(The Disneycember logo is shown, before showing clips from The Color of Friendship)
Doug (vo): Well, this is definitely not the kind of TV movie I expected from the same people that did High School Musical and Zenon. Color of Friendship is probably the most mature any of the Disney Channel movies have ever been. Hell, it might be the most mature Disney's ever been, considering the subject matter. I mean, before this, their crowning achievement of racial relations was Pocahontas and Song of the South. Think about that!
Doug (vo): The story centers around a girl named Piper. She's living a happy life in the 1970s while her congressman dad is trying to fight for equal rights in South Africa. Not surprisingly, Piper hears a lot about South Africa and would love to have somebody come and visit. And it just so happens there's a foreign student program at school, so they sign up to take somebody from South Africa in. The only downside is, they don't get a black kid, they get a white kid, named Mahree. In a perfect world, this wouldn't mean shit, but coming from South Africa where there's a huge divide in inequality, let's just say Mahree is shocked that the black people she's staying with aren't her servants. It takes a while for both of them to get over the culture shock, but eventually, Mahree decides she doesn't want to go back home and she wants to stay. Obviously overtime, she starts to see this family beyond the color of her skin, and she even sees the differences between the two worlds, not just how bad things are in South Africa, but how not always great things are in America, too.
Doug (vo): Based loosely on a small story written by the real Piper Dellums, I have to admit, I cringe at the idea of imagining Disney tackling something like this. It's kind of like when Captain Planet tried to talk about AIDS. You just don't think they're up to it. And don't get me wrong, there are some moments that don't work in it. First of all, I constantly have to be reminded it's the 70s. Something about it just looks so modern and current. I have to keep reminding myself, "Oh, yeah. It's 1977." Once in a while, they'll try on clothes and look at records, but...I don't know. Does it really look like we traveled back in time here? It just kind of looks like we're watching a modern Disney Channel movie.
(Several footage showing the friendship between the main characters, Piper and Mahree, is shown)
Doug (vo): The other problem I have is that the friendship between the two girls seems to kind of go back and forth a little too quickly. There's one point where Mahree is taken away and Piper's like, "No! We gotta get her back!", but then, maybe within the span of a day, she suddenly decides that she's too prejudiced and that they can never belong together, and it just kind of comes out of nowhere. Even when they're getting along, I don't know. They just kind of do the traditional thing of trying on clothes, giggling, and then talking about their different cultures. I don't really know too much else about what they connect on.
(Various clips resume showing)
Doug (vo): But with those two problems out of the way, I have to admit, this is actually a very adult kids' film. Whenever they do sit down and talk about race and the different cultures and what's right and what's not, it kind of has me tugging at my shirt collar a little bit like, "Man, can Disney do this? Are they able to talk about this in a mature way?" But at the same time, I do listen to them, and I believe what they're saying, and it's kind of one of those uncomfortable situations where it's good to be uncomfortable. But even then, they still address there's a lot of problems in America, too, and we're trying to get that figured out, and is there an easy solution? Is there a complicated solution? It's tough for an adult to hear, but important for a kid to hear, honestly to a point where I'm kind of wondering how many kids paid attention. I mean, it's so strange, because I always say kids' films need to be more adult and they need to be more mature, but for a Disney Channel movie, not much really happens in terms of action or comedy or slapstick or usual stuff you'd see in these kind of films. There's no big chase or evil villain or pies in the face or anything like that, it's just a lot of people sitting around talking. Oh, not that I want a goddamn big chase or pie in the face or anything like that, but that's what a lot of kids familiarize Disney Channel films with. But that stuff honestly wouldn't fit here, shouldn't be here, and at the same time, I've heard a lot of people did grow up with this movie, and they did really like it. I suppose it's hard to say whether or not I agree 100% on the portrayal because, well, I didn't grow up in South Africa, I've never been there, I didn't know how things were done or how they're done now, and...I know chunks of its history, so it sounds right, but again, I don't know how race relations were in South America at the time, so I don't know if this is brilliantly simplified or insultingly simplified. To me, it sounds like they don't shy away from the tough stuff. They talk about when people are beaten to death, they talk about some people being seen as terrorists and some people not being seen as terrorists, they talk about white babies dying compared to black babies dying. Holy shit! This is a Disney Channel movie!
Doug (vo): I expected to flinch a lot more in this film, but surprisingly, I listened, and I listened with intrigue. Like I said, I don't know how authentically simplified it is, but what it has to say still sounds just meaningful and important. And for Disney to come across that way in a film about race relations, let alone a Disney Channel film, that's really damn impressive. I guess we can say Zootopia wasn't the first Disney film to tackle this subject matter well, because if you look hard enough, you just might find this hidden gem.
(One of the film's final scenes, showing Mahree warmly greeting the black maid Flora, is shown)