9:29 pm - 12/23/2012

Disney Cuts Racist Toon From Swedish Christmas


Three years ago, I wrote a piece for Slate explaining the peculiar Swedish tradition of coming together every Christmas Eve to watch Donald Duck. The ritual of collectively viewing the 1958 Walt Disney Presents Christmas special “From All of Us to All of You”—known in Sweden by the shorthand “Kalle Anka,” or “Donald Duck”—is as much a part of the holiday to Swedes as Santa Claus is to Americans.

When I first saw the show, I was struck by the blatant 1930s-era Disney racism of one of these cartoons, even as my adopted Swedish family remained unfazed. Now, 53 years after the first airing of Kalle Anka in Sweden, Disney has removed the offending clip from the international version of the special that it distributes to 40 different countries each year. 

The clip in question, from the 1932 “Silly Symphonies” short “Santa’s Workshop,” involves a buffoonish “black” doll caricatured in the style of a golliwog or pickaninny. After a rosy-cheeked white doll arrives upright down the pipeline, the black doll falls on its face, yells “Mammy” at the sight of Santa Claus, and then moons the screen (see the 3:33 mark below).

As a Slate commenter noted when the piece was first published, the clip seemed to reference the popular-at-the-time song “My Mammy,” the signature tune of blackface performer Al Jolson. (The song had recently appeared in the first major talkie, The Jazz Singer.) A second segment, which I had mentally noted when I first saw the show but didn’t mention in the original article, featured a dancing Cossack doll with stereotypically “Jewish” features (the doll appears at 5:30), and this clip has also finally been removed.

But as I reported three years ago, Kalle Anka is sacred to the Swedish people and any attempts to alter it are usually met with vocal disapproval. One year a television producer who tried to cancel the program was bombarded with letters, phone calls, and personal threats. While this long-overdue edit seems to have gone over without any major incident, there was still some pushback in the Swedish press.

An article in the third-largest Swedish daily newspaper, Svenska Dagbladet, was published with the sensationalistic headline “Storm of Swedish Protest Follows Re-Editing of Kalle Anka.” But the only such “Proteststorm” the paper could point to were reader letters of complaint with quotes like “who the hell gets offended by Kalle Anka and gingerbread men?” But that doesn’t mean the paper was being entirely misleading. One of the country’s other major tabloids, Aftonbladet, published an online reader poll that garnered 40,000 responses, 96 percent of whom said that Disney made the wrong decision in removing the racist cartoon dolls from the special.

Meanwhile, one of the most important figures in the history of Kalle Anka, Arne Weise, the longtime Swedish host of the show, even spoke out against the move. “Weise, 82, thinks it's a shame that Disney stuck their noses in Donald Duck’s Christmas,” Aftonbladet reported. “I know that Disney is in charge, as it has been for all these years. Donald Duck is almost like a religion for many people and I understand that there will be some who are disappointed,” said Weise.

Weise is right that Kalle Anka is a religion in Sweden. But just like any faith, it’s nice to see that the doctrine can evolve


Page 1 of 3
<<[1] [2] [3] >>
speedychi 24th-Dec-2012 03:16 am (UTC)
lol racism is hilarious. oh disney, ~never change
hrhobo 24th-Dec-2012 03:19 am (UTC)
u mean sweden never change?

basically no one change.
noon 24th-Dec-2012 03:16 am (UTC)
Donald Duck is almost like a religion for many people

between_lights 24th-Dec-2012 03:24 am (UTC)
lmao mte, what about Mickey? such a "HIM?" moment tbh
_scarlett_icons 24th-Dec-2012 03:27 am (UTC)
but mickey is so boring.
blakeanyear 24th-Dec-2012 04:02 am (UTC)
Donald's a lot more popular than Mickey in parts of Europe. he's my favorite of the fab 5 (6?) but I'm a little confused by it as well. I guess he is more fun than Mickey, though.
superdogbiter 24th-Dec-2012 03:17 am (UTC)
okay then
hrhobo 24th-Dec-2012 03:18 am (UTC)
Donald Duck is almost like a religion for many people


