Censored Eleven - Wikipedia -  In the history of media, there are works that may not seem overtly controversial at the time of their creation, but later come to be regarded as such as time passes and perceptions of morals, beliefs, and societial issues change. Animation is no different, and there is no better example of this within the medium than the Censored Eleven.

The “Censored Eleven” are a collection of eleven different animated shorts — ten released under the Merrie Melodies label, one released under the Looney Tunes label — created between the years of 1931 and 1944. The full list is as follows:

These cartoons were deemed overly offensive in 1968 by Associated Artists Productions rightsowner “United Artists”. Unlike animated shorts edited to remove offensive content (notably from Tom and Jerry), these eleven were banned simply due to the fact that the offensive racial themes were so thorough in the plot that this was not a possibility. 

As with all history, the most horrific, bigoted and downright wrong must not be forgotten. Erasing these would be like saying it never happened, and only from studying history can we learn to better ourselves. Contemporary audiences would react drastically differently to these cartoons today than when they were aired, as popular opinion and political correctness has evolved with society. Though there are still many examples of racial bigotry and hate crimes today, animation of the sort is much less common. 

The majority of these cartoons listed in the eleven are associated with “blackface” depicting black people with enormous frog like lips, lazy or dimwitted behaviour and jive talk. Scenes of them eating water melons, stealing chickens, being scared of ghosts, obsessed with throwing dice and more are also rampant. Relating to the study of emotion, this would invoke anger and outrage in a large majority of society today, but would have had a much different impact back in the day they were produced, as they had an intended audience, and catered (although in a classically exaggerated cartoon style) to the ideological norms and standard thought processes of people at the time. 


Bosko, the Talk-Ink Kid

1 in 132 of Looney Tunes (1929-1939)
animated short film history
Release: May 1929
Country: USA
Director: Hugh Harman, Rudolf Ising

“Bosko, the Talk-Ink Kid was a short film produced to sell a series of Bosko cartoons. The film was never released to theaters, and therefore not seen by a wide audience until 2000.

Rudolf Ising is thinking of ideas for a new character, until he draws a blackfaced person, who comes to life. The new character introduces himself as Bosko, and he speaks, sings, dances and plays the piano before Ising sucks him into his ink pen and pours him back into the inkwell. Bosko pops out of the bottle and promises to return.

In 1927, Harman and Ising were still working for the Walt Disney Studios on the series Alice Comedies. Hugh Harman created Bosko in 1927 to capitalize on the new ‘talkie.’ Harman began thinking about making a sound cartoon with Bosko in 1927, before he even left Walt Disney. Hugh Harman made drawings of the new character and registered it with the copyright office in 1928. The character was registered as a ‘Negro boy’ under the name of Bosko.

After leaving Walt Disney in the spring of 1928, Harman and Ising went to work for Charles Mintz on Universal’s second-season Oswald the Lucky Rabbit cartoons. April 1929 found them moving on again, leaving Universal to market their new cartoon character. In May 1929, they produced a short pilot cartoon, Bosko, the Talk-Ink Kid, that showcased their ability to animate soundtrack-synchronized speech and dancing. Bosko became the star vehicle for the studio’s new Looney Tunes cartoon series.

 This short is a landmark in animation history as being the first cartoon to predominantly feature synchronized speech, though Fleischer Studios’ Song Car-Tune ‘My Old Kentucky Home’ was the first cartoon to contain animated dialogue a few years earlier. This cartoon set Harman and Ising ‘apart from early Disney sound cartoons because it emphasized not music but dialogue.’

In his book, Of Mice and Magic, Leonard Maltin states that this early version of Bosko, ‘was in fact a cartoonized version of a young black boy… he spoke in a Southern Negro dialect… in subsequent films this characterization was eschewed, or perhaps forgotten. This could be called sloppiness on the part of Harman and Ising, but it also indicates the uncertain nature of the character itself.’

Although Harman and Ising based Bosko’s looks on Felix the Cat, Bosko got his personality from the blackface characters of the minstreland vaudeville shows popular in the 1930s. In keeping with the stereotypes of the minstrel shows, Bosko is a natural at singing, dancing, and playing any instrument he encounters. In early cartoons, Bosko (voiced by Carman Maxwell) even speaks in an exaggerated version of black speech (however, this was only in the first cartoon. All later cartoons would give him a falsetto voice). Despite the parallels between Bosko and the blackface performers, Ising in later years would deny that the character was ever supposed to be a black caricature, and rather claim he was supposed to be ‘an inkspot kind of thing.’

According to Terry Lindvall and Ben Fraser, Bosko and Honey ‘were the most balanced portrayals of blacks in cartoons to that point.’

The short was considered lost for many decades, with only the film’s Vitaphone soundtrack still in existence.”


Bosko, the Talk-Ink Kid is available on YouTube.


Silly Symphony - Merbabies directed by Rudolf Ising and Vernon Stallings, 1938

A vintage 12.5 in. x 10 in. peg hole paper of a water concept art that was embellished in pencil, ink and gouache. The artistic piece itself measures 5 in. x 7 in., which features a colorful underwater setting where the merbabies amuse and perform their circus show. The artist responsible for this piece, Ferdinand Horvath, signed on the bottom of the right. Horvath is legendary for his contribution to backgrounds, character designs and scenarios to over fifty Disney shorts. His work also extends to Disney’s debut film, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.


Happy Harmonies “Bottles” 1936
Super rare and totally awesome


The Booze Hangs High

5 in 132 of Looney Tunes (1929-1939)
animated short film history
Release: Dec., 1930
Country: USA
Director: Hugh Harman, Rudolf Ising

“Bosko has a grand time on the farm, dancing with a cow, playing a horse’s tail like a violin and getting drunk with three pigs.

This short references the musical operetta film Song of the Flame, which features a song titled ‘The Goose Hangs High.’”


The Booze Hangs High is available online.