Coal Black and de Sebben Dwarfs

From my good friend James who lives across the pond:
If you are perhaps a little like me, you may be interested in the Censored Eleven." One of, if not the most famous cartoon in this group is the Bob Clampett creation "Coal Black and de Sebben Dwarfs."

Though buried since the 1950s due to its racial and sexual caricatures, some argue "Coal Black" is Bob Clampett's greatest work. While that claim is certainly debatable, the cartoon holds a historical/socio-cultural significance and is worthy of viewing. Hopefully this is one instance where education will be favored over ignorance.

Like Disney's self-suppressed "Song of the South", "Coal Black" provides some insight into an important period in American history. The continued domestic suppression of black rights was paradoxically juxtaposed with America's reliance on the war-time service of blacks, and the profound popular music influence of black Jazz and Swing. Equally ironic was the appalling internment of Nisei/Issei/Sansei Japanese Americans and depiction of Japanese as sub-human which ran in stark contrast to the dependency on the Nisei 100th Battalion, 442nd Infantry ("...the most decorated unit in U.S. military history for its size and length of service...") and the approximate 6000 Nisei who served the U.S. Military Intelligence Service during WW2.

Though "Coal Black" was designed to be a parody of Disney's "Snow White", Bob Clampett also intended to make the cartoon a celebration of the all black jazz films of that age. "Coal Black" was in part inspired by a request from Duke Ellington for a black musical cartoon. Unfortunately the producer Leon Schlesinger refused to allow the use of an all black band to record the musical score.

"Coal Black" has remained very difficult to come by (as United Artists forbid it from being aired), and seemingly it first appeared on the Internet briefly late last year on YouTube. Warner Bros./ UA quickly issued a take down notice and had it removed. By some ghostly chance it is currently up on Google Video and can be seen here:


1 comments:

Anonymous | 2:32 PM

Why must censorship be so total when the subject matter is a caricature of African-Americans while such "artistic" endeavors as "Piss Christ" or the Virgin covered in dung is entitled to "artistic" freedom?

I, for one, am tired of treating black people as if society's only concern is to avoid offending them. Really, the black friends that I have are much too sophisticated to be "hurt" by such a thing as a cartoon.