Disney is not a company known for explaining itself, but why on earth it would do a good thing in a way that makes it look shady really is beyond me.
In a new 4K Blu-ray edition of Pixar’s “Toy Story 2” released June 4, Disney removed from the film’s closing credits “bloopers” a scene of Stinky Pete (voiced by Kelsey Grammer) sexually harassing two Barbie dolls. (“So you’re identical in every way,” he purrs creepily, stroking one of the dolls’ arms. “I’m sure I could get you a role in ‘Toy Story 3.’”) That decision is good.
But Disney did it with no explanation or announcement — though members of online communities noticed almost at once, most media only caught on recently. And that is almost as creepy, and stinky, as ol’ Pete himself.
“Toy Story 2” was, of course, made by John Lasseter, who left Disney after multiple accusations of inappropriate conduct and the creation of a “frat house” environment at Pixar, which makes the scene not only objectionable but queasily symbolic. Clearly, the guys at Pixar thought an old man leering at two young women was funny. Ha ha ha.
The film came out years before Pixar was under Disney ownership (although the studio distributed all of Pixar’s feature films even before the acquisition), but it was Disney that had to deal with years of Lasseter rumors becoming public accusations, and it was Disney that showed him the door.
Over the years, objectionable scenes from other older Disney properties have been cut or modified, sometimes in response to protest (changing the lyric “where they cut off your ear if they don’t like your face” in the opening song of “Aladdin”) and sometimes sparking it: The editing of the character Jim Crow from 1941’s “Dumbo” and the company’s refusal to release “Song of the South” on any platform is seen by some as an attempt to simply pretend that racism and racist imagery never existed.
But the quiet excision of a fake “blooper” that perfectly encapsulates part of the Hollywood mythology that has allowed women to be harmed by so many for so long without comment seems an enormous missed opportunity.
For the record, I remember seeing that blooper on the first DVD release, and, though I am ashamed to admit it, I remember laughing at it.
In part because the sight of animated characters being treated like actual performers was so fresh, but also because the idea of an older actor using his perceived access to seduce younger women was so deeply ingrained in the collective notion of Hollywood that, especially in this incongruent context, it seemed funny.
The “bloopers” were clearly aimed at the parents — the Hollywood insider jokes were far too adult for the younger members of the audience — but it didn’t occur to me to object to what it portrayed, even as my kids were watching.
Stinky Pete was only behaving in a way that I had seen portrayed fictionally (and nonfictionally) for my entire life, sometimes as an indication of sleaziness or manipulation — like Addison DeWitt sexually exploiting Marilyn Monroe’s character in “All About Eve” — sometimes in a more benign or even helpful way, like every story in which a male character’s plucking a woman from obscurity because he likes her “guts” seems to lead to him sleeping with her.
So, to every woman, including myself, who has had to endure such leering, pawing, sexually insinuating promises of career assistance, I formally apologize.
If only someone at Disney had thought to do the same, or at least use the scene to further an important conversation, rather than simply avoid it.
As some have pointed out online, when Looney Toons released its Golden Collection DVD, Whoopi Goldberg introduced Part 3 with an acknowledgement of the racism at work in some of the cartoons, and how it is valuable not to ignore it because it is part of cinematic, and American, history.
Likewise, the myth of “the casting couch” has been used to harm, exploit and diminish women since they were finally allowed to participate in the dramatic arts. Gloria Steinem tried to defuse it with her famous observation that “if women could sleep their way to the top, there would be more women at the top,” but even that bolstered the belief that sex was somehow a power tool.
If #MeToo has done nothing else, it has dispelled the notion that incursions on one’s sexuality is just a natural part of the power game in Hollywood and other industries, something women should arm themselves against, with humor, avoidance tactics or Mace but essentially accept.
It isn’t a game, and it isn’t funny. No one should have to make their sexuality available for comment or use it to get a job of any sort.
Not even Barbie. Not even in a blooper.