galagooo 24th-Dec-2012 03:19 am (UTC)
There's so much stuff in Disney that I saw when I was young and didn't realize was racist. The crows from Dumbo, for example, or the Siamese cats.
anus 24th-Dec-2012 03:21 am (UTC)
oh god those crows. lbr everything in Dumbo went right over my head. I thought the hallucinations was him playing with bubbles.
thedorkygirl 24th-Dec-2012 05:02 am (UTC)
that scene & the heffalump scene scared the shit out of me at as a kid
between_lights 24th-Dec-2012 03:30 am (UTC)
ugh I love Disney but I can't stand the racist shit they've pulled (and continue to pull today, just far more subtly). I also hate when people make excuses for it or get mad when others call Disney out.

like I just watched Nostalgia Critic's Disneycember series (from last year, I think) and he kept making excuses about all the racist shit throughout Disney's history. he kept saying things like, "A lot of people say that the Indians in Peter Pan are a racist representation, but I love them! As a white guy, I see nothing wrong with it! And I love that 'What Makes the Red Man Red' song!"

loverelapse 24th-Dec-2012 04:55 am (UTC)
ugh when i realized how terrible the aristocats were (ofc my favorite scene, every body wants to be a cat, is filled with racial stereotypes)
iamtheliquorr 24th-Dec-2012 06:52 am (UTC)

It's depressing
sillyboho 24th-Dec-2012 02:58 pm (UTC)
i watched lady and the trmp recently and it's chock full o' racism. the irish cop? the mexican chihuahua? the italians?
mjspice 24th-Dec-2012 04:29 pm (UTC)
OMG They're representing black people???

But eh I wouldn't have known. I haven't seen it in a while. Even the mention of Dumbo makes me cry.
ritzyroxie 24th-Dec-2012 03:21 am (UTC)
Do they celebrate the season with Zwarte Piets, too?

Edited at 2012-12-24 03:23 am (UTC)
anus 24th-Dec-2012 03:24 am (UTC)
tankmachine 24th-Dec-2012 03:26 am (UTC)

i wasn't sure how to spell their name
nekoonna 24th-Dec-2012 03:27 am (UTC)
Oh Black Pete, you poor soul

age_of_green 24th-Dec-2012 03:30 am (UTC)
And supposedly we're less cultured and politically correct than the Europeans. NOT.
angelmonster 24th-Dec-2012 03:37 am (UTC)
Zwarte Piet started as a devil that was shackled and made St Nocholas' servant on Sinterklaas eve so this tradition is all kinds of fucked up.

Edited at 2012-12-24 03:37 am (UTC)
angelofdeath275 24th-Dec-2012 03:50 am (UTC)
this is in dire need to be macro'd 'white people'
fakevoices 24th-Dec-2012 03:50 am (UTC)
i hate it so much
mhfromnh 24th-Dec-2012 03:53 am (UTC)
the look on her face just says it all.
stellawuzadiver 24th-Dec-2012 03:53 am (UTC)
My (black) mom actually embraces the whole Black Pete story, because of that stupid TV movie.
xevochic 24th-Dec-2012 04:02 am (UTC)
'Tis the season to engage in casual racism.

Edited at 2012-12-24 04:03 am (UTC)
myxwill 24th-Dec-2012 04:03 am (UTC)
The fuck.
dnttllhrry 24th-Dec-2012 04:14 am (UTC)
what What WHAT? is this real life?
omg that poor woman tho.
greenfairy_87 24th-Dec-2012 05:00 am (UTC)
Oh lord I just read the wiki article on Zwarte Piet. So...basically a black-faced clown who evolved from ravens, then to a demon which became Krampus in Austria. SMDHx100
hola_meg_a_cola 24th-Dec-2012 05:49 am (UTC)
This "tradition" is so fucked up.
hellb 24th-Dec-2012 02:51 pm (UTC)
Funny how black people get so offended at "black face", but when THEY do "white face" (along with other cultures, such as Asian (when they wear the "white face" make-up for costumes)), no one bats an eyelash...

