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Cartoon Hell #18 – “Plane Dumb”

March 18, 2009

Cartoon Hell is TheKarpuk’s attempt to review every single installment in an awful $5 collection called “150 Classic Cartoons” purchased at his local Wal-Mart. Your prayers are welcome.

Oh good, hijinks of some sort.

Oh good, hijinks of some sort.

I knew sooner or later I’d have to revisit good old Tom and Jerry, and by that I mean the two ragamuffins from the crappy line of 30’s cartoons, not the lovable cat and mouse team that won Oscars in their heyday. So knowing that there’s about 5 or 6 of the damn things, I picked the one with the wackiest title assuming it’d be another few minutes of buildings and other objects dancing to mediocre brass-heavy music.

Egg-shaped planes once dominated the skies of Europe.

Egg-shaped planes once dominated the skies of Europe.

We join our heroes flying a two seater plane, a perfectly conventional scenario in which two mischief-making fellows can surely run amok. Nope, nothing breaking out of the mold so far. Tom says, “When we fly this plane to Africa, we’ll be heroes!” Well, that’s kind of weird, but oh well.

Africa appears to be about a mile wide.

Africa appears to be about a mile wide.

As pictured above, Africa is lovingly rendered in faithful detail, but something isn’t sitting right with me, something feels off, like we’re drifting.

Tom is excited, but Jerry grows nervous, saying, “We won’t be safe in Africa.” That doesn’t strike me as a particularly generous thing to say about an entire continent. Next he’ll be locking their doors and rolling up the windows.

Jerry’s solution? “We’ll disguise ourselves.”

And I say, “Wait, what the hell did he just say? Oh, no, what is he reaching for inside the plane? Oh, no, Tom, don’t! Not the can of black paint. DON’T! STOP!”

Sigh.

Sigh.

Ffffffffucking hell. We have gone from zero to full on separate but equal, minstrel show, grease-paint-darkie racism in roughly a minute of cartoon time. Their covert disguise is Al-Jolson-style black face.

I’d like to point out that I bought this collection at Wal-Mart, a store that on more than one occasion refused to sell certain albums because of their suggestive content. Let’s just let that irony marinate and move on.

This is how it's going to be for the rest of this entry. You have been warned.

I made the same face through most of this film.

Uncle Tom and Jerry crash into the ocean after showing off their prowess at talking in the authentic lingo of the African, which to you or me might just sound like a terrible parody of an inebriated jazz man. They sit on the broken wing of the plane making jokes about the ocean, but beyond the wretched sound quality my brain is still screaming from the fact that since applying their disguise both Tom and Jerry only have one tooth each.

The next time an old person tells you how much better cartoons were in the old days, punch them once for me, and then direct them here.  People who say art was better in the old days weren’t paying attention then and they sure as hell aren’t paying attention now.

What's worse is they think the octopus is after their white women.

What's worse is they think the octopus is after their white women.

I’m including more picture than normal, because some of this shit just needs to be documented. What appears to be a blackface octopus climbs unto the debris, clearly exhausted from a day of using lowbrow humor to trivialize the plight of the actual black octopuses.

Jerry says, “I told you I didn’t want to go to Africa.” To which Tom replies, “Wait a minute, is we in Africa?” There’s a huge gap between the two lines, like the voice actor for Tom forgot his line and the sound editor was too lazy to cut out the extra time. The loose feel of ad-libbing comes off as bizarre when you know the scene took hours to draw.

I should point out that they pronounce Africa as “Afica” about half the time.

The octopus didn’t seem particularly menacing before and when it begins kissing the two I have trouble relating to their terror over the situation. It’s an octopus, I’m not even positive it could hurt them purely by being amorous, it’s not like it’s a grizzly bear with a barbed penis or something.

Nonetheless, Tom loses his shit and begins hitting the octopus, who then becomes enraged and starts delivering a series of savage butt punches in retaliation.

Somehow blackface makes everything a little less wacky.

Somehow blackface makes everything a little less wacky.

After the octopus leaves, big nosed sharks begin tickling their feet, and when they realize what’s going on, Tom points out that, “They’ll sho mess you up plenty!” Tom and Jerry have not stopped talking jive since the greasepaint went on.

They run on a treadmill of sharks to escape, with one of them pointing out that there’s something fishy going on. Yes, Tom, there is something fishy, and that something is institutionalized prejudice!

The Sambo Whale primarily krill, small fish, and HATE!

The Sambo Whale primarily krill, small fish, and carpet-baggers!

A savage whale appears on the scene, and in this case I can’t tell if the whale is also in blackface, or if the animators didn’t want to spend too much time drawing various shades of gray. Tom and Jerry end up riding the whale while exchanging hearty portions of jive and shitty jokes.

The whale spout launches them unto land, where the terrain seems pretty cartoonishly typical, a small relief even though no amount of water seems to wash away their Amos and Andy shenanigans.

Several animals walk by giving the impression that not only are the animators ignorant on the topic of Africa, but they’re also unwilling to crack a book on the topic. Several of the creatures look like something out of Tex Avery’s Wackyland.

Minstrel show make up glows in the dark, I don't know if you knew that.

Minstrel show make up glows in the dark, I don't know if you knew that.

Tom and Jerry retreat into a cave, giving me my first and hopefully last glimpse of two characters doing an eyeballs in the dark gag with white lips added.

One yells to the other to stop whistling, to which the others claims innocence, a classic comedy set up. The whistling grows louder, and for some reason light appears and a bat flies through the room whistling loudly. Because, you know, that’s how bats echo locate, by whistling. In this cartoon I’m surprised it wasn’t whistling something from the Confederate songbook.

And because that gag is too good not to use twice, Tom accuses Jerry of holding his leg, and when the lights come on again we are treated to the following:

Appalling and a little creepy. An impressive twofer.

Appalling and a little creepy. An impressive twofer.

That’s right baby, racist skeletons. The perfect compliment to any musical number. And are these African skeletons singing a traditional song of the region? Yes, of course they are, if Alabama is considered part of Africa, because they appear to be singing a negro spiritual of some sort. Why didn’t Disney ever try this with Mickey Mouse?

Now the effect is complete.

Now the effect is complete.

When they run from the cave, clearly terrified by the scars of antebellum slavery, they encounter the natives of the area, tastefully depicted with a bone in their hair. And do you know what they do? Take a guess, it’ll totally throw you for a loop.

Yes, those would be spears.

Yes, those would be spears.

That’s right, they chuck spears at them. Tom and Jerry finally wipe off the make up when faced with African violence. The cartoon ends with actual, honest to god spear chucking.

Boy, they just don’t make em’ like this anymore.

UNPC Moment:

Every single god damn frame from about 1:10 until the credits roll.

Rating: Nearly Unwatchable

I didn’t create a rating suitable for such a response. “Uncomfortable Reminder of Historical Bigotry” is a bit wordy and didn’t come up in my initial brain storming.

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One comment

  1. Even with all that I’d still put it above Baby Huey.



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