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Early Terrytoons: Fried Chicken and Chop Suey

During the golden age of animation Disney was the top – and Terrytoons were the bottom. Cartoonist Paul Terry started making cartoons at the birth of the medium in the mid-teens, and established his long running Terrytoons studio in 1930.

My fascination with this studio never ends. Michael Sporn reprinted several interesting Terrytoons newspaper clippings dating from the 1940s and 50s on his blog yesterday. Today animation historian David Gerstein adds to our collected knowledge by unearthing several press sheets from Terrytoons studio first year of sound production. Fried Chicken is one of several lost cartoons from this era – cartoons whose only record of existence are these printed plot synopsis (click on thumbnail below left to read). These synopsis from 1930, in particular, are actually rather shocking – as they describe ethnic characters in the crudest possible terms; using words no longer acceptable to society. Chop Suey is one of the initial sound Terrytoons, and comparing the publicity synopsis (below) to available film copies shows how these early cartoons rely of prevalent stereotypes of the day.

(Thanks, David Gerstein, and readers Kliph and Debbie)