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The First Looney Tunes Ever Canceled

Mixed with Black, White, Native American, Jewish and Asian ancestry, Koriander is not afraid to tackle issues of race in media.

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Bosko and Honey

Decades before your parents decided to get angry about people calling out Pepe LePew for his constant sexual harassment and French stereotyping or Speedy Gonzalez for stereotyping Mexicans, there were other characters getting the boot.

Bosko was the first Looney Tune ever drawn. Created by Hugh Harman and Rudolph Ising, Bosko, his girlfriend Honey, her fluffy dog, his dog Bruno, and her student Wilbur graced many a silver screen. Bosko first sang in the independent short Bosko the Talk-Ink Kid in 1929 before officially debuting with Honey in the Looney Tunes short Sinkin' in the Bathtub in 1930.

Aside from being the first male and female cartoon stars for the new Warner Brothers line of cartoons, they were also the first consistent, non-one-shot Black cartoon characters in the cartoon industry. Bosko was the first consistent Black cartoon male to be seen owning his own business in multiple shorts while Honey was the first Black teacher to appear in a full series. Honey, voiced by child star Rochelle Hudson, who had turned 13 when Sinkin' in the Bathtub debuted, was both a dancer and a music teacher, jobs not typically held by Black characters back in those days. Bosko was the first Black character to have more than one actor playing him, and in his final Looney Tunes short Bosko's Picture Show, he was the first cartoon character in history to yell out an "F-bomb" loudly audible on the sixth Looney Tunes Golden Collection DVD set. It was edited out in 1950s TV prints.

Bosko and Honey entertained Looney Tunes fans until contract disputes in 1933 led to Harman and Ising jumping over to MGM's new cartoon division with all of the characters in tow, making Bosko and Honey the first Black cartoon stars to jump from one company's ownership to another, and the second cartoons overall behind Oswald the Rabbit, who had gone from Disney to Charles Mintz and Universal.

Bosko and Honey immediately became the first Black cartoon stars to jump from black and white shorts to color with 1934's Bosko's Parlor Pranks. Between 1935 and 1936, they would also become the first Black cartoons to be redesigned for a more modern era. Out were the minstrel Mickey Mouse faces, in came more realistic heads and youth. Bosko and Honey went from being adults with multiple jobs to being children living on farms.

But Honey would only appear in a total of four MGM shorts, despite appearing on plenty of merchandise, and Bosko was phased out by 1938 in favor of Harman and Ising's Happy Harmonies one-shots.

The two later appeared in the Tiny Toons episode Fields of Honey, but they were portrayed as minstrel dogs in a new design that later birthed the Animaniacs. But with the exception of a cameo in Space Jam and another in Animaniacs in 1996, Bosko and Honey found themselves canceled.

This is because they were very racist.

While Bosko drops his faux-Ebonics speech very early on, the duo remain an eyesore. Their initial design was meant to parody other minstrel blackface-based cartoon characters, such as Mickey Mouse, Goofy, Oswald, and Felix the Cat, all of whom were drawn with white or peach faces, black tar bodies, and white gloves. They looked just like blackface-wearing comedians in vaudeville.

Honey was drawn topless until 1936 and her bottom was constantly exploited for gags.

Once humanized, the kids appear with peachy bubble lips, intended to make fun of the features of an African American child.

But they weren't the only cartoons canceled.

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Replacing Bosko and Honey in the line-up for Looney Tunes in 1933 were Buddy, his girlfriend Cookie, his dog Bozo, and Cookie's baby brother Elmer. They were in a limited run of shorts that only lasted until 1935.

At first, audiences rebuked Buddy, because the animation for the first few shorts didn't match the quality of Harman and Ising's Bosko, and because a bulk of the gags and story elements were stolen from Bosko's previous series.

Buddy in his final design looks very similar to Bosko, while Cookie is seen as a very skinny, kind of snobby replacement for Honey. While Bosko and Honey were blue collar, Buddy and especially Cookie were seen as a little more wealthy in most shorts, creating a disconnect between them and their viewers, whom were trying to overcome the Great Depression.

And then Buddy sort of owned slaves, 69 years after slavery ended in the US.

In the 1934 short Buddy's Circus, Buddy owns a circus filled with elephants, lions, and differently-abled people from the continent of Africa. He exploits their handicaps and talents for cash in a series of gags that wouldn't fly on today's television, and this is only one in a list of cartoons where Buddy exploits people of color.

Like Bosko, Buddy has enjoyed a cameo on Animaniacs, but not very much else.

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Mrs. Dinah Delilah Mammy Two Shoes

While not a Looney Tunes character originally, Warner Brothers now owns most of the shorts this off and on canceled character appears in.

While working for MGM in 1935, Harman and Ising had agreed to do side work for Walt Disney, who was finding himself short staffed because Snow White. They agreed to help out on a few of Walt's Silly Symphonies cartoons, while Walt had his staff use a character Harman and Ising had designed.

An angry Black woman in striped stockings, Walt named her "Mammy Two Shoes" because you could only see her from the waist down.

Another name for her was "Aunt Delilah," which was used by a beautiful blonde child she was cleaning up for, when she wasn't abusing Mickey's dog Pluto.

This was not her original purpose, and Harman and Ising took her back along with her actress Linda Randolph to MGM, where from 1937 to 1938, she was seen as Bosko's mother.

Like her later appearances in the Tom and Jerry shorts, "Mammy" or Delilah as she was in Disney, or Dinah as she was in the Tom and Jerry comic books, owned her own home and, in the Bosko shorts, her own farm. She baked cookies for Bosko's grandmother and owned her own nice dishes.

This carried over into Tom and Jerry. She isn't working for someone else. She is cleaning up her own home. She has her own jewelry, her own dresses, and considering the fact that so many Black characters were not drawn as living in nice places back then, it was a welcome change.

But she spoke in a drawl. She couldn't spell, and she abuses Tom, all of which are negative traits. In later shorts, she was digitally replaced with a thin, White woman voiced by June Foray, while her own shorts would be re-dubbed by both June Foray and Thea Vidale in the 1990s.

Homage is given to her roots as Bosko's mom in the Warner Brothers' Tom and Jerry Tales, where in the Christmas episode, her White counterpart "Mrs. Two Shoes" has a picture of a White Bosko and her husband on a mantle.

While it's rational why these cartoons got canceled, we can learn from our past. The fair thing is to release the shorts on uncensored DVDs as Warner Brothers has been doing slowly over the years with proper disclaimers, market the discs as they have been to adults only, and encourage parents to explain to the kids why none of this is repeatable behavior.

Suddenly, a sexually harassing skunk getting the boot doesn't seem so bad.

© 2021 Koriander Bullard

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