I just got a copy of Christopher Lehman’s latest book, The Colored Cartoon: Black Representation in American Animated Short Films. 1907-1954. It’s an un-illustrated, 137-page survey of the black stereotypes and African American cultural influences in the Hollywood cartoons we all grew up with, and most of us still enjoy today.
Lehman goes out of his way not to applaud, criticize or denounce these films. He mainly reports in an even handed way, that they were made, what images they contain, and records any controversies surrounding them. Though he covers almost every black character I’m aware of (including Lantz’s L’il Eightball, Pal’s Jasper and Famous Studios’ Buzzy) he neglects to mention Chuck Jones’ Inki, a pretty significant character. And I’m not sure I agree with his assertions that Bugs Bunny’s personality was essentially a “black cultural characterization”. But overall Lehman did his homework, with considerable research on the NAACP’s protests against such cartoons as Coal Black and de Sebben Dwarfs and Scrub Me Mama With a Boogie Beat. For more info on this publication, visit the University of Massachusetts Press website.