What’s In a Name? Walt Disney’s 1946 "Tar-Baby" Meets the Black Dahlia in La La Land

Los Angeles, California
May 12, 2016

Tarbaby FNL



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Leave it to the cold hard double entendre of a 1940s Los Angeles psychopath to take the Zip out of Zipa-Dee-Doo Dah.

Tar-Baby- n.  A situation or problem from which it is virtually impossible to disentangle oneself. [After “Bre’r Rabbit and the Tar Baby,” an Uncle Remus story by Joel Chandler Harris.

Click below photo or PDF link to read the full story of Dr. George Hill Hodel and the “Tar Baby, what’s in a name” real life anecdote.

Clips of “Tar-Baby” from 1946 Disney “Song of the South”

FAQ 72 tar baby blog update – 




One Minute Tarbaby video clip from 1946 Disney “Song of the South”

Here’s a PDF copy of a hundred-forty-one-year-old page from The Sun (New York) for Dec 19, 1880 describing “a series of fables recounted by Uncle Remus to a little boy.” Included in the article is the story of “Tar-Baby.”




  1. Kathy G. on May 22, 2016 at 2:32 pm

    Dear Steve,
    I was taken to see that show as a small child. I loved the stories too! That 1936 Packard Sedan is such a beautiful car. It’s just so horrible to have to think that the car was the Tar Baby trap for so many innocent women. Trust your father to think in these terms. I think about Miss Mondragon(?) who was just walking home from high school that day with two of her friends and some guy, you know who, runs up and stabs her in the heart and she takes a few steps more and falls down dead. Who knows what she and these other young women could have become if their lives weren’t ripped away from them? I imagine that even though the car was 12 years old, it was big, nice, shiny, sleek and black – a definite attractant for women – especially those types that were down on their luck and couldn’t find a job like Elizabeth Short. Thank you for all your hard work!

  2. Luigi Warren on February 17, 2018 at 1:20 pm

    Steve: GHH’s interest in things Disney might have gone beyond SONG OF THE SOUTH. In 1946 Disney worked with Salvador Dali on an abortive project to make a short entitled DESTINO about the pursuit of a dancer named Dahlia by the ancient Greek “Father Time,” Chronos, through a dreamlike, surrealistic landscape. Many of Disney’s animators trained at the Chouinard Art Institute, which Kiyo attended. Disney’s original business partner, Fred Harman, designed the “Flying V” cattle brand which has been identified as a possible template for the Zodiac Halloween Card symbol. Harman’s brother Hugh followed Disney to Hollywood and founded the competing animation studios at MGM and Warner Bros. Finally, the jocular sketch of the “DAHLIA KILLER” in the suspicious c. 1947 crank mail reproduced on p. 383 of BDA II, bears more than a passing likeness to Walt Disney himself. -LW

  3. Luigi Warren on February 18, 2018 at 11:24 am

    Steve:Seems possible the “DAHLIA KILLER” note was an inside joke. The DESTINO project was a secret but Dali did refer to it in “The Dali News,” an absurd newspaper he produced about himself. Presumably Man Ray and his old pal had contact during Dali’s stays in Hollywood in 1945-1946, although I’ve found no mention of it. Dali did produce a copy of Man Ray’s “Object to Be Destroyed” (a floating eye affixed to a metronome) for SPELLBOUND (it ended on the cutting room floor). One wonders if GHH heard about the project on the grapevine, just as he might have got a heads up on what became “Étant donnés.” -LW

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