The Walt Disney Company moves away from Mickey Mouse and takes a look at Christmas with the second animated short, “Santa’s Workshop.” The six minute short released in 1932 follows the elves at Santa’s workshop as they prepare his famous sleigh for its ride on Christmas Eve. Meanwhile, the finished toys come to life and march into Santa’s bag, so he can embark on his journey around the globe.
This is an overall, fine short, but there are some very disturbing animations that were clearly made in a time with less cultural sensitivity. The non-Caucasian dolls made to look like the worst stereotype of every single race they wish to portray. Then, when the nutcrackers are marching towards the bags, several of them are drawn in blackface. Let me be clear, they aren’t drawn to look like African American dolls, they are clearly drawn like the old minstrel shows where white actors put on blackface to portray African American characters. While I’m not going to argue for a change in history, I can see why we don’t see this short included in many of Disney’s Christmastime fare anymore.
That being said, I don’t want this short banned, like some others might. I just don’t want it shown every year. I don’t want this added to any line up of shorts that are shown on the Disney family of networks during the holidays. But, I love that it’s available on Disney+. This allows parents full discretion about whether they show this to their kids. And, it opens the door for a full dialogue that can help families grow closer together. Kids can learn what is wrong with the film and yet still appreciate what is right.
Overall, the plot is fine and if Disney wanted to recreate this short while showing a greater sensitivity to other cultures, races and ethnicities, I would be on board. This short clearly wasn’t meant to be harmful and shouldn’t be viewed in the same vein as some films and shorts from this era and the eras preceding and succeeding this era. The intent was to be a cute short showing Santa getting ready for Christmas. That’s perfectly innocent enough. The animation is what was accepted in the 1930s. We can’t change our past and we shouldn’t try to change it but to learn from it. But, certain works don’t need to be glorified or vilified, just improved. This is one that is due for an update and probably and upgrade.
Ranking: 2 stars out of 5
Have you seen “Santa’s Workshop?” What did you think of it?