I spotted a number of these on YouTube ages ago. I should have written about the phenomenon of banned cartoons turning up there--it's not like Warner Bros. pays any attention to me. The New York Times, however:
Among the millions of clips on the video-sharing Web site YouTube are 11 racially offensive Warner Brothers cartoons that have not been shown in an authorized release since 1968.
This is undoubtedly the most famous (among film historians, critics and buffs, anyway).
UPDATE: I forgot h/t to one of the Gawker sites, where I saw this first.
In the actual cartoon, the Snow White character is not called "Coal Black"--she's "So' White." Why? One of the oldest fears in Hollywood--the fear of the Wrath of Disney. She's voiced by Vivian Dandridge, Dorothy's sister and a singer-actress in her own right.
The 7-minute Merrie Melodie is packed with racial stereotypes and all manner of (offensive) World War 2-era jokes. Such as . . .the hitmen hired to "black out So' White" list discounts on their car door: "Midgets 1/2 Price. Japs Free!"
The reason it's in demand, however, is because it's a key 'toon in the peak years (1942-46) of director Robert Clampett. Not everyone wants it available, however. Also from the NY Times:
These cartoons were controversial when first released; the N.A.A.C.P. unsuccessfully protested “Coal Black” before it was shown in 1943. Richard McIntire, the director of communications for the N.A.A.C.P., wrote in an e-mail message that “the cartoons are despicable. We encourage the films’ owners to maintain them as they are — that is, locked away in their vaults.”
Far left: The Disney Version
Left: Typical WB irreverence.
More background on the so-called "Censored Eleven" Warner Bros. cartoons is here.
UPDATE: I just got Universal's second volume of Woody Woodpecker toons. Guess what? There are some less than racially sensitive cartoons included, like 100 Pygmies and Andy Panda. And nobody gives a crap: The set comes with the "adult collector/not for kids" disclaimer, that's it. WB is protecting the Looney Tunes brand--that's all.
These toons, all directed by Chuck Jones, don't depend on Inki being a stereotype. He could be replaced by Sniffles the Mouse, or Porky Pig, or even Elmer Fudd--any character that's naive. The offensiveness is in how he's drawn of course, and the hook each toon repeats: A dog (Inki at the Circus) or lion cub (Caveman Inki) or such wants to eat the bone in Inki's hair. Then this weird bird shows up, things get, um, weird.
It's a shame that they do feature Inki, because the real star of the cartoons is this weird bird, this existential nemesis, the Minah Bird, who happens to be the greatest character Chuck Jones ever created (this side of Michigan J. Frog). Animals quake at his approach. He walks through mountains, and can't be held by any lock. Here he is:
The Minah Bird doesn't look like much and doesn't make a sound, but his entrances and exits, and the combination of his silly walk and serious theme music ("Fingel's Cave" theme by Mendelssohn) make him, um, hilarious. Seriously. Jones once said that the series drove Walt Disney nuts. Disney would run the films for his animators over and over, unable to figure out why they were so funny. Jones seemed quite satisfied with this.