Calm DOWN. It's just makeup.
mjspice 24th-Dec-2012 04:29 pm (UTC)
aubade_saudade 24th-Dec-2012 03:25 am (UTC)
lol yeah how dare people fuck w the sacredness that is Donald Duck just cause racism
tankmachine 24th-Dec-2012 03:25 am (UTC)
question: what country is that christmas folklore thing about Santa having slaves as reindeer from? i keep forgetting
tankmachine 24th-Dec-2012 03:27 am (UTC)
oh is it from Sweden and I just have fail reading comprehension skillz
sofiascarlett 24th-Dec-2012 03:37 am (UTC)
No, it's not from Sweden
ediesedgwick 24th-Dec-2012 03:31 am (UTC)
ot but did I miss the ontd grammy longlist post??
theartistprince 24th-Dec-2012 03:32 am (UTC)
idk about slaves as reindeer, but I know that Belgium and maybe the Netherlands have Santa have a slave helper guy.

There were Belgium exchange students in my class this semester and they were like "it's nbd because everyone loves [the slave] because he's nice" and my class was just like "..."
angelmonster 24th-Dec-2012 03:38 am (UTC)
Belgium has zwarte Piet which is his black helper. It started as Piet was a devil st Nicholas shackled on Christmas Eve to help deliver presents. It is fucked up.
enema_recipe 24th-Dec-2012 03:40 am (UTC)
This was in a David Sedaris book/essay! I just wonder which one.
enema_recipe 24th-Dec-2012 03:41 am (UTC)
Just googled it, and it's Dutch! Instead of reindeer Santa has "six to eight black men."
_scarlett_icons 24th-Dec-2012 03:26 am (UTC)
it was insane, how much racist shit was in disney cartoons. it was all so blatant and disgusting.

leatherandjeans 24th-Dec-2012 03:42 am (UTC)
Yeah it's really gross. I wonder tho, was this stuff gross back then too, or did people just not gaf?
rabbitncavylove 24th-Dec-2012 04:24 am (UTC)
I don't think it was considered racist back then? Or maybe no one felt comfortable speaking up or they could be called names.
milly 24th-Dec-2012 05:25 am (UTC)
It was still racist, but lots of people didn't see anything wrong with being racist.
brucelynn 24th-Dec-2012 05:07 am (UTC)
I think it was worse in old Looney Tunes cartoons tbh
cickiz 24th-Dec-2012 03:30 am (UTC)
at least the caricature took control of his destiny and OK'd HIMSELF.

i'm trying here.
hola_meg_a_cola 24th-Dec-2012 05:51 am (UTC)
lol omg.

Took the power from the white man.
andieray 24th-Dec-2012 03:32 am (UTC)
It's a really cute cartoon otherwise though. I loooove old Christmas cartoons.
jumpers 24th-Dec-2012 03:33 am (UTC)
Was it in Sweden where that woman cut the privates of a black woman-shaped cake supposedly highlighting the atrocities of female circumcision?
wendilili 24th-Dec-2012 03:35 am (UTC)
Sweden is soooo racist, it's just that Swedish people are really sneaky with it.
pamuya 24th-Dec-2012 03:35 am (UTC)
i believe so
ritzyroxie 24th-Dec-2012 03:36 am (UTC)
Oh, THAT. Yep.

superdogbiter 24th-Dec-2012 03:41 am (UTC)
enema_recipe 24th-Dec-2012 03:43 am (UTC)
Only seeing the screenshot is making me want to vom...
giant_totoro 24th-Dec-2012 03:44 am (UTC)
what the FUCK
angelofdeath275 24th-Dec-2012 03:51 am (UTC)
this shit

really gets me
another_slender 24th-Dec-2012 03:54 am (UTC)
oh fuck
angelmonster 24th-Dec-2012 03:39 am (UTC)
vervain 24th-Dec-2012 06:52 am (UTC)
yea the swedish minister said it was based on Sara Baartman.
ohyves 24th-Dec-2012 02:19 pm (UTC)
omfg D=
wendilili 24th-Dec-2012 03:33 am (UTC)
This have made me remove so MANY facebook friends writing racist shit. It's sad because I actually thought they were nice people some of them.

