Charles daCosta on Racial Stereotyping in Media

Racial Stereotypes in Media from Ogre on Vimeo.

My friend and former Savannah College of Art and Design colleague, Charles daCosta, who now teaches at  Swinburne University of Technology, in Melbourne, recently made an appearance on Africa Amara, a TV show broadcast on C31, where he talked about racial stereotyping in media. Along the way, he discusses his book, Framing Invisibility: Racial Stereotyping and Selective Positioning in Contemporary British Animation, though his discussion is broader than that title implies.

“It’s Not Cricket to Pass a Picket”– The Disney Strike 70 Years Later

Disney Strike Are We Mice or MenMay 28th marked the 70th anniversary of the start of the Disney strike by members of the Screen Cartoon Guild (later the Screen Cartoonist Guild). The nine-week walkout, precipitated by the firing of Art Babbitt, the head of the Guild’s Disney’s unit, is a legendary event whose full story has yet to be told. Though I may someday finish my history of the beginnings of the union movement in American animation, I’m obviously not going to do it here. Rather, I thought I would say a few words about the strike’s place in the history of the labor movement within the film industry and a bit about how it affected animation itself.

Disney Unit of Screen Cartoon Guild On the Line cartoon 5 June 1941

The strike was, in a sense, was the closing event of the Hollywood labor wars of the 1930s and seemed to end the Chicago mob’s control over The International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE), the industry’s largest union. Specifically, the Disney strike was the last stand for the mob’s man in Hollywood, Willie Bioff, who tried to prevent being sent to prison by (unsuccessfully) trying to settle the strike on Disney’s behalf.

The unions which supported the strike, under the leadership of Herb Sorrell, the charismatic leader of the studio local of the Painters and Paperhangers Union (under whose aegis the Guild operated) subsequently formed the Conference of Studio Unions. The Conference, after the war, became involved in a series of strikes, including the Battle of Warner Bros. (which I wrote about here), which led to the blacklist, the ouster of the Guild from the major studios and the rise of Ronald Reagan.

disney strike wolf detail

As for animation industry, the strike marked the end of Disney’s Golden Age. And like the Fleischer strike four years earlier, it caused an almost indelible  rift between strikers and nonstrikers. It also led to a heated discussion, especially among strikers and Guild members, about the artistic direction animation was going. This discussion laid the groundwork for the formation of UPA, the studio which changed the face of animation in the 1940s and 1950s.

Images: The drawing on the top is from a mimeographed “Strike Summary” published three weeks into the walkout. The second is from the June 5th issue of On the Line, the daily mimeographed newsletter the Guild’s Disney Unit issued during the strike. Both were copied from originals in the Urban Archives Center of California State University, Northridge’s Oviatt Library. The last image is the last panel of a Guild comic strip version of Three Little Pigs published in a newspaper during the strike which I have seemed to have gotten from a posting at Shaneglines.net.

P.S.: July 7th, 2011.The cartoon from the Disney strike newsletter, On the Line, was probably done by Dan Noonan, a junior animator who did story sketch work on the side; Noonan’s struggles to get by when he first came to Disney helped the Guild’s organizing drive. The newsletter itself was edited by Phil Eastman, best known today as children’s book author P.D. Eastman.

Peace on Earth & An Old Box

Being that it is Christmas time, I thought I would post Hugh Harman’s Peace on Earth, especially as this is the 70th anniversary of its release (7 December 1939); the film’s pacifist theme resonated with the American public in the wake of the outbreak of the World War II in Europe and Harman said it was his favorite film “because it has some meaning and a serious theme.” Peace on Earth, which has some echoes of William Cameron Menzies’ version of H.G. Wells’ Things to Come (1936), earned an Oscar nomination and, according to Harman, a Nobel Peace Prize nomination. The film’s success was not entirely welcomed by the powers that be at MGM, as producer Fred Quimby subsequently scotched Harman’s plans to do a version of his favorite poem, Thomas Gray’s “Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard.”

(Incidentally, this week also marks the 70th anniversary of Dave Fleischer’s Gulliver’s Travels (22 December 1939), which like Peace on Earth also had a pacifist theme — though it was not so blunt in its message.)

Being Christmas, I thought I should also post Paul Driessen’s An Old Box (1975), which the great Dutch-Canadian filmmaker made for the National Film Board of Canada, with music by Normand Roger.