Bugs Bunny in Blackface: Politically Incorrect Cartoons

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You can still catch most of your favorite Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies classics on the Cartoon Network and elsewhere; many have been in heavy syndication for a half-century. But there are a dozen or so that have rarely been seen on television since the 1960s, which while not having been banned outright have been at the very least pulled from circulation by embarrassed copyright holders. While other cartoons had been "cleaned up" with a few cuts -- a blackface character removed here, an off-putting joke edited out there -- these dozen or so cartoons were thought to be so thoroughly riddled with political incorrectness that they were unsuitable for airing no matter how much cutting was done. A fascinating part of our nation's troubled history, I wanted to share them here (even though I'm probably about to incite a massive flame war between the "I can't believe they made those!" and "what's the big deal?" factions).

The image above is a still from Warner Brothers' off-color parody (no pun intended) of Snow White, called Coal Black an' de Sebben Dwarfs. Made in 1942 and defended by animation historians as a classic, it definitely contains a few eyebrow-raisers, including a gold-toothed, zoot-suit-wearing "Prince Chawmin'," and the loose and oversexed main character, "So White." Check it out --

This Universal cartoon, "Scrub Me Mama with A Boogie Beat," was featured in Spike Lee's Bamboozled.

In "Uncle Tom's Bungalow," Uncle Tom tells a whip-wielding Simon Legree "My body might belong to you, but my soul belongs to Warner Brothers!"

"Southern Fried Rabbit" features Bugs Bunny in blackface, begging a slave-driving Yosemite Sam, "Don't beat me, massa, don't beat me!"

"Tokio Jokio" changes it up a bit, with some wartime stereotypes about the Japanese.

"The Isle of Pingo Pongo" features some unflattering portrayals of Pacific Islanders.

"Tin Pan Alleycats" is set in the world of Harlem jazz clubs.

"Angel Puss" is one of the few censored Chuck Jones cartoons.

"Injun Trouble" ended up being so much trouble for Warner Brothers that they eventually pulled it from circulation. (Of course, you can find anything on YouTube.)

The jazzy "Goldilocks and the Jivin' Bears."

"Clean Pastures" features what appears to be a segregated Heaven?

"Sunday Go to Meetin' Time" features a charming little scene in which dad cleans his kids before church -- with black shoe polish and a shoeshine rag.

One of the oldest "censored" cartoons is 1931's "Hittin' the Trail for Hallelujah Land."

"Jungle Jitters" takes a crack at the "dark continent" of Africa.

Finally, though it's kind of unrelated, in researching all this I discovered that the original title of Agatha Christie's classic murder-mystery wasn't "Ten Little Indians" after all. Here's a first edition book cover from 1939. Make of it what you will.

And_Then_There_Were_None_First_Edition_Cover_1939

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July 28, 2009 - 8:36am
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