FUNKY TURNS 40
BLACK CHARACTER REVOLUTION
Animation Art from Classic Cartoons of the 1970s
National Museum Tour
2014 - 2017
Exhibition Premieres at Schomburg Center, NYC, February 2014
The FUNKY TURNS 40: BLACK CHARACTER REVOLUTION exhibition is now being made available for circulation to museums nationwide through 2017. This special exhibition commemorates the 40th anniversaries of 1970's Saturday Morning cartoons that featured positive Black characters for the first time in television history. The exhibition includes original production cels and drawings used to produce these cartoons. Also included are images from the animated opening to Soul Train and two of the few Black cast/Black focussed animated features that have been produced since the 1970′s, BeBe’s Kids (1992) and Our Friend Martin (1999).
FUNKY TURNS 40 includes 60 pieces of animation art from the Museum Of UnCut Funk collection, one of the world’s most unique and extensive collections of original animation production cels and drawings from 1970‘s. FUNKY TURNS 40 was organized by the Museum of UnCut Funk and is curated by Pamela Thomas, Curator of the Museum.
The exhibition recently finished a very successful presentation at the Schomburg Center For Research In Black Culture in New York where it was seen by 73,677 people, a +145% increase over the original attendance estimate of 30,000 visitors. The exhibition audience was multi-cultural and multigenerational.
FUNKY TURNS 40 is now on display at the DuSable Museum in Chicago. Upcoming venues include: The Northwest African American Museum,
Seattle, WA; The Reading Public Museum, Reading, PA; the Pensacola Museum of Art.
Pensacola, FL; and The Lamen Library, Little Rock, AR. Dates are still available in 2015, 2016 and 2017.
The exhibition has received strong national and local press coverage, including a New York