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The Censored Eleven is an unofficial term for eleven pre-1948 Merrie Melodies and Looney Tunes shorts that were removed from United States television by United Artists in 1968 due to racial stereotyping of black people.
The cartoons featured in the Censored Eleven are:
- "Hittin' the Trail for Hallelujah Land" (1931, directed by Rudolf Ising)
- "Sunday Go to Meetin' Time" (1936, Isadore/Friz Freleng)
- "Clean Pastures" (1937, Freleng)
- "Uncle Tom's Bungalow" (1937, Fred/Tex Avery)
- "Jungle Jitters" (1938, Freleng)
- "The Isle of Pingo Pongo" (1938, Avery)
- "All This and Rabbit Stew" (1941, Avery)
- "Coal Black and de Sebben Dwarfs" (1943, Robert/Bob Clampett)
- "Tin Pan Alley Cats" (1943, Clampett)
- "Angel Puss" (1944, Charles M./Chuck Jones)
- "Goldilocks and the Jivin' Bears" (1944, Freleng)
Many cartoons from previous decades are routinely censored, cutting racist jokes, graphic violence, or scenes of smoking, drinking alcohol, or suicide. 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 backfire.
However, racial themes are so prominent in these eleven cartoons that United Artists believed that no amount of selective editing could ever make them acceptable for distribution.
Two of the Censored Eleven directed by Bob Clampett have been defended by some film historians: "Coal Black and de Sebben Dwarfs" and "Tin Pan Alley Cats". The former is a jazz-based parody of Walt Disney's Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, while the latter is a hot jazz re-interpretation of Clampett's now-classic 1938 short Porky in Wackyland. Author Michelle Klein-Hass wrote the following:
- ". . . 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."
Bob Clampett himself explained the evolution of "Coal Black" during his public appearances in the 70s and 80s, and during taped interviews:
- "In 1942, during the height of anti-Japanese sentiment during World War II, I was approached in Hollywood by the cast of an all-black musical off-broadway production called Jump For Joy while they were doing some special performances in Los Angeles. They asked me why there weren't any Warner's cartoons with black characters and I didn't have any good answer for that question. So we sat down together and came up with a parody of Disney's Snow White and "Coal Black" was the result. They did all the voices for that cartoon, even though Mel Blanc's contract with Warners gave him sole voice credit for all Warners cartoons by then. There was nothing racist or disrespectful toward blacks intended in that film at all, nor in Tin Pan Alley Cats which is just a parody of jazz piano great Fats Waller, who was always hamming into the camera during his musical films. Everybody, including blacks had a good time when these cartoons first came out. All the controversy about these two cartoons has developed in later years merely because of changing attitudes toward black civil rights that have happened since then."
The cartoon output of Warner Bros. during its heyday even sometimes had censorship problems more complex in some respects than those of features. Unlike feature films, which were routinely censored in the script, the animated shorts were passed upon only when completed, which made the producers exceptionally cautious as to restrictions. In 1983, director Chuck Jones commented on the television censorship of the Warner Bros. cartoons:
- "I don't like to see the films cut at all. […] They make some cuts that are so arbitrary and stupid, you can't believe it."
Independent stations that once ran the syndicated Warner Bros. cartoons never had the same type of censorship as first-run networks such as ABC and CBS did for the cartoons. Some stations even owned syndication rights to "a few they consider[ed] racially stereotypical," but never ran them.
When Ted Turner obtained the copyrights to the pre-1950 Warner Bros. library from Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer in 1986, he vowed to continue the ban of the Censored Eleven in the United States. Those eleven shorts were the only cartoons in the Associated Artists Productions package not to be featured in the VHS/LaserDisc series The Golden Age of Looney Tunes. The Censored Eleven, despite the bans, have been known to have aired in regular syndication outside the United States.
Since Time Warner bought Turner Broadcasting System on October 10, 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. However, Warner Bros. began to release DVD collections of classic cartoons in 2003 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 and featured as a DVD extra in March of the Penguins) featured on the set uncut and uncensored. Also in 2001, 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 they 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, written on a gold card and merely summarized the point that while the cartoons are considered offensive today for what they depict, they are going to be shown uncut because editing out the racist depictions—and therefore effectively saying the racist scenes were never there and that the racism of the era ever happened—is worse than actually showing them uncensored.
