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

Nicholas Sammond, Author

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Performance, Page 70

Celebrations of Walt Disney typically praise Steamboat Willie (1928) as the first sound cartoon... a claim that is at least four years off. (The Fleischers, for one, were producing sound cartoons as early as 1924.) More significantly, though, they often fail to note that Mickey Mouse performs a minstrel-show standard, "Old Zip Coon," on the bodies of the farm animals he is transporting on the paddle wheel steamer on which he is first mate. 

In the days when minstrel shows were more common, Mickey's minstrel makeup and gloves, and his choice of music, would have been more immediately recognizable. Today it is less obvious to contemporary audiences. Compare this cartoon to Mickey's Mellerdrammer (1934).
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