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DISNEY'S SONG OF THE SOUTH's 40th anniversary was in 1986

This picture of Nick Stewart, the voice actor who created the voice of Brer Bear in Disney's SONG OF THE SOUTH, and on the SPLASH MOUNTAIN ride, was taken at the opening of SPLASH MOUNTAIN at DISNEYLAND.
Song of the South was re-released in 1986. Here is the trailer.

Read Nick Stewart's bio from the Disney Song of the South 1986 Press Book below:

Nick "Nicodemus" Stewart, another veteran vaudevillian, provided the ... speech for the bulky ...Brer Bear.

Stewart grew up in Harlem and, for a time, the British West Indies. By the age of 14 he was dancing and performing standup comedy at "The Hoofers Club," a legendary gathering spot for such dancing greats as Bill "Bojangles" Robinson, the Step Brothers and Honi Coles. He went on to appear at the "Cotton Club," with many of the popular acts of the day.

In 1936 while appearing at the Paramount Theatre in Los Angeles with Cab Calloway and his band, Stewart was spotted by Mae West and signed for a role in her film "Go West Young Man." He went on to appear in numerous films starring opposite such stars as John Barrymore and Bing Crosby. His credits include "Stormy Weather," "Cabin in the Sky," and "Carmen Jones."

In the 60's, Stewart appeared in the opening scene of "It's A Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World"

and more recently had a featured role in "Silver Streak".

Stewart was a popular radio guest performer throughout the 40s and when television bowed in the 50s, he appeared often. On the popular "Amos 'N' Andy" TV series, he had the recurring role of Lightnin'. On Broadway, Stewart appeared in Irving Berlin's smash musical "Louisiana Purchase."

In 1950, Stewart built the Ebony Showcase Theatre in Los Angeles in order to give black performers an opportunity to play the types of roles they were denied elsewhere. Today, this theatre is one of the oldest and finest ... theatres in the country and its alumni supporters include John Amos, Isobel Sanford and Margaret Avery. His theatre's long-running production of "Norman Is That You?" was adapted for the screen by MGM.

After 57 years in show business, Stewart today focuses on working with young people in the ... community. Stressing "education through entertainment," he encourages youths from the inner city not to join a gang but to join a theatre group.

For stressing positive humanitarian themes in his theatre productions and for culturally enriching his community, Stewart has been praised by the Mayor, the police commission, and written up in all the local newspapers. Earlier this year, he was named "Hometown Hero of the Month" by the CBS-TV affiliate in Los Angeles, which honored him with a month-long series of on-air profiles.

Stewart, his wife Edna and his daughter Valarie continue to operate the Ebony Showcase Theatre (a non-profit organization). The theatre offers acting lessons as well as classes on writing, directing and filmmaking.

Buena Vista Pictures Marketing

OBITUARY For More Information:

Howard E.Green

Vice President, Studio Communications



Founded Ebony Showcase Theater in Los Angeles

Nick Nicodemus Stewart, who provided the voice for the bulky Brer Bear in Walt Disney's classic, Song of the South, passed away at the home of his son on Monday, December 18.He was 90 years old. In addition to his role as a veteran vaudevillian, composer, producer, director, Stewart also founded the Ebony Showcase in Los Angeles.

Nick was a show business legend who made his mark in virtually every area of the entertainment spectrum from vaudeville and radio to motion pictures and television, said Roy E.Disney, vice chairman of The Walt Disney Company. As the voice of Brer Bear, he lent his vocal skills to creating one of Disney's most memorable characters and a screen personality that was larger than life. In addition to his achievements as an actor and his important contribution here at Disney, Nick was a very passionate and caring individual who created a landmark Los Angeles theater and provided young people with a unique opportunity to participate in the theater and learn other related crafts.He will be greatly missed.

Stewart grew up in Harlem and, for a time, the British West Indies.By the age of 14, he was dancing and performing standup comedy at the Hoofers Club, a legendary gathering spot for such dancing greats as Bill Bojangles Robinson, the Step Brothers, and Honi Coles.He went on to appear at the Cotton Club with many of the popular acts of the day. He also worked as a recreational director at Rockhill Lodge in the Catskill Mountains, bringing stars of all races and professional shows to the families vacationing there.

In 1936, while appearing at the Paramount Theatre in Los Angeles with Cab Calloway and his band, Stewart was spotted by Mae West and signed for a role in her film, Go West, Young Man. He went on to appear in numerous films, including Stormy Weather, Cabin in the Sky, and Carmen Jones.

