Given the continued carping about "Journey to the Disney Vault," you'd think that this particular "TV Funhouse" skit (Which reran on "Saturday Night Live" this past Saturday night as part of a "Best of TV Funhouse" episode) was the very first time that anyone had ever made fun of Walt Disney and/or the films that his studio produced.
Copyright NBC Universal, Inc.
Truth be told, this Robert Smigel short is just the latest in a long line of cartoons that have poked fun at the Mouse. Twitting the sorts of movies that Mickey makes.
Don't believe me? Then get yourself a copy of Volume Three of the "Looney Tunes: Golden Collection." As you laugh your way through this 4-disc set, you'll eventually come across a Friz Freleng short, "Pigs in a Polka." Released on February 2, 1943, this Academy Award-nominated cartoon starts off as a parody of Disney's "Fantasia," with the Big Bad Wolf standing in for Deems Taylor.
Copyright Warner Bros.
Once this introduction is complete, "Pigs in a Polka" then quickly turns into a musical riff on Disney's "The Three Little Pigs." With this trio of porkers repeatedly out-witting the Big Bad Wolf all the while moving in tempo to Johannes Brahms' "Hungarian Dances."
What makes this particular Warner Brothers short fun for Mouse fans is how closely Friz & his animators aped the character design of Disney's 1933 Oscar-winning short. With Fiddler, Fifer and Practical Pig all retaining the instruments that they played and/or the costumes that they wore in the original film.
Six months later, Warner Brothers revisited the idea of making fun of Disney's "Fantasia." Only this time, under the supervision of animation legend Bob Clampett, the crew at Termite Terrace dedicated an entire short to sending up this 1940 Walt Disney Studios release. And that film was called ...
This short basically beat up on Disney for "Fantasia" 's pretensions. Starting with the dramatic entrance of the film's conductor ...
Copyright Warner Bros.
Only to reveal that -- this time around -- it wasn't Leopold Stowoski at the podium. But -- rather -- Elmer J. Fudd.
To reveal much more about "A Corny Concerto" would ruin one of the funnier animated shorts that Warner Brothers Studio ever produced. To see this cartoon in all its digitally restored glory, I suggest that you pick up a copy of Volume II of the "Looney Tunes: Golden Collection" DVD.
Mind you, this wasn't the only time that the guys at Termite Terrace dedicated an entire animated short to making fun of a particular Disney film. In fact, in January of 1943, Warner Brothers released a cartoon that actually lampooned "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs." And that toon was called ...
Copyright Warners Bros.
Now this particular short is rarely seen these days. Partially because "Coal Black" is badly dated. Take -- for example -- the photo below of a sight gag from this movie. This animated short attempts to demonstrate how truly wealthy the evil Queen is by showing the piles of tires as well as the sacks of sugar & coffee that she keeps inside her castle.
Now obviously this particular joke doesn't really register for today's audiences. But back during World War II (when Americans were regularly dealing with the rationing of rubber, sugar & coffee), this sight gag always got a huge laugh.
Another reason that "Coal Black and de Sebben Dwarfs" is seldom seen these days is that ... Well, to be honest, this Bob Clampett cartoon isn't really all that P.C. I mean, check out this sign which allegedly lists Murder, Inc. rates back during the War years:
Now obviously, some JHM readers out there are going to offended by the use of the term "Japs." But back during World War II, particularly in the days following Pearl Harbor, that was the rather derogatory term that many Americans used when describing someone of Japanese descent.
Mind you, the Japanese aren't the only folks who tend to take offense at screenings of "Coal Black and de Sebben Dwarfs." Many African-Americans are also offended by the racial stereotypes that are depicted in this particular animated film.
Me? I can understand that. The way that most of the characters are depicted in "Coal Black" is racially offensive today. But -- that said -- if you can just look past the "Amos & Andy" -seque dialogue and all the racial stereotypes ... There's some truly amazing animation to be found in this Warner Brothers short. Which is why -- back in 1994 -- "Coal Black" was named as one of the "50 Greatest Cartoons of All Time."
For today's article, what I'd like to focus on is how closely the animators at Warners chose to follow the original "Snow White" when staging scenes and/or setting up gags in "Coal Black."
Take -- for example -- how the hero & the heroine meet. In Disney's "Snow White," the princess gets her first glimpse of her handsome prince by seeing his reflection in the water of a well. In "Coal Black," So White first spies Prince Chawmin' by seeing his reflection in her laundry tub.
Copyright Disney Enterprises LLC / Warners Bros.
In both films, the evil queen discovers that the Snow White / So White characters have fallen for their particular princes by peerily angrily through a curtain.
Copyright Disney Enterprises LLC / Warner Bros.
Both princesses eventually find themselves wandering through menacing forests ...
... where even the trees appear to have eyes.
Where each evil Queen, as she works in her particular secret laboratory on the poison apple, is lit so that she has a dramatic shadow behind her.
Copyright Disney Enterprises LLC / Warner Bros.
Where each Queen disguises herself as a crone wth an over-sized nose in order to trick the young princess into eating the poisoned apple.
Of course, the one key difference between these two animated films is that Prince Charming's kiss does awake Snow White in the Disney version. Whereas Prince Chawmin' tries & tries in "Coal Black." But So White stays "stiff as a board" ...
... Until Dopey decides to plant a kiss on the sleeping princess. And that kiss ... Well, as you can see, Dopey's kiss really gets So White's motor racing.
Look, I know. A number of you may have been offended by the images that I've used in today's article. If that was really the case ... Well, then, I apologize for the unintended offense.
It's just that ... So many people have heard about "Coal Black and de Sebben Dwarfs" and how offensive this particular Warner Bros. short is supposedly is. But very few folks have actually seen this Bob Clampett film 'til now. Which makes it rather difficult for most people to form an opinion about this often-censored short.
But thanks to the nice folks over at www.youtube.com, now you can watch "Coal Black and de Sebben Dwarfs" and decide for yourself whether it's right for Warner Bros. to pull a "Song of the South" with this particular animated short. Keeping "Coal Black" locked away in the vault, so that very un-P.C. cartoon can't possibly offend anyone.
Speaking of Bob Clampett: Over 25 years later, Bob would take another swing at Walt. Only this time around, Clampett wasn't making fun of one particular Disney film. But -- rather -- the entire "Happiest Place on Earth."
Copyright Image Entertainment
Come back tomorrow and I'll share some of the better gags from this particular episode of "The Beany & Cecil Show."
In the meantime, what are your thoughts on "Coal Black and de Sebben Dwarfs"? Does this Warner Bros. short really deserve the "Song of the South" treatment? Or should this cartoon be included on one of the upcoming "Looney Tunes: Golden Collection" DVD sets?