Most fans of wacky cartoon rabbit Bugs Bunny remember him posing as the Barber of Seville or escaping Yosemite Sam's stew pot.
But some less familiar Bugs skits are so controversial they are being banned from a cartoon retrospective in the works for next month on the Cartoon Network.
Executives had planned a complete run of the Bugs Bunny cartoons, but decided to omit 12 of the animated shorts because they were considered too racially charged, the Wall Street Journal reported today.
In an episode called "All This and Rabbit Stew," Bugs distracts a black rabbit hunter by rattling a pair of dice. In another episode, Bugs imitates a blackfaced Al Jolson. In another, he calls an oafish, bucktoothed Eskimo a "big baboon."
The controversial episodes, dating back to the 1930s and '40s, are representative of the racial stereotypes common in early cartoons. Unflattering depictions of blacks, American Indians, Japanese and Germans are quite common in cartoons of that era.
The retrospective was being billed as a historic television event, but executives eventually realized how offensive some cartoons would be to some viewers.
Thinking Twice About Historic Episodes
At first, Cartoon Network executives had planned on running the controversial episodes late at night along with prominently displayed disclaimers. But the network changed course and decided to eliminate the dozen cartoons from the lineup.
Warner Bros., the company that owns Bugs Bunny, had protested the inclusion of the 12 episodes in the annual Cartoon Network event, entitled "June Bugs," but didn't go so far as to veto them, the Journal reported. Warner Bros. reportedly expressed its worry that the episodes might affect the company's extensive merchandising ventures.
The Cartoon Network, owned by AOL Time Warner, Inc., holds a licensing agreement with Warner Bros. for the entire library of Bugs Bunny cartoons.
This isn't the first time Warner Bros. cartoons were pulled for their racially charged content. Others lampooning blacks were taken out of circulation in the late 1960s, animation expert Jerry Beck told the Journal. Cartoons featuring stereotyped American Indians were taken out of circulation about five years ago.