Spoof of 'Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937)' with an all-black cartoon cast. Many WWII references, including rationing (the evil Queen is a hoarder of sugar and rubber tires) and Jeep vehicles (the Sebben Dwarfs come to the rescue in three of them). Also spoofs the extreme close-up of Kane's lips uttering "Rosebud" in 'Citizen Kane (1941)'. Written by
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Mel Blanc's contract with Warner Brothers gave him sole voice credit for all Warner's cartoons, however most of the voices are provided by members of the all-black revue "Jump For Joy" which was playing in Los Angeles at the time this cartoon was made. See more »
Who goes there friend or foe?
You're with the seven dwarfs? That's what I want to know
We're in the army now!, we're not behind the plow!
It takes us cats to catch them rats, we're in the army now!
Well look who's in the suits and the suits share the zoots, and wacky off the khaki now!
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A unique "That's All, Folks!" card features an animated shot of Mammy and a little girl rocking in an armchair. See more »
Coal Black's obscurity helps cartoon buffs to describe it in gushing terms. Animation historians call it one of the greatest cartoons that Warner Brothers put out. It's a product of its time, they writeit came from an America that still enjoyed a minstrel show. Hollywood was giving the public black mammies, Steppin Fetchit, shucking and jiving, Amos and Andy. We can view those live-action films with a sense of historical distance the film stock looks ancient, the acting looks hammy, and the actors themselves are generally dead. However, cartoons don't age like that. Though the film needs restoration, Prince Chawmin' looks to be as ludicrously vibrant today as he was in 1942 just more shocking.
To those who say, "The film exists and it's wrong to deny that " Well, yeah. That doesn't mean we should put this into rotation on Cartoon Network. Your average viewer doesn't know or care about context. Coal Black provokes a visceral reaction. It churns up the ugliest parts of American history, reminding us that we're still a long way from having racial inequities worked out. Maybe Clampett was just having fun, but in today's climate and without commentary (i.e., without couching it in a documentary), Coal Black can look degrading.
Bob Clampett's style was to exaggerate, stretch, distort, and rubberize. Applying this style to the racial stereotypes of the dayeven if he did so in fun, or even in admirationClampett produced some truly grotesque character designs. It makes Coal Black hard to reconcile. Freeze-frame it at some points and it looks like racist propaganda. Watch it as a cartoon, however, and it rollicks along good-naturedly.
Coal Black is Clampett's celebration of black culture and jazz, and to make it he fought with the studio to bring in as many black musicians and voices as he could. It's a jubilant film, and to watch it ignorant of race is to enjoy a bunch of rubbery cartoon characters in a twisted, high-speed parody of Snow White (there's even a jab at Disney's overuse of rotoscopingcheck the beginning of the dance number). Jazz and action bounce along in wonderful syncopation, and seven minutes fly by so fast that they feel like two. Rod Scribner's animation is often astounding.
It's worth hunting for, it's worth talking about, and in ten years maybe it'll be time for Cartoon Network to dust it off, restore it, and put it on an official DVD. In the meantime, enthusiasts can have the satisfaction of tracking down a rare, paradoxical cartoon made by a brilliant collaboration.
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