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This Day in Georgia History

November 12, 1946

Song of the South Premiered in Atlanta

Walt Disney’s Song of the South had its world premier at Atlanta’s Fox Theatre. Created with a combination of live action and animation, the movie was based on Joel Chandler Harris’ “Uncle Remus” stories - which featured animal characters Br’er Rabbit, Br’er Fox, and Br’er Bear in humorous stories (some of which were based on African folklore brought to this country by slaves). The film won one Academy Award - that for best song “Zippity-Do-Dah.” Additionally, actor James Baskett, the first black actor to be hired by Disney Studios, won an Honorary Academy Award for screen characterization of Uncle Remus. Even though Harris’ stories took place in post-Civil War Georgia, the movie version has been criticized for its portrayal of contented blacks living in slave quarters on a plantation and singing happily while they march off to work. Not generally known is the fact that “Song of the South” came about as a result of the Atlanta Junior League, which in 1944 suggested that a Walt Disney film based on Uncle Remus stories could become an effective fund-raising event for the League. Mrs. Ivan Allen, Jr., president of the Atlanta Junior League, initially wrote to Disney about the idea. Her successor, Mrs. James Fraser, was successful in convincing Disney to make the movie a reality.