Looney Tunes – produced by Warner Brothers – is the animated comedy series that has brought us iconic characters like Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, Porky Pig, Elmer Fudd, and a whole host of other highly recognizable characters.
The show alongside its sister series Merrie Melodies has inspired an entire franchise of toys, video games, movies, spin-offs, and even amusement park rides. It has unquestioningly become the Warner Brothers flagship franchise.
Even though Bugs Bunny has become a cultural icon and has even been given his own star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, you’ll be shocked to discover that Looney Tunes has a dark secret history of racism lurking in the shadows of its part.
Not only that, but Looney Tunes has also been accused of plagiarism on many occasions. The show itself was basically a knock off of Disney’s similarly themed animated series Silly Symphonies which premiered in 1929.
Stick around for the whole video to see how even Bugs Bunny himself was guilty of being a racist bigot back in the day. You’re not going to believe how he treated a person of color.
This is the video that Warner Brothers doesn’t want you to see.
Facts Verse Presents: Looney Tunes Has a Hidden Racist Past
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First up on our list is a little old-timey racism from 1931.
Hittin’ The Trail For Hallelujah Land
This example is actually the oldest on our list. Not only is it notable for its racist content which we will get to in a moment, but it’s also another example of plagiarized intellectual property. The cartoon bears a striking similarity to Disney’s 1928 classic “Steamboat Willy”.
The comparison is intensified by the presence of a very Mickey Mouse-esque character named Piggy that that takes the wheel of the steamboat.
The cartoon would later be censored however for its overtly offensive character Uncle Tom. This doglike creature prances about amidst a parade of dancing skeletons – yet again calling to mind an earlier Disney offering entitled The Skeleton Dance.
It might not be super evident when you first see this cartoon that the entire premise is saturated in racism – mostly because the cast is all animals and the cliches and stereotypes employed are largely antiquated but this cartoon is indeed dripping in racist bigotry.
Most blatantly, Uncle Tom fulfills the stereotype of the superstitious old black man – a motif that has long been recognized as being hurtful and rooted in hate.
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Sunday Got To Meetin’ Time & Clean Pastures
These religiously-themed releases saw the light of day in 1936 and 1937 respectively.
Sunday Go To Meetin’ Time takes place in the rural countryside and introduces a horde of racially charged caricatures to tell the story of an iniquitous man named Nicodemus who sneaks out of church to go steal some of his neighbor’s chickens. In the process, he gets bashed in the head and falls into a dream about the hell that surely awaits him if he continues his wicked ways.
Of course, when he wakes up he repents of his wicked ways and all is well.
Clean Pastures on the other hand follows the archangel Gabriel – a caricature based upon the then-popular vaudevillian performer Stepin Fetchit – in his attempt to get the people of Halem to come to heaven -or as Gabriel calls it Pair-O-Dice.
He struggles to convince this all-black community until four angels come to his rescue. These four are all based upon famous black jazz musicians, and they insist that the only way to get these Harlemites to heaven is by using ‘rhythm’.
Using music to draw in the black masses was so successful that not only did droves of inter-city folk flood into heaven, but even the devil himself repented.
Both episodes, as entertaining as they might be, heavily employed the use of offensive stereotypes and hurtful cliches. There is a good reason why they have been essentially censored in recent years.
Jungle Jiggers and The Isle Of Pingo Pong
Both of these 1938 toons exploit the idea of the island being full of ‘savage’ natives.
The Isle of Pingo Pongo serves more like a parody of travelogues while its cousin Jungle Jitters focuses on the unfortunate unfoldings that transpire when a traveling salesperson finds himself kidnapped by the islands native population. He soon feels much like a fish-out-of-water among the island folk.
Making a connection between Jazz music and savagery, or the sign that reads “Eat At the Dark Brown Derby” are two very obvious ways that the cartoon uses racially charged rhetoric to insensitively arrive at humor.
