You are currently browsing the tag archive for the ‘racism’ tag.

Directors:Ivan Ivanov-Vano & Leonid Amalrik
Release Date: 1933
Rating: ★★★★★
Review:

Black and White © SoyuzmultfilmOf all animated Soviet propaganda films, ‘Black & White’ certainly is one of the most powerful. The film is essentially silent, but it’s accompanied by the beautiful negro spiritual “Sometimes I Feel Like a Motherless Child” sung in a deep mournful voice. 

The film is based on a poem of the same name from 1925 by Vladimir Mayakovsky, who wrote the poem during a trip to Cuba. Like the poem, the film shows American racism and the exploitation of black people. We watch them being oppressed by the white, as if they were still slaves, and kept quiet by religion. The images are strong and very stylized. Each image of the film is staged wonderfully to the best effect. A most impressive image is that of numerous blacks in prison, but the bleakest of them all is the final shot of a car passing a lawn with a black man hanging on each tree.

The overall mood of the film is absolutely depressing, especially when one realizes that for once the Soviet propagandists were not too far from the truth. Nevertheless, the Soviet solution, “Lenin”, may be a little too short-sighted, and I doubt whether this film has ever been watched by its intended audience, and if it struck any international chord at all. Who knows? At least, Cuba has been the only country in the Americas to experience a Marxist regime…

Anyhow, despite its abrupt and inapt Lenin-ending, ‘Black & White’ is one of the darkest and strongest of all animated films of the 1930s, and certainly the most interesting animation film to come from the Soviet Union in that decade.

Watch ‘Black & White’ yourself and tell me what you think:

‘Black & White’ is available on the DVD-set ‘Animated Soviet Propaganda’

Advertisements

Directors: John Foster & George Rufle
Release Date:
 June 25, 1932
Stars: Tom and Jerry
Rating:
Review

Plane Dumb © Van Beuren‘Plane Dumb’ opens with Tom & Jerry on a non-stop flight to Africa.

Jerry is worried they’ll not be safe in Africa, so, to be sure, they change themselves into blackface. But immediately afterwards their plane crashes into the sea, as if the blackface took away their ability to fly! At sea Tom & Jerry are bothered by an equally blackfaced octopus, some sharks and a large whale, which throws them onto the African shore. There they encounter some fantasy monsters (recalling the Waffles & Don short ‘Jungle Jazz‘ from 1930), a gospel quartet of black skeletons, and finally. several cannibals, who chase them away. Iris out.

Unlike any other Van Beuren film, ‘Plane Dumb’ is extremely dialogue-rich. In fact, it’s quite possibly the most dialogue-rich cartoon of the early 1930s. As soon as they’re blackfaced, Tom & Jerry start to talk in fake negro speak. Of course, as the duo is heading to Africa, this makes no sense at all – it only adds to the ignorant racism that completely fills this short. Moreover, one soon forgets that these characters had been Tom & Jerry in the first place.

Tom & Jerry’s dialogue is very reminiscent of Amos ‘n’ Andy, the popular fake black radio stars of the time. The cartoon stars’ trite conversation was supposed to be the sole source of the humor in the cartoon, making ‘Plane Dumb’ the first animated cartoon ever to rely on dialogue. Rarely there was such a strange combination of innovation and backward thinking.

The dependence on dialogue makes the short a failure by all means, as none of it is remotely funny; not only by today’s standards, but also by those of 1932 itself, and the short only got a lukewarm welcome.

Nevertheless, in 1934 Van Beuren produced two cartoons featuring the “real” Amos ‘n’ Andy. Neither of the two were a success. Van Beuren might have known, if he had remembered ‘Plane Dumb’ well…

‘Plane Dumb’ arguably one of the most racist cartoon ever released. It’s so full of severe racial stereotypes, it’s practically unwatchable, today. Its only highlight may be in the animation of the whale, which has some menacing quality.

Watch ‘Plane Dumb’ yourself and tell me what you think:

This is Tom & Jerry cartoon No. 12
To the previous Tom & Jerry cartoon: The Tuba Tooter
To the next Tom & Jerry cartoon: Redskin Blues

‘Plane Dumb’ is available on the DVD ‘The Complete Animated Adventures of Van Beuren Studio’s Tom and Jerry’

Directors: Mannie Davis & John Foster
Release Date: August 17, 1930
Rating:
Review:

Laundry Blues © Van Beuren‘Laundry Blues’ is one of those cartoons that’s very hard to watch today.

