Friday, September 28, 2012

THE COLORED CARTOON (2007, Christopher Lehman)


Christopher P. Lehman. The Colored Cartoon: Black Representation in American Animated Short Films, Amherst, University of Massachusetts Press, 2007.

PDF / 18 MB / 142 pp / 155849779X / 978-1558497795

The way in which black people were depicted during the Golden Age cartoon era was degrading, pure racism. Ethnic jokes, stereotypes, clownish roles, pejorative images, "negro dialect". Fortunately we've come a long way since those days.
The subject of this book is the colored cartoon: the black culture influenced animation during the golden age. In the first chapter Lehman will review stereotypes and traditional stories that configured the cartoon representations of blacks in the beginings of animation. 
Chapter Two detail the problems animation had with sound synchronization, and how the black culture helped to solve some of this problems: the minstrelsy tradition and the jazz-blues music were used for the 30's cartoon musicals. An interesting analysis of minstrelsy use in Van Beuren's Dixie Days (1930); Plane Dumb (1932) and The Lion Tamer (1934). The Bosko character, created by Harman and Ising, the first black-boy heroic cartoon figure. And the Fleischer's cool, empowered - non servile - black characters in Betty Boop's: Minnie the Moocher (1932); I'll be glad when you're dead you rascal you (1932) and The Old Man Of The Mountain (1933).
Chapter three impart on the representation of blackness during the Code era; a lot of cartoons from late 30's till mid 40's will be named and analized: the Hanna-Barbera "mammy" character; Ub Iwerks's Little Black Sambo (1935); the pale ending of Bosko; and Chuck Jones's Flop Goes the Weasel (1943). 
In the fourth chapter Lehman describes Tex Avery "trickster animation", pointing out his use of the african american culture (an application of bebop to animation, without stereotyping black people). And here comes a bold thesis by the author. To him, the Avery's Bugs Bunny is a black character... To prove it, he claims that Bugs coolness and his postures, mimicked the ones made by jazz-bebop performers. 
The fifth chapter deals on the representation of blackness in animation during World War II. A Master piece at the beat of Swing music and with an outstanding animation: Coal Black and de Sebben Dwarfs (1943). And the final effort of Hanna and Barbera to appropiate the black culture: The Zoot Cat (1944).
The post-war is the subject of the last two chapters; Particularly interesting are the pages dealing with UPA, and how this independent study made dissapear black characters from cartoons.
A cool book, really fun to read and very well documented. (by pelida77)


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