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Friday, April 20, 2007

Introducing The Censored 11--Or Maybe Not?

Kevin and I rarely have a disagreement, but we did have a mild one this evening, over one simple question:

In an age when even the rarest cartoons can be downloaded--legally or not--from sites such as YouTube, what exactly constitutes an "orphan toon?" One rarely seen by the public? One widely seen, but in edited form? (Such as DROOPY'S GOOD DEED or JERKY TURKEY). One that has yet to be restored--or likely, never will be? It's a question I've mulled over for quite some time, but one I've never fully addressed until now.

I had intended to post a review and synopsis of Bob Clampett's COAL BLACK AND DE SEBBEN DWARFS. Whether it's truly the greatest cartoon ever made is of course open to debate, but in your humble administrator's opinion, it's certainly the best Bob Clampett ever made, a convergence of the young Clampett's animation skills at their peak with the brashness and "can do" spirit of the years during the Second World War.

I've long felt that no blog such as this one would be complete without a discussion of the Warner's "Censored 11", the infamous list of cartoons withdrawn from general circulation by United Artists in 1968. COAL BLACK in particular has been a cause celebré for animation historians and fans alike, becoming the Toon That Will Not Die. Yet its very visibility gave Kevin certain reservations, as he says here:


You know, I hadn’t ever thought of even doing the “Censored 11” from Warner Brothers because I was (and am) so sure that Jerry Beck & company will eventually get to them now that the status of the Warner Brothers cartoons are sealed for adult enjoyment. I know that you wanted to discuss these, but I do see this light at the end of the tunnel, and the Warners cartoons, even at their most controversial, will no longer be “orphaned”. I was instead thinking so much of the BOSKO toons because, for some reason, I think that these will be a little harder to get to DVD, because the HAPPY HARMONIES in general are not the most beloved cartoons around, not even like the Tex Avery and the TOM & JERRY titles from Hanna-Barbera; the same goes with the CAPTAIN & THE KIDS titles.

In fact, the mere fact that a goodly portion of the censored 11 are on youtube and elsewhere illegally means that so many people know about them and are giving them a kind of pirated home that, in that sense, they are no longer orphaned.

Then again, this could also be said of most of the LOONEY TUNES BOSKO titles as well and I *DO* think that these should be discussed because there are some terrific little bits throughout the series. I still think that the 1930’s Warners cartoons will be orphaned titles because, again, they are not as high a priority on the restoration list. I like to do or, more accurately, read others’ write-ups of the BOSKO cartoons done in an enthusiastic way, but one of the reasons why I like the fact that you’ve continued this blog on your own so diligently is that your viewpoint is one of enthusiasm, not the usual “I hate Harmon/ising and their insignifigant Disney chlones” rant that I hear all too often. Yeah, I guess that we could all come up with a case for that other viewpoint, but these cartoons still remain close to my heart, sometimes for reasons I can’t quite identify. But I have shown guests the laserdisc print of “DANCE OF THE WEED” and they were absolutely impressed. Why? Because it is an impressive cartoon in every way, including its wonderful score which allows the musical instruments to add life to the images, like the violins screeching like the whirling wind that blows the dainty flowers this way and that.

If the wonderful consultants now working on cartoon collections at Warner Brothers with that familiar disclaimer on them are putting together a HAPPY HARMONIES collection as we speak, then I’ll discontinue my rant, but these are lost treasures that , to me, have so much artistic merit. Even the Milt Gross cartoons are wonderful in that there were only two made!!

So, while I hope you do write an essay on “COAL BLACK” or “TIN PAN ALLEY CATS”, obviously pointing out spots where there are reused bits of animation from other well-known Clampett cartoons, I think some of this stuff is so familiar to everyone that…

Aw heck, go ahead and give your slant on this group of films. I would love to read a clear writing on “TIN PAN ALLEY CATS” and, maybe, you can one day do a rather lengthy essay on the differences in comic retellings of the “UNCLE TOM’S CABIN” story. Actually, that could almost be a book by itself; when you think of it, just about every cartoon studio had its retake on that story. I realize that this book, by harriet Beecher Stowe, was incredibly popular, but no one ever made a live action movie of this story. There is no major motion picture around this tale of racial injustice and life in segregated times, but every cartoon studio did their incredibly shocking parody of it!! I never thought about it until just now, but yes, one could neatly examine all the parodies of this story, from Hugh & Rudy’s “ON THE TRAIL TO HALLELULIALAND” and “THE OLD PLANTATION” to Tex Avery’s “UNCLE TOM’S BUNGALOW” and “UNCLE TOM’S CABANA”. Yet, now, I wish I had the actual book in front of me as well for reference so we know just how much the story was stretched or condensed. I know there is more to the slice of life, there, than what the cartoons chose to mock.


Though Kevin relented and eventually gave his blessing to posting reviews of COAL BLACK and other Censored 11 cartoons here, he did have a valid point, one for which I have no easy answer. Which is why I've decided to leave it up to you, the readers:

Do you want to see reviews of Censored 11 cartoons here? I'd be interested in hearing your answer, whatever it may be. Send your comments to Kevin and me here:


The best responses will be posted in a future entry--so get those nimble little fingers busy...

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Anonymous said...

Please by all means do so. Even though some of the material is PI by todays standards, it demonstrates some classic animation and music. As for appropriateness, you can look at some of the anime out these days and wonder how it can be considered acceptable and harmless and Coal Black is harmful.

pablo said...

We now have BUTT UGLY MARTIANS and THE RIPPING FRIENDS with all the farting, which I find maybe not racist but disgusting...