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The Tar Baby is a decoy object from the 1946 Disney film Song of the South, the animated segments of which are based on the Uncle Remus stories compiled by Joel Chandler Harris. Although its provenance rests in African folklore, the term "tar baby" is viewed by some Americans as having a negative connotation towards African Americans. This controversy, among other alleged racial issues, has prevented the release of the movie on home video, DVD and Blu-ray, or streaming service in the United States.
As veteran African American animator Floyd Norman stated, "The film is charming in its simplicity and sadly people tend to read too much into it. Issues that are simply not there. The 'Tar Baby' being the most notorious example. It was never meant to be a metaphor for black children, yet those with a social agenda often point to this particular story to prove their point."
In the second animated segment of the film, Br'er Fox is determined to catch Br'er Rabbit. Using tar and items from Br'er Bear such as buttons from his jacket (for the eyes), the bowl of a corncob pipe (for the nose), and hair from his tail (for a hairdo), he makes the Tar Baby. He and Br'er Bear take it to the road. After putting Br'er Bear's hat on its head, they hear Br'er Rabbit coming and hide behind a tree and nearby bush.
As Br'er Rabbit sees the Tar Baby, he greets it with, "How do you do?", but receives no response. He tries again and still, naturally, receives no reply. Then Br'er Rabbit, perceiving the inanimate its unresponsiveness as rudeness, punches it in the face. He gets his fist stuck in the tar. He hits it again with his remaining hand, and then kicks it, but the more he fights, the more stuck he gets. He becomes so entrapped in the tar that "he can scarcely move his eyeballs." Then Br'er Fox and Br'er Bear come out of hiding and dance around Br'er Rabbit with glee.
Br'er Fox prepares to cook Br'er Rabbit "right there and now". Then Br'er Bear walks up with the intention of knocking Br'er Rabbit's head off. As Brer Fox pulls Br'er Rabbit out of the tar, Br'er Rabbit sees a briar patch. He begs Br'er Fox not to throw him in it, prompting him to do just that. When he does, Br'er Rabbit pretends to yelp in pain, as Br'er Fox and Br'er Bear take off their hats in respectful silence. Then Br'er Rabbit appears and reveals that he was born and raised in a briar patch, which causes Br'er Fox to feel humiliated for being tricked again.
In the Splash Mountain rides, located at Disneyland, Magic Kingdom, and Tokyo Disneyland, Br'er Fox catches Br'er Rabbit in a beehive. Originally, the Tar Baby was to be used, but it was changed, possibly to avoid the same controversy which has plagued the public release of the film in the U.S.