Censored Eleven

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The Censored Eleven is a group of Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies cartoons that were withheld from syndication by United Artists in 1968. UA owned the distribution rights to the Associated Artists Productions library at that time, and decided to pull these eleven cartoons from broadcast because they are based on racist depictions of African Americans and are deemed too offensive for contemporary audiences. The ban has been upheld by UA and the successive owners of the pre-August 1948 Looney Tunes/Merrie Melodies[1] catalog to this day, and these shorts have not been officially broadcast on television since the late 1960s.


[edit] About the Cartoons

Many cartoons from previous decades are routinely edited on international television (and on some video and DVD collections) today. Usually, the only censorship deemed necessary is the cutting of the occasional racist joke, instance of graphic violence, or scene of a character doing something that parents and watchdog groups fear children will try to imitate (such as smoking, drinking alcohol, ingesting pills and dangerous chemicals freely, playing with fire, and abusing animals). For example, one classic cartoon gag, most prominent in MGM's Tom and Jerry cartoons, is the transformation of characters into a blackface caricature after an explosion or an automobile back-fire. Such small amounts of objectionable material only require relatively minor cuts in the cartoon to make it palatable to censors, in spite of objections and sometimes boycotts by fans.

However, in the case of the Censored Eleven, racist themes are so essential and so completely pervade the cartoons that the copyright holders believe that no amount of selective editing can ever make them acceptable for distribution.

Of the cartoons included in the Censored Eleven, animation historians and film scholars are quickest to defend the two directed by Bob Clampett, Coal Black and de Sebben Dwarfs and Tin Pan Alley Cats. The former, a jazz-based parody of Walt Disney's Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, is frequently included on lists of the "greatest" cartoons ever made, while the latter is a hot jazz re-interpretation of Clampett's now-classic 1938 short Porky in Wackyland. In a Usenet message on the newsgroup rec.arts.animation writer and author Michelle Klein-Hass wrote:

". . . some even look at Clampett's Jazz cartoons and cry racism when Clampett was incredibly ahead of his time and was a friend to many of the greats of the LA jazz scene. All of the faces you see in Tin Pan Alley Cats and Coal Black and de Sebben Dwarfs are caricatures of real musicians he hung out with at the Central Avenue jazz and blues clubs of the '40s. He insisted that some of these musicians be in on the recording of the soundtracks for these two cartoons." -- message posted on February 24, 2002

When he obtained distribution rights to all pre-1948 Warner Bros. cartoons in 1986, Ted Turner vowed that he would not distribute or air any cartoons from the Censored Eleven. They were the only cartoons in this package not to be featured in the laserdisc series The Golden Age of Looney Tunes.

Since Time Warner bought Turner Broadcasting, and with it their cartoons, in 1996, this policy has largely been upheld, but has also shown signs of weakening. A total of twelve Bugs Bunny shorts were not aired on Cartoon Network during its "June Bugs" marathon in 2001, for example, but in 2003, Warner Bros. began to release DVD collections of classic cartoons entitled the Looney Tunes Golden Collection with one of the cartoons (Frigid Hare, which depicts a stereotypical Eskimo trying to kill a baby penguin, and was still seen on Cartoon Network as late as 2002) featured on the set uncut and uncensored. Also in 2003, Cartoon Network animation documentary show ToonHeads had a one-hour special centered on World War II-era cartoons and two World War II-era Bugs Bunny shorts (Herr Meets Hare shown in full and Bugs Bunny Nips the Nips shown in clips in a short montage about the depictions of Japanese people at the time) were shown.

While none of the shorts included on the discs are part of the Censored Eleven, many of the cartoons that were included were routinely censored on television, but were included uncut on DVD. Furthermore, each DVD from the Looney Tunes Golden Collection: Volume 3 opens with a foreword by Whoopi Goldberg, where she warns the audience about some of these shorts, stating that - although the behavior was and is not acceptable - the cartoons depicting this are a vital part of history, and should not be forgotten. The Looney Tunes Golden Collection: Volume 4 collection includes a similar disclaimer, only it was written on a gold card and merely summarized the point that while the cartoons are considered offensive today for what they depict, they are not going to be shown censored because editing out the racist depictions (and denying that the racism of the era ever happened) is worse than actually showing them.

Despite the efforts of UA, Turner, and Time Warner, many of the Censored Eleven are available on bootleg video. Hittin' the Trail for Hallelujah Land, Jungle Jitters, and All This and Rabbit Stew are now in the public domain (the copyrights of the former 2 actually expired before the ban, and the latter's expired a year after the ban), and frequently turn up on home video releases and video searches on the Internet.

[edit] Censored Eleven list

The cartoons in the Censored Eleven are:

  1. M Hittin' the Trail for Hallelujah Land (1931, directed by Hugh Harman)
  2. M Sunday Go to Meetin' Time (1936, directed by Friz Freleng)
  3. M Clean Pastures (1937, directed by Friz Freleng)
  4. M Uncle Tom's Bungalow (1937, directed by Tex Avery)
  5. M Jungle Jitters (1938, directed by Friz Freleng)
  6. M The Isle of Pingo Pongo (1938, directed by Tex Avery)
  7. M All This and Rabbit Stew (1941, directed by Tex Avery)
  8. M Coal Black and de Sebben Dwarfs (1943, directed by Robert Clampett)
  9. M Tin Pan Alley Cats (1943, directed by Robert Clampett)
  10. L Angel Puss (1944, directed by Chuck Jones)
  11. M Goldilocks and the Jivin' Bears (1944, rereleased as a Blue Ribbon in 1952, directed by Friz Freleng)


  • L = Looney Tunes
  • M = Merrie Melodies

Friz Freleng directed the largest number of cartoons on the list (4 total), followed by Tex Avery with three, and Bob Clampett with only two cartoons to make the list. Rudolf Ising, like Chuck Jones, only has one cartoon on the list. Angel Puss is the only cartoon directed by Chuck Jones on the list as well as the only cartoon in the Looney Tunes series. The rest are Merrie Melodies. Hittin' the Trail to Halleljah Land is the only Piggy short on the list (and also the only black-and-white cartoon on the list) while All This and Rabbit Stew is the only Bugs Bunny cartoon on the list.

Several more cartoons have been removed from circulation since this list was created (but aren't added onto the Censored Eleven list, though most of the cartoons censored do contain extensive blackface gags and/or black stereotypes), such as Hugh Harman and Rudolph Ising's Looney Tunes featuring blackface caricature Bosko, and the Inki series of cartoons by Chuck Jones, as well as numerous World War II-era cartoons concerning the Japanese such as Bugs Bunny Nips the Nips. The Gone With the Wind satire, Confederate Honey, is similarly not circulated due to its depictions of blacks. Two cartoons directed by Tex Avery during his stint at MGM are often included in cartoon compilations that list the Censored Eleven: Uncle Tom's Cabana (1947) and Half-Pint Pygmy (1948), even though they're not Warner Bros. cartoons, but were part of the pre-1986 MGM library that wound up under Warner Bros. control in the 1990s. At the other end of the studio's life, the final Warner Bros. Cartoon, Injun Trouble (directed by Robert McKimson) is extremely rare owing to a combination of excessive jokes and stereotyping about Native Americans and the generally poor critical reputation of Warner Bros.'s later cartoons. Hocus Pocus Pow Wow, directed by Alex Lovy and released the year before Injun Trouble is also somewhat rare for the same reason.

[edit] Notes

  1. ^ The latest released WB cartoon sold to a.a.p. was Haredevil Hare, released on July 24, 1948

[edit] See also

[edit] External links

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