Monday, October 06, 2008

Cartoon Censorship in 1937

I found (maybe someone else has found it before) this Associated Press article from May 18, 1937 where Leon Schlesinger talks about censorship of his cartoons, both Hays Office censorship and self-censorship brought on by viewer complaints.

One odd thing is that the article says that Schlesinger stopped using scary characters "because, in one picture, he had a monster that was the heavy. The monster frightened the children -- as well as Porky the Pig -- and the letter of protest looked like a star's fan mail." I assumed he was referring to "The Case of the Stuttering Pig", with its memorably scary transformation of Lawyer Goodwill into a toothy monster, but that cartoon hadn't been released to theatres yet at the time the article was written. So either the writer of the article misunderstood, or there's another cartoon that was already in theatres and getting complaints, though I'm not sure which cartoon that would be. (If only because, before "Scaredy Cat" in 1948, there's no WB cartoon that's as scary as "Stuttering Pig.")


Sean Gaffney said...

Fish Tales, perhaps?

Anonymous said...

Man, I haven't seen Lawyer Goodwill in at least twenty-five years, but I'll never forget how that transformation scared the heck out of me as a kid.

Anonymous said...

Schlesinger may have been referring to Beauty and the Beast, from 1934.

Anonymous said...

"Pigs is Pigs" would probably have been the last "scary" WB cartoon to come out prior to this article, though I don't know if you could call a mad scientist a "monster".

Meanwhile, the problem with the grass skirt sounds like it's from the Swing for Sale number out of "Clean Pastures", which probably makes it the all-time champ of WB cartoons when it comes to the different varieties of censorship it's run into over the past 72 years (religion, sex and race, though obviously not all at the same time).

Steve said...

There was an article in "Look" magazine dated Jan. 17 1939 in which Leon assured the reader all his cartoons meet the Hays office standard of the day. The article featured artwork of Porky and Petunia engaged in a snout-to-snout kiss being cut from a film by a pair of scissors labeled CENSORED! in favor of the couple simply holding hands. Rather than monsters, this piece refers to the apparent bubbling cauldron of sexual tension being held in check at Termite Terrace.

Seeing as this was clearly a promotional fluff piece, it wouldn't surprise me if the earlier article was produced with the same intent. That being the case, Leon may have been purposefully mentioning an upcoming release as a way of heading off any negative reactions. Lawyer Goodwill practically comes off the screen and terrorizes the audience one-on-one. Frank Tashlin was pushing the limits. A preemptive strike may have been in order.

Mattieshoe said...

Speaking of cartoons,I think you should do a post contrasting the First wakkorotti segment (Truly a masterwork) with the "Return of the great Wakkorotti), where what make the first one funny and appealing is virtually lost on the boring concept and Over scripted, Indirect visuals.

it would really illustrate the point of what happened at Warners between 1994 and 1995, as well as just how Imaginative Animaniacs was in it's first season. (If you DO do this, you should use the first Wakorotti segment.
It has the most imaginative visuals and it works alot better then the next two.

Both can be found on youtube.