This short features some extreme stereotypes of Chinese people, in animal form, plus one caricature of a (human) Jew. The Jew has his beard washed and ironed, only to fall into the mud with it shortly afterwards.

Apart from the vicious stereotyping, the short suffers from a lack of direction: things are just happening on the screen. The backward racism, the total lack of plot, and the scarcity of gags make ‘Laundry Blues’ endless. It’s everything but a classic, indeed. And yet, the part of the four Chinese ironing was reused in its entirety in ‘Chinese Jinks‘ from 1932.

Watch ‘Laundry Blues’ yourself and tell me what you think:

‘Laundry Blues’ is available on the DVD ‘Uncensored Animation from the Van Beuren Studio’

Director: David Hand
Release Date:
January 19, 1935
Stars:
Mickey Mouse
Rating:

Review:

Mickey's Man Friday © Walt DisneyLike in ‘The Castaway‘ (1932), Mickey has been shipwrecked, and he’s washed ashore at a tropical island full of cannibals.

When the cannibals try to cook a young native, Mickey scares them away in order to rescue the poor fellow. He then adopts this young native and they build a fort together, which they finish just in time, before the cannibals return to attack them. These eventually manage to overrun Mickey’s defense, and Mickey and the native flee on a self made ‘ship’.

Even when compared to Disney’s two other embarrassing cartoons about cannibals (the Silly Symphony ‘Cannibal Capers‘ (1930) and ‘Trader Mickey‘ (1932, curiously also directed by David Hand), the depiction of natives in ‘Mickey’s Man Friday’ is backward and humiliating. Mickey’s man Friday uses his feet more than his hands and appears to be more closely related to apes than to man. This is so sickening to watch that this is one of the very rare cartoons of which I feel that they could have remained under the rug, despite the fast and clever ‘invention gags’ featured in this cartoon, which foreshadow comparable gags in ‘The Flintstones’.

Watch ‘Mickey’s Man Friday’ yourself and tell me what you think:

This is Mickey Mouse cartoon No. 72
To the previous Mickey Mouse cartoon: Two-Gun Mickey
To the next Mickey Mouse cartoon: The Band Concert

Director: Burt Gillett
Release Date: March 15, 1930
Rating: ★★★
Review:

Still from 'Cannibal Capers' featuring a cannibal using skulls as castanets‘Cannibal Capers’ is a typical early dance routine Silly Symphony. This time we watch dancing cannibals, followed by the antics of one poor cannibal chased by a lion.

The caricatures of the ‘primitive’ blacks are backward and quite extreme in this cartoon: the cannibals have such huge lips, they almost look like ducks(!). Nevertheless, the cartoon is less offensive than a later film like ‘Mickey’s Man Friday‘ (1935), because the cannibals at least look sympathetic (despite the skulls that lie everywhere), and are not compared to apes, like in the latter cartoon.

It also fairs better than the Betty Boop cartoon ‘I’ll Be Glad When You’re Fead You Rascal You‘ (1932), which also features cannibals, but here they’re linked to musicians of Louis Armstrong’s orchestra, making a direct connection between the racist caricatures and real Afro-Americans.

Cannibals were staple characters of cartoons from the thirties, but the caricatures managed to stay well into the fifties, being featured in shorts such as ‘His Mouse Friday‘ (Tom & Jerry, 1951), ‘Spare The Rod’ (Donald Duck, 1954) and ‘Boyhood Daze’ (Merrie Melodies, 1957).

‘Cannibal Capers’ is noteworthy, because it contains the only animation by Floyd Gottfredson that hit the screen: that of the lion running out of the jungle and of a cannibal beating the drum. Around the time this cartoon was released, Gottfredson was asked to take over the Mickey Mouse comic strip (then still written by Walt Disney himself), something he would do until 1975.

Watch ‘Cannibal Capers’ yourself and tell me what you think:

This is Silly Symphony No. 8
To the previous Silly Symphony: Autumn
To the next Silly Symphony: Night

Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 778 other followers

Bookmark and Share

Follow TheGrob on Twitter

Categories