Edited at 2012-12-24 03:34 am (UTC)
camillesaens 24th-Dec-2012 03:37 am (UTC)
election night bought out the worst on some of friends, deleted about 30, considering removing another 10
sweet_honesty 25th-Dec-2012 02:10 am (UTC)
Sometimes you really don't know how people are until you see their Facebook posts. Especially in the Midwest.
jumpers 24th-Dec-2012 03:34 am (UTC)


Edited at 2012-12-24 03:34 am (UTC)
angelmonster 24th-Dec-2012 03:39 am (UTC)
Wtf am I looking at?
saltireflower 24th-Dec-2012 03:39 am (UTC)
This will forever enrage and horrify me.
angelofdeath275 24th-Dec-2012 03:52 am (UTC)
allopatric 24th-Dec-2012 03:40 am (UTC)
superdogbiter 24th-Dec-2012 03:42 am (UTC)
arcticmonkeys 24th-Dec-2012 03:42 am (UTC)
holy shit
angelmonster 24th-Dec-2012 03:43 am (UTC)
I love that the video in the link you posted was removed from youtube for violating the t and c regarding hate speech.
stellawuzadiver 24th-Dec-2012 03:44 am (UTC)
Damn. That hits, like, every offensive cylinder I can think of.
awakejupiter 24th-Dec-2012 03:44 am (UTC)
what. the. fuck.
giant_totoro 24th-Dec-2012 03:45 am (UTC)
i cannot believe this. i literally cannot believe it
enema_recipe 24th-Dec-2012 03:45 am (UTC)
It's so embarrassing to be a white feminist geez. :[
superdogbiter 24th-Dec-2012 03:48 am (UTC)
another_slender 24th-Dec-2012 03:57 am (UTC)
rosewood39 24th-Dec-2012 04:07 am (UTC)
there is so much wrong here
entreter 24th-Dec-2012 04:16 am (UTC)
this makes me feel ill
dnttllhrry 24th-Dec-2012 04:16 am (UTC)
arsenicsugar 24th-Dec-2012 04:22 am (UTC)
jfc, fuck everyone in this photo tbh >:(
gagglefuck 24th-Dec-2012 04:36 am (UTC)
not sure how anyone can think this is okay.
blue_birds 24th-Dec-2012 04:36 am (UTC)
Holy hell......
greenfairy_87 24th-Dec-2012 05:07 am (UTC)
Sick to my stomach. An all-new low.
milly 24th-Dec-2012 05:27 am (UTC)
shining_starsxx 24th-Dec-2012 05:59 am (UTC)
So fucked up.
ohyves 24th-Dec-2012 02:21 pm (UTC)
mjspice 24th-Dec-2012 04:35 pm (UTC)
annadraper 24th-Dec-2012 03:35 am (UTC)
i dont understand why ppl cant just say "that was then", roll their eyes/laugh and move on.

but i also don't understand what donald duck has to do with xmas, so w/e.
_scarlett_icons 24th-Dec-2012 03:38 am (UTC)
well he was the star of Mickey's Christmas Carol, the best version of the story.

existential 24th-Dec-2012 03:41 am (UTC)
i dont understand why ppl cant just say "that was then", roll their eyes/laugh and move on

those who ignore history are doomed to repeat it yadda yadda
angelmonster 24th-Dec-2012 03:44 am (UTC)
Move on? It isn't history if it is still going on.
dnttllhrry 24th-Dec-2012 04:19 am (UTC)
Because people need to be taught that that shit is bad....
blue_birds 24th-Dec-2012 04:39 am (UTC)
You can't really ignore it if it's still going on.
milly 24th-Dec-2012 05:32 am (UTC)
So, they're supposed to keep airing racist segments of a cartoon that millions of people watch every year, including children who can't exactly comprehend that this cartoon was made when casual racism was a-okay, and will just assimilate those representation as normal? Ok.

I'm all for placing things in the context in which they were created, but I'm also for editing harmful things like this when they're still currently broadcasted.
mikochin 24th-Dec-2012 01:17 pm (UTC)
bittermunchkin 24th-Dec-2012 03:33 pm (UTC)
If it's still there, how is it 'then'?
norway 25th-Dec-2012 10:21 pm (UTC)
But it's not a "that was then" situation, it's a "this is now" situation because it's still going on.
Page 1 of 3
<<[1] [2] [3] >>
This page was loaded Aug 30th 2014, 2:15 am GMT.