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

Nicholas Sammond, Author
Space, page 29 of 36


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The Fleischers' Snow White (1932) features Cab Calloway as Ko-Ko, who is shown as a "spook" dancing in front of a ghastly backdrop associated with jazz and the ghetto. Depicting Calloway singing St. James Infirmary Blues, this cartoon projects fantasies of African-American life and culture as a dangerous yet desirable underworld, playing on the ambivalence of stereotype. Note also the addition of the minstrel face in the Queen's mirror.

Walter Lantz's Scrub Me Mama to a Boogie Beat (1941) features a southern backwater, Lazytown, only somewhat shaken out of its torpor by the rhythms of Harlem, animated by the arrival of a female cityslicker. The cartoon creates the seamless geography of blackness that links the South to Harlem via jazz and the black body, while reproducing the fantasy of that body as torpid, sensual, and rhythmic.
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