In 1968, the country was experiencing massive upheaval. Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert F. Kennedy had been assassinated only one month apart. Fighting in Vietnam was about to escalate due to the election of President Nixon, and “Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In” was making its television debut.
Pretty much everything was terrible. But progress was still in the air as America was finally taking pains to recalibrate its broken moral compass.
Enter United Artists, owner of several Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies titles created in the earlier half of the 20th century. UA decided to do some spring cleaning in its vaults back in 1968 and vowed to throw out some of the more bigoted cartoons in its lineup.
What it dug out of its stash and deemed unfit for the airwaves was a movable feast of racism. Each one a whoopee cushion filled with hate for the senses, more deplorable than the next. The cartoons were banned from the airwaves and proverbially buried never again to see the light of day.
Together, the cartoons form a list which has come to be known as the “Censored Eleven.”
Very much thanks to the Internet and to overzealous uploaders, I managed to track and compile them below for your horrified viewing pleasure.
Included below each video is a plot synopsis when one could be found.
1) “Hittin’ the Trail for Hallelujah Land” (1931)
As far as racism, this cartoon barely registers on the What the Hell Were They Thinking meter. However, what the cartoon lacks in bigotry, it more than makes up for in incoherency:
A creature very similar to Mickey Mouse — which is meant to be a pig named Piggy and is not a mouse — pilots a steamboat down a river in an effort to win the affections of his paramour, a fellow pig named Fluffy, who bears a similarly striking resemblance to Minnie Mouse. Dancing minstrel skeletons chase the decrepit uncle of the female pig into a graveyard, but in the end everything is OK.
(As I type this description, my face is melting.)
2) “Sunday Go to Meetin’ Time” (1936, reissued 1944)
Nicodemus, a super-racist depiction of a black man, dies and goes to hell. He somehow comes back to life after realizing the error of his ways. After that, he goes to church and pretty much promises to do his very best to be more white.
Things do not end well.
3) “Clean Pastures” (1937)
The cartoon opens in Harlem (already a fantastic beginning). The citizens of Harlem are carrying on in a manner unbefitting good Christian values. St. Peter, who is black, is perturbed, so he descends upon Harlem to show the city dwellers the error of their ways.
The plot pretty much ends there, but there is plenty more music and racism to be had as the characters perform an Al Jolson song.
4) “Uncle Tom’s Bungalow” (1937)
Yes, the title is referring to that Uncle Tom.
This cartoon follows the same script as the Harriet Beecher Stowe novel but still manages to lose every point made in Stowe’s novel about morality and equality.
The story devolves further when Uncle Tom wins money playing craps and buys a new car.
5) “Jungle Jitters” (1938)
We’ve only reached No. 5 in our countdown, but I am already pretty sure there is no God.
6) “The Isle of Pingo Pongo” (1938)
A ship departs New York City headed to Pingo Pongo Island. Once it arrives there, the ship’s passengers are greeted by a number of island inhabitants. Most all of whom are black and possess big feet and big lips. As is common with other cartoons of the time, the script writers decided to call it a day halfway through the cartoon, so everything becomes a jazz musical number in which the narrator describes as being a “primitive savage rhythm.”
7) “All This and Rabbit Stew” (1941)
Bugs Bunny is pursued by a slow-witted African American hunter, whom the narrator describes as “a country coon.”
Bugs manages to elude the hunter several times and eventually coaxes him into playing a game of dice (because, why not?).
In the end, Bugs gets all of the hunter’s clothes, and the man can be seen wearing a fig leaf (because, of course).
8) “Coal Black and de Sebben Dwarfs” (1943)
This is a take on “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs,” but all of the characters in the original story have been replaced by horrifying black-face characters. Also, there is a jazz musical, because you cannot have jazz in a cartoon without horrible racial epithets. If you can somehow look beyond the horribleness (I recommend employing a technique which involves punching yourself in the face several times), the cartoon is actually considered somewhat of a masterpiece.
9) “Tin Pan Alley Cats” (1943)
Not actually a terrible cartoon, just terribly misguided. The short film features African-American characters in a number of stereotypical gags and plot points. Famed jazz musician Fats Waller makes an appearance in this cartoon as well. He is portrayed as a 6-foot-tall anthropomorphic cat for absolutely no reason, and the main character is swept away in a nightmarish dreamscape featuring imagery depicting likenesses of Adolf Hitler and Joseph Stalin.
I can only conclude that 1940s America was a horrifying place to grow up.
10) “Angel Puss” (1944)
This one is worth a total review of the plot: A young black boy is paid four bits to drown a cat. The cat sneaks away, fills the boy’s sack with bricks, then, pretending to be the boy’s conscience, convinces the boy to throw the sack into the water. The boy believes he has successfully drowned the cat. The cat then paints himself white and pretends to be a ghost. He “haunts” the little boy repeatedly for the rest of the cartoon.
Eventually, the cat’s paint washes off in a creek. The little boy discovers that he has been tricked by the cat, so he shoots the cat in the face with a shotgun.
The cat comes back as a real ghost this time. He is accompanied by eight other ghost cats, representing each of his nine lives. He and the other ghost cats proceed to haunt the little boy for all eternity, so the story does have a happy ending.
11) “Goldilocks and the Jivin’ Bears” (1944, reissued 1952)
This story combines “Goldilocks and the Three Bears” with “Little Red Riding Hood.” Everyone, including the wolf, is drawn in blackface. The Three Bears are a jazz trio. Their instruments catch fire, and they must leave in order for them to cool off. Goldilocks enters the house. Hilarity ensues.
That concludes our review of the “Censored Eleven.” Take a moment. Weep softly for humanity. Collect yourself, and be thankful that no matter your race, color or creed, you are living in a more enlightened time, though it may not always seem that way.
This list is simply a collection of embedded videos taken from other sources. They are not hosted on TheBlot Magazine. As with everything on the Internet, all is forever, but nothing is permanent.
If, for whatever reason, you require access to these videos in perpetuity, I encourage you to download them from their sources while they are still available.
Joel Mazmanian is a contributing journalist for TheBlot Magazine. He is also a second-year graduate student at the VCU Brandcenter. Follow him on Twitter @joelmazmanian.