually the church, namely the Archdeacon that stands in the way of evil. He stops Frollo from killing Quasimodo, even calls him out on the act of killing his mother. He also protects Esmeralda from Frollo and encourages her to pray. He acknowledges that human beings alone can’t stop all the evil in the world, but he directs her to someone who can, that being God Himself.

      Now, there’s a lot of elements negative elements in Hunchback that are worth noting, and I don’t think it should be rated G. But I don’t think it should be banned either because of those negative elements.

  10. -Censorship? It is THEIR movie, THEIR streaming service where movies & shows come & go based on THEIR programming decisions.
    I am thankful that they did not do a REmake (yet).
    PARENTS have not lost an opportunity to teach about each & every movie they CHOOSE to allow in their homes.

  11. -Let’s get down to the nuts and bolts shall we? The 70’s,80’s, 90’s and even the kids from the 2000’s who grew up watching them because their parents wanted to collect and share those memories with their children came out just fine; except for the handful self-centered, hoping for an easy payday “I want my 15 minutes of fame and don’t care who or what it affects or damages”. Cartoons, tv shows and movies didn’t create these mentally no backbone-mommy didn’t love me enough overly sensitive and spoiled adults who never made it passed the toddler mentality of mine mine mine, gimme gimme, I want i want on the floor temper tantrum stage. Dumbo is a prime example of companies being forced into drastic measures because all it takes is one to want a hot cup of coffee so they buy said hot beverage only to place it on the dashboard of their car and holy fried fish are shocked, surprised that it not only spills( but car manufacturer isn’t sued) but the hot liquid they requested burns them so they sue and win type of person whine and millions of revenue is lost. Dumbo is a period piece, for those without frontal lobe capacity to figure out, and artists tend to stay true to the period represented. There’s nothing offensive a out the crows, that was the lingo at the time, but hey let’s take a movie with the moral lesson do what ya can for family and trash it . What’s offensive are people who ignore the fact that the crows( complete strangers who encounter someone trying to find their way) decide to help. Let’s forget they support, take in(manner of speaking) , befriend and stand by the title character. Offensive is those who ignore the strength of their character because of racial undertones.RACIAL NOT RACIST, big difference, and it’s this type of censorship, this type of inexcusable blatant violation of people’s rights of expression and speech that is suffocating all people while the nation waits on tiptoe for the hangman to kick the barely high enough stool out from under it. Racism should be a museum exhibit. There are CEOs of every race,color and creed. Couples not of the same racial background everywhere just trying to get by like the rest of us but despite the differences they love each other. Friends, lovers and families made up of different skin tones, backgrounds, religions,sexual preferences and different native languages. For the most part we have made racism something the majority of is go,” we all bleed red. Like someone or not for who they are, period. ” Racism, and plain hate for that matter is not a natural occurance but a learned,a taught one. Want proof, go to a preschool at recess and watch the kids play. Those kids should be an example for us all to follow because all those little tykes know and see one thing, a friend to play with. A friend who fell and is hurt so they want to help. Racism will not die simply because a small group of people don’t want to lose their get out jail free card and not pass go or collect $200. Why stop with the classics? Let’s ban the new Dreamworks movie Soul because only an american of african descent can love jazz. Or wall-e because none of the human race cares about our planets future because we’re all just fat and lazy..

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