Disclaimer: This site contains racial imagery that may be offensive to some. We, the owners of this blog, include it not only for the sake of preserving these artifacts of our history, but to call attention to the brilliant people who contributed to them--including actors, comedians, and musicians of color

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

The Best-Laid Plans....

If there's one thing I should know better than to do, it's commit myself to any specific schedule of posting to this blog. I had promised a review/synopsis of the first of the "Bosko Trilogy" long before this, and instead have taken an entirely unintended vacation. I can only say it's because of my perfectionist nature: I had started, and re-started, the introductory paragraphs at least three times. Nothing goes here that does not reflect my absolute best writing (even this post is a second draft, the first having been discarded yesterday afternoon).

Writing for a blog like this has proved a formidible challenge, since each entry is, in effect, the equivalent of a magazine article. I must say I have a renewed respect for newspaper reporters, who can and do compose lengthy articles daily.

To put it bluntly, it's damned exhausting.

I've devoted my nights to it, at the cost of my health and sanity. So I've spent the last couple of days getting some badly needed sleep. I can only be glad that Kevin is not a taskmaster, and understands when I "disappear" for a few days. I beg that you, and anyone else who comes across this blog, will be equally understanding.

I am, however, not posting at this ungodly hour of the morning merely to make excuses for my absence.

In yesterday's entry in his Cartoon Brew blog, Jerry Beck writes about a cause near and dear to my heart. (I can only hope the link works--as with blogging, I am very new to HTML code).

Incidentally, I feel obligated to tell you I made a mistake in an earlier post. I posted a link to Jerry's Cartoon Research site, itself an excellent source of animation info, and mistakenly referred to it as the link for his blog. His blog is actually here.

Think you've seen all of Disney's FANTASIA? Well, not if you've seen it in the last three decades or so.

The "Pastoral Symphony" sequence (for the uninitiated, the one with the centaurs) originally contained a scene of black centaurette attendants. Due to its controversial nature, that scene has been excised from more recent showings of the film.

The print Jerry writes of in his blog contains footage of the excised scene, in its entirety--a must for the serious toon historian with an extra $1500 in his pocket. Unfortunately, I'm not one of those people.

His post could not be better timed, however, as it gives me an opportunity to "out" myself, as it were. If you've been paying close attention, you may have noticed I have a particular attraction to cartoons rarely seen in these more "enlightened" times, for much the same reason as the edited scene in FANTASIA.

Like Jerry, I feel classic animated films should be seen complete and uncut, objectionable scenes and all. Hence my historical interest in cartoons such as CIRCUS DAZE and THE OLD HOUSE; I should say, though, that my interest in these cartoons goes beyond the merely historical. I honestly feel that these are wonderful films.

While I most certainly do not condone racism in any form, neither do I condone allowing classic animation to rot in a vault merely because of changing attitudes. THE OLD HOUSE, CIRCUS DAZE, the upcoming "Bosko Trilogy" and similar films have much to offer despite images that may be distressing to modern eyes. They're masterpieces of comedic timing and personality animation, whose main characters just happen to be black.

My interest in such cartoons began with an online glimpse at what has to be the Holy Grail for animation collectors, Bob Clampett's indescribably brilliant COAL BLACK AND DE SEBBEN DWARFS. It's been called the best cartoon nobody's ever seen, good enough to merit a Top 10 spot in Jerry's book THE FIFTY GREATEST CARTOONS EVER (if you don't already own a copy, I strongly urge you to go to amazon.com and pick one up). An all black parody of the then-recent SNOW WHITE, it is a feast for the eyes and ears--Looney Tunes on rocket fuel. Even in a grainy, low-bandwidth copy it crackled with energy, an animated exercise in perpetual motion. It succeeds not in spite of the black characters, but because of them: the theme provides an excuse for the liveliest, jazziest music ever heard in a Warner Bros. cartoon, and some of the best black vocal talent of the era (featuring the likes of Ruby and Vivian Dandridge, as well as Zoot Watson as the Prince).

Yet because of those black characters, it has been relegated to cinema oblivion, becoming what I call an "orphan toon." (If you ever wondered where this blog's name came from, now you know). It doesn't deserve this fate, and neither do any of the other cartoons here.

Look at it like this. Any film, any time, anywhere, is bound to contain something irritating and offensive to someone, be it excessive sex, violence, or even ideas one finds abhorrent. Individuals have the right to avoid such films if they wish, and parents have the right to prevent their children from seeing them.

When they treat the rest of us like children, however, by deciding for us what is acceptable to see, that is where I must draw the line.

And in the words of that great philosopher Forrest Gump, "That's all I have to say about that..."

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