Stewart was a popular radio guest performer throughout the 1940s, and in 1946, voiced the role of Brer Bear the favorite target of Brer Rabbit in Walt Disney's classic, Song of the South. Beginning in 1989, Stewart reprised the role for the Splash Mountain attractions at Walt Disney World and Disneyland Park.

He also appeared in the Broadway production of Irving Berlin's Louisiana Purchase, and achieved great fame in the 1950s with the recurring role of the slow-moving janitor Lightnin' on the Amos 'n' Andy TV series.Late in his career, Stewart had cameo roles in the films It's a Mad Mad Mad Mad World, Silver Streak, and Hollywood Shuffle.

In addition, Stewart has been inducted into the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences Archive of American Television, a series of videotaped conversations with television pioneers designed to create a complete oral history of the medium.

In 1950, Stewart founded the Ebony Showcase Theatre in Los Angeles to bring theater to the community and to work with young people, encouraging them to find a role working in the arts. People who worked at the theater included John Amos, Isobel Sanford, Margaret Avery, Boris Sagal, Juanita Moore, Gordon Hunt, Al Freeman, Jr., former SAG president William Schallert, and USC theater professor John Blankenchip.

The Ebony Showcase still exists as a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization dedicated to providing quality entertainment and training. The buildings housing the theater were demolished in the late 1990s, and the organization is currently raising the money for a new home. More information on the Ebony Showcase can be found at

Stewart is survived by his wife, Edna, three children, three grandchildren, and two great-grandchildren. A memorial service was held Saturday, December 23, at 10:30 a.m. at the Agape Church, 5700 Buckingham Parkway, Culver City. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to Ebony Showcase Theatre & Cultural Arts Center, Inc.
P.O. BOX 431375
Los Angeles, CA 90043
708-789-8192 (fax)
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    • Walt Disney Pictures
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Click here to leave a message for Valarie Stewart -- a new window will open -- close the window when you are done.


Nick and Edna Stewart (affectionally known to family and friends as MiMi and Papa)

Nick and Edna Stewart used money earned from his acting career and from boxoffice sales to to give opportunities to others.

TRIVIA: In the 1930s, he was a vaudevillian comedian, actor, tap dancer, who performed on stage, radio, movies and later television. His friend, Mae West cast him in his first movie role, Go West Young Man," a 1936 American comedy film released by Paramount Pictures, directed by Henry Hathaway and starring Mae West, Warren William, and Randolph Scott.

He was a featured performer along with Louis Armstrong in SWINGIN' THE DREAM at New York's Center Theatre (which had been formerly called the RKO Center/RKO Roxy Theatre) which opened on November 29, 1939 and closed December 9, 1939.

He played the part of Abner in Irving Berlin's LOUSIANANA PURCHASE which opened on Broadway's Imperial Theatre on May 28, 1940, and closed June 14, 1941.

During World War II he was a featured Armed Forces Radio Network comedian.

He also led a USO troupe that travelled to Alaska and the Aleutian Islands to entertain the troops.

Money that they earned through his acting jobs was used to create the historic Ebony Showcase Theatre, a legitimate theatre, founded in 1950, where they produced plays, concerts, fashion shows, recitals, and more; as well as a community center, for all phases of the arts, where classes, meetings, and community events were held.


Among the countless awards that Nick and Edna Stewart received were awards from the Museum of Science and Industry, the City of Los Angeles, and other organizations. They also received Living Legend awards from the National Black Theater Festival. In 1992 Nick received a Lifetime Achievement award from the Beverly Hills-Hollywood NAACP "For Positive Portrayals of African Americans And Longevity in Black Theatre.". Nick was selected by the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences to be one of the first 20 celebrities in their Archive of American Television.

Historic News Articles

Amos n' Andy Left Far Behind'
Los Angeles Times
November 28, 1982


Los Angeles Times
February 29, 1984



Actor Bill Cosby wrote a letter to the Stewarts that said ..."Heaven knows how many potentially anti-social young people your showcase turned around ..."

The Ebony Showcase Theatre developed the first children's theater in south west Los Angeles and has a history of enhancing the talents of young people through training in drama, speech, dance, creative writing, stagecraft, cinematography, and all allied crafts. Nick was a volunteer at the Washington and Locke High School's Drug Free School Zone Project (L.A. Unified School District). Students also came to the Ebony Showcase for training and activities, including a Youth Media Forum that was televised on cable television. The Ebony also provided an after-school "latch-key" program for children who, without the program, would have been home alone.