American and European 1995 dubbed prints exist for almost every pre-1948 cartoon, but it is unknown if the Censored Eleven ever received dubbed versions, though the Censored Eleven had a.a.p. prints, like all other cartoons at the time.
- "Angel Puss" is the only short on the list to be in the Looney Tunes entry in the Censored Eleven. The other ten shorts are in the Merrie Melodies series.
- "Goldilocks and the Jivin' Bears" is the only short on the list not to be produced by Leon Schlesinger. It was also the first cartoon to be produced by Eddie Selzer as "Buckaroo Bugs", the previous short released to theaters, was the final cartoon produced by Schlesinger. Also, "Goldilocks and the Jivin' Bears" is the only short to not have signs of its original titles surviving. Though "The Isle of Pingo Pongo" and "Sunday Go to Meetin' Time" were also re-released under the Blue Ribbon program, their original titles have been discovered (in fact, an actual full copy of the original titles of "The Isle of Pingo Pongo" exists).
- "Hittin' the Trail for Hallelujah Land" is the only black and white short on the list. All the others are in color.
- "Hittin' the Trail for Hallelujah Land" was the only Piggy cartoon on the list. "The Isle of Pingo Pongo" was the only Egghead cartoon on the list, and "All This and Rabbit Stew" was the only Bugs cartoon on the list. "Hittin' the Trail for Hallelujah Land" and "Uncle Tom's Bungalow" had an Uncle Tom character and "Angel Puss" and "All This and Rabbit Stew" had a similar character by the name of Sambo. The rest of the other shorts on this list are one-shot cartoons.
- Friz Freleng supervised/directed the most cartoons on the list (4 cartoons in the list), followed by Tex Avery (3 cartoons in the list), Bob Clampett (2 cartoons in the list) and lastly, Rudolf Ising and Chuck Jones (with only 1 cartoon each in the list).
Possible future DVD release
TCM showed eight of these in 2010 at the Egyptian Theater in Hollywood, for a possible DVD release. The three that were not shown were "Jungle Jitters", "Angel Puss", and "All This and Rabbit Stew".
At the New York Comic Con in October 2010, Warner Bros. confirmed that an uncut DVD release of the Censored Eleven via the Warner Archives would come soon. However, on December 1st, animation expert Jerry Beck announced that WB was planning to just go ahead with a traditional retail release, which would feature the Censored Eleven, fully restored, as well as some other rare cartoons and bonus material. As of March 2012, this has not come to fruition.
Building on to the halt, on August 10, 2016, Jerry Beck mentioned that the WB market is too dead for DVD releases.
- "None of those (I Love Tweety, Tom and Jerry Golden Collection: Volume 2, Censored Eleven) announced DVDs are coming out. Warner Bros. considers the DVD market dead for classic cartoons. There are no plans for further DVDs or Blu-rays featuring classic cartoons. I am talking to Warner Archive and maybe at some point they will release some older MGM or WB cartoons, but there are no plans to do so at this time."
However according to a user on shadowandact.com who spoke to Jerry Beck stated that the plans to release the cartoons have been scrapped due to changing cultural sensitivities as well as the fact that classic cartoon DVDs don't sell and that this release would not likely make a profit.
- ↑ https://groups.google.com/group/rec.arts.animation/msg/d67c97d842389289?hl=en&dmode=source
- ↑ Look staff 17.
- ↑ Fanton 31-32.
- ↑ Fanton 32.
- ↑ Julien WILK. lddb.com. lddb.com.
- ↑ http://www.cinemablend.com/television/Why-Tom-Jerry-Now-Comes-With-Racism-Warning-67631.html
- ↑ http://www.toonzone.net/forums/threads/wb-censored-eleven-dvd.5311761/#post-84623651
- ↑ https://shadowandact.com/free-the-warner-bros-censored-11
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