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

Nicholas Sammond, Author

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Labor, Page 109

Walter Lantz’s Voodoo In Harlem (1938) is an excellent example of the fantastic geography of some early sound cartoons. This geography imagined Africa, the Deep South, and the urban ghettoes of the northern United States (typified by Harlem) as one continuous space unified by black bodies. In this clip, stereotypical natives sing about Haitian voodoo practices taking place in the jazz clubs of Harlem.

Also, the inkwell was a powerful trope which was celebrated by animators in their works - the source material from which life sprang, where an ideal, fantastic blackness materialized into being.  Here, savage characters emerge from ink spilled on the floor and at the end of the cartoon return to the inkwell from which they sprang.

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