It shouldn’t be any surprised that cartoons from the 30’s through the early 50’s were loaded with all types and variations of offensive racist images and stereotypes. To compile a list of every single cartoon from that era with stereotyped black images would reach from here to the moon. And back. That sort of humor was par for the course in cartoons made back then, by major studios such as MGM (some jokes in MGM cartoons of the period are so viciously racist that they stun the imagination even today), Walt Disney, Warner Bros, Universal and independent producers as well.
However, by the 1960’s when Warner cartoons started to be shown on a regular basis on TV, the studio made edits to eliminate some of the more offensive material, and in the politically turbulent year of 1968, they pulled out of circulation, 11 of their cartoons that were deemed so offensive, so vile, that they would never see the light of day again:
Hittin’ the Trail for Hallelujah Land (1931, directed by Rudolf Ising)
Sunday Go to Meetin’ Time (1936, directed by Friz Freleng)
Clean Pastures (1937, directed by Friz Freleng)
Uncle Tom’s Bungalow (1937, directed by Tex Avery)
Jungle Jitters (1938, directed by Friz Freleng)
The Isle of Pingo Pongo (1938, directed by Tex Avery)
All This and Rabbit Stew (1941, directed by Tex Avery)
Coal Black and de Sebben Dwarfs (1943, directed by Robert Clampett)
Tin Pan Alley Cats (1943, directed by Robert Clampett)
Angel Puss (1944, directed by Chuck Jones)
Goldilocks and the Jivin’ Bears (1944, directed by Friz Freleng)
However, of course, they never really went away. Collectors searched the world for them and made copies for each other; they were available on bootleg tapes and DVDs, and even occasionally still shown theatrically on special occasions. (I remember seeing them for the first time, in remarkably good condition, back in the late 80’s in a movie revival theater.) And of course, with the advent of the internet, You Tube and other websites, they can be easily seen anywhere, though mainly in poor, badly faded, fuzzy prints.
However Warner Home Video, seeing the obvious and admitting that there has always been a strong demand for the cartoons in restored versions (one WHV exec said that the 11 cartoons are the one of the most in demand titles requested to be released on DVD), recently announced that they are planning to release digitally resorted versions of the censored 11 on their DVD-on-demand label Warner Archive, by the end of the year.
The question, of course, is should they be released in the first place? No doubt there are some who argue that they should not and should never be. (I can hear the NAACP screaming already). They’re too painful a reminder of a not-so-distant ugly past.
I however say that they absolutely should be released and I definitely plan to get the DVD when it comes out. First of all, they’ve always been available in one form or another, so what’s the point of still trying to pretend that they don’t exist? Also I feel, more importantly, that it’s extremely necessary and (though I hate to use the word) educational for these cartoons to be seen, especially by black people, in order to see and understand the history of black imagery in movies and how they relate to the types of images of us that exists today. To hide our heads in the sand and pretend they don’t exist is complete lunacy. And besides, how in the hell do you know where you’re going if you don’t know where you’ve been?
What do you say?
Here’s one of the censored 11: Angel Puss