Both cartoons make repeatedly racist jokes and visual gags. Jungle Jitters definitely is the most entertaining of the two and takes its absurd premise to am almost surrealist level but that still doesn’t forgive it for its transgressions.
To depict native people as being wild and depraved savages is absolutely abhorrent in every way shape and form.
Uncle Tom’s Bungalow
On paper, this cartoon would have been a great opportunity to oppose racism and for the most part, it attempts to do so but still falls short of its goal in a large enough way to earn it a spot on our list.
Uncle Tom’s Bungalow is a clear reference to Uncle Tom’s Cabin – the famous anti-slavery novel. The slave owner is clearly depicted as the primary antagonist and the little white girl Eva is shown to be the best friend and equal of the little black girl Topsy.
This might sound like a premise that is every bit the opposite of racist, but unfortunately, attempts at humor repeatedly miss the mark and the intended message is lost by a mountain of racial stereotyping and poorly executed and insensitive jokes.
This is one of the most overtly racist cartoons on our list and the only one directed by the legendary Chuck Jones.
Angel puss, follows the story of a cat that is being chased by a black man who is attempting to drown him. It’s a story that feels similar to the Bugs Bunny and Elmer Fudd dynamic but instead being lighthearted and innocent, it’s steeped in racism.
Everything about the depiction of his African-American adversary is disgustingly offensive. First off, his name is Sambo, which in itself is almost a racial slur, then his voice and superstitiously foolish behavior shout nothing but prejudice and bigotry.
To top things off, Puss seems to take great delight in sadistically causing their aggressor as much pain and torment as they can.
Coal Black and de Sebben Dwarves
This Snow White parody is rife with racial humor and stereotyping from beginning to end. Despite being eye-poppingly offensive, it is also considered to be one of the best-animated films of its era by some critics. It was released in 1943 and is notable for having an all-black cast of voice actors and for making use of jazz music for its soundtrack.
But seriously, it’s still pretty shocking if you watch it today.
Even the title of the cartoon on its own is pretty clearly a racist jab at the speech and vernacular of African-Americans, so right out of the gate, it was already off to a bad start. But that bad start continued on to our next cartoon which pursued similar themes but without any of the substance that made it in any way redeemable.
Goldilocks and the Jivin’ Bears
This one is very similar to the Coal Black cartoon. Not only is every character in blackface except for the overtly sexualized female protagonist, but it’s all set in a fairy tale land and follows a fairly musical narrative and theme.
Coal Black actually had a message of sorts that accompanied its racism. It was a reflection of the culture and history surrounding World War II. Goldilocks, however, was just one long shtick that repeatedly made outmoded jokes and stereotypical assumptions about how black people like to dance and make music.
All This And Rabbit Stew
Why Looney Tunes chose to turn the Elmer Fudd and Bugs Bunny hunter/hunted dynamic into a racial message is your guess as good as mine. We’re guessing they regretted this move however and hoped that audiences would forget that it ever happened. But oh no, Warner Brothers, we didn’t forget anything and Bugs, you’re no saint either.
In this 1941 episode, Bugs is being pursued yet again by a hunter. But this time, instead of his usual nemesis, Elmer, his seeker is an African American man that employs every racial stereotype in the book.
Bugs ends up taking the very clothes off his back by playing craps with him. Making use of this washed-out gambling stereotype, Bugs leaves the man with nothing but a leaf to cover his manhood which he too snags as the episode comes to a close, leaving the man with not even an ounce of dignity.
Well, that wraps up yet another one of our videos. Hope you enjoyed learning the shameful history of one of the entertainment industries’ most iconic team of mascots and miscreants.
Sure those days were very different than the ones we are living in today, but it’s still jaw-droppingly disturbing to see some of those examples of blatant prejudice and bigotry in cartoons aimed at children.
Now it’s time to hear from you, Which cartoon do you find to be more offensive, The Coal Black that was a Snow White parody or the Angel Puss toon? Let us know what you think down in the comments section.
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