Patrick Culliton is one of the actors who performed at the Ebony Showcase Theatre. He recently wrote the following tribute in his blog:

"I must mention Nick Stewart who played Lightnin'. The Amos 'an' Andy series took a lot of heat over the years and much of it was directed at this fine actor. Nick Stewart did more to give actors a stage on which to work in Los Angeles than anyone else I can think of. His Ebony Showcase Theater gave many black actors and white ones too -- I know, I was one of them -- a place to work and learn and be seen. His characterization of Lightnin' was a thoughtful study of a sweet, hard-working, but slower than most, man.

I worked for Nick Stewart, and I saw him act onstage in "the Odd Couple," "the Sunshine Boys," and "Norman Is That You?".

I also saw him act in countless television shows, movies, a soundie with Louis Armstrong you wouldn't believe, lot of things. Wonderful actor, an old-fashioned funnyman, and a man who was absolutely dedicated to the furthering of talent."

Patrick is the author of "Houdini--The Key", a limited edition book that reveals Houdini's Best Kept Secrets (publication date October 31, 2010. You can write to Patrick to find out about his book at the following email address, email


Nick's stage name was Nicodemus, he is the featured dancer in the 2 Louis Armstrong videos below.

22 Dec 2000

Nick Stewart, Actor Who Shed Stereotypical Roles to Found L.A.'s Ebony Showcase, Dead at 90

Nick Stewart, the African-American actor who founded the Ebony Showcase Theater, a Los Angeles venue that offered black actors the chance to play roles other than the stereotypes the industry provided, died Dec. 18, according to The Los Angeles Times.

Nick Stewart, the African-American actor who founded the Ebony Showcase Theater, a Los Angeles venue that offered black actors the chance to play roles other than the stereotypes the industry provided, died Dec. 18, according to The Los Angeles Times. Mr. Stewart was 90, and had recently protested the groundbreaking of the Washington Boulevard Performing Arts Center, on the site of his razed theatre in Los Angeles. His troupe was evicted in 1996.

One week before his death, Mr. Stewart appeared in his wheelchair at the groundbreaking, holding a sign that read, "Ebony Rip-Off" as the mayor, members of the city council and officials from the Community Redevelopment Agency (CRA) spoke, The Times said.The city named the Stewarts in an eminent domain lawsuit, and Ebony lost by summary judgment, daughter Valarie Stewart said. The Stewarts said the troupe fell into debt when they tried to update their space to seismic codes in 1992.

Mr. Stewart co-founded Ebony Showcase with his wife, Edna, in 1950. Mrs. Stewart survives and said the work continues and that the company never stopped producing and working toward the future despite the loss of its venue. A search for a new space continues, daughter Valarie told Playbill On-Line. Mr. Stewart's survivors include children, Christopher, Valarie and Roger and grandchildren Maya, Shelley and Daniel.

Mr. Stewart was born in Manhattan in 1910, and tap danced in jazz clubs and in vaudeville choruses.He was also a comedian. He appeared in shows with Cab Calloway and other luminaries of black theatre of the time, in New York and regionally.

He moved to Los Angeles in 1941 (after having played on stages there) and got acting opportunities in pictures where black folks were seen as happily in service of white people. He was among the sea of African-American actors who played porters and shoe shine men, maids and waiters.

Mr. Stewart played the voice of Br'er Bear in Disney's partially-animated "Song of the South," a 1946 movie considered so racially insensitive by today's standards that it remains in the Disney vaults.

On TV's "Amos 'n' Andy," Mr. Stewart was Lightnin', the lazy janitor, 1951-53. He played Willie, the African guide, on TV's "Ramar of the Jungle" in the 1950s.

His jobs in those roles, however, helped him launch Ebony Showcase Theater. Years later, his theatre work would win him an NAACP lifetime achievement award "for positive portrayals of African Americans and longevity in the theatre." Mr. Stewart and his wife also earned a Living Legend Award from the National Black Theatre Festival in 1995. The award was for their humanitarian work and for their producing. He was inducted into the archive of American television by the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences, to save his work for future generations.

Performers who acted on the Ebony stage included John Amos, William Shallert, Isabel Sanford, Nichelle Nichols, Margaret Avery and Al Freeman Jr. Directors Gordon Hunt and Boris Sagal were among the directors who worked there.

The Ebony Showcase Theater has a tradition of offering legitimate theatre, concerts, standup comedy and performing arts classes. The company is dedicated to education through entertainment.

"A theatre needs to be more than just a building," Mr. Stewart once wrote. "A culture must be more than a collection of art and music." Ebony Showcase Theater can be found on the web at

-- By Kenneth Jones