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Birth of An Industry: Blackface Minstrelsy and the Rise of American Animation

Nicholas Sammond, Author
Labor, page 14 of 21


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Labor, Page 122

With the arrival of sound to film, the spaces that cartoons depicted referred more often to Hollywood:

Toyland Premier (1934) features a wide range of celebrity caricatures, from Tarzan to Shirley Temple, to Al Jolson, to Bing Crosby, and the hit comedy duo Laurel and Hardy, all helping Santa out. 

Hollywood Capers (1935) depicts Beans the Cat sneaking into a Hollywood studio by pretending to be Oliver Hardy.

You Ought To Be In Pictures (1940) combines animation and live action, introducing the animated segment by viewing an animator's workspace. This recalls early cartoons which highlighted the animator's hand. The animation otherwise revolves around the importance of the Hollywood studios, and their contrast to the cartoon industry.

Swooner Crooner (1944) features Raymond Scott’s anthem to industrialism, “Powerhouse." With caricatures of teen idols Frank Sinatra and Bing Crosby as the central characters, it parodies the shift of women workers into wartime manufacturing jobs.

Mother Goose Goes Hollywood (1938) was long censored due to its racist stereotypes. In the cartoon, a pie hits Katherine Hepburn in the face, mimicking blackface, and her voice changes to a minstrel dialect. Moreover, the three black stars shown, Cab Calloway, Fats Waller and Stepin Fetchit, all emerge from a pie (like "blackbirds") and are joined by a chorus of minstrels. (Compare this with Pie Pie Blackbird [1932].)
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