Hey kids (of all ages), it’s Saturday Morning Cartoon time again!
Last week I featured Barney Bear, MGM’s first original cartoon star, created by Rudolph Ising. Of course, Ising and his partner Hugh Harman had been in the biz since the early silent era, working for Disney when young Walt was making Felix The Cat knockoffs in Kansas City, ultimately winding-up with him in California making Oswald the Lucky Rabbit pictures for Universal. Seeing how Walt lost Oswald to his distributors, Harman and Ising made sure to copyright their own character creation for themselves.
The character they created is of considerable importance to the history of American animation. But, due to the cancer of Political Correctness, has been downplayed and subjected to revision for decades. For, you see, Bosko was a little n*gger… Back in the 1980s I saw an early model sheet at a museum exhibit, and that’s exactly how he was identified on the page. (Minus the asterisk, which is for BitChute’s censors.)
A Negro caricature wasn’t considered offensive in the early 1930s, when people were too busy surviving the Depression to be a bunch of oversensitive snowflakes. Mickey Mouse and many other ‘toons were basically minstrel show blackface as well. But Bosko didn’t have the fig leaf of being a non-human in later years.
He was the first star of the LOONEY TUNES before Bugs, Daffy, or even Porky had been thought-of. When things went sour between Harman-Ising and the middle-man selling their shorts to Warner Bros., they were able to walk and take Bosko with them! They then used him in some of the HAPPY HARMONIES pictures they made for MGM distribution… Now with Bosko in color, for what little difference that made. His ’20s design didn’t benefit much from the added spectrum, and was becoming dated pretty quickly. So he got a major redesign…
And here’s where all the later apologists who claimed he was a “living inkblot” of no particular race, ethnicity, or even species fall on their faces. In ’35 Bosko got updated with far more realistic detail, and was undeniably a negro boy.
That redesign lasted just seven outings. But he got yet another over half a century later, when he and his girlfriend Honey made a comeback in an episode of TINY TOON ADVENTURES on TV. For that appearance, they retconned the couple into anthropomorphic animals of vague species.
Here are his first WB and MGM pictures, along with his 1935 MGM new look. More from the OldHorseman.