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The Colored Cartoon

Heads up: University of Massachusetts Press has announced the publication of The Colored Cartoon: Black Representation in American Animated Short Films, by academic Christopher Lehman. The book, an adaptation of Lehman’s doctoral dissertation, features extensive quotes from his personal interviews of Berny Wolf, Bill Littlejohn, and Jack Zander. It will be released in October.

  • Billy Bob

    As Mr. Spock would say,


  • Well, that can’t end well. I hope it’s not so clinical that it just puts you to sleep.

    But I loves me some Coal Black! It’s my second favorite cartoon of all time. I show it to everyone I can corral into watching my grainy, badly encoded copy. Some things can only be appreciated in context though, so I did have to explain it to my kids before showing it to them.

  • Newton Minow

    I hope he at least got himself a PhD out of the deal, and a coupon for Baskin-Robbins deep dark chocolate surprise.

  • Old Doc Yak

    I’ve never read anywhere what a favourable light is for depictions of African American culture. Daniel Goldmark covered similar ground in ‘Tunes for Toons’: a book not readily identifiable as social commentary. I wonder how history will sort these films: as mockery of a people suffering under a tyrannical regime (which is true) or as part of an art form which is defined by exageration and grotesquery of all sorts.

  • I don’t know if it’s that not enough books are written on this subject or if it’s just that there hasn’t been one definitive book written on this subject. When I see one, I’m always optimistic, I think the last one I bought was “That’s Enough, Folks!” by H. Sampson, but it’s kind of dull. Thing is any time you brooch the subject of black toons, it’s kind of a downer since it almost seems like there’s been less and less representation over the years.

    Focusing on short films is probably smart, since there’s not a whole lot of material in feature films anyway.

  • Robert Igoe

    As disturbing as these stereotypical images are, we should never forget that this kind of thing existed, or we risk it happening again.

  • rod

    if it included a dvd of the cartoons mentioned in the book, it would be worth buying…

  • Brandon Pierce

    Providing the book gets wide release (which doesn’t seem to be the case with most animation history-related books), it’ll bring more awareness to these banned shorts, and create interest, and people will want to see them on DVD. Hopefully it’ll increase the demand.

  • Tom

    “As disturbing as these stereotypical images are, we should never forget that this kind of thing existed, or we risk it happening again.”

    Said that with a stright face, didja? Jesus, why not just change your name to “self-loathing white” and have done with it?

  • Andre

    The idea is to keep an awareness of these largely negative images and build from there. You can have funny black and other ethnic characters and not just a bunch of cardboard stock figures as seen in most PBS toons.

  • Ron

    I appreciate the fact that the stereotypes are offensive. Still it’s a great cartoon.

  • You know what would make for the definitive book on the subject? A book like this that comes WITH a DVD of all the cartoons in question. Then they would both be available on DVD and presented in the proper context. It just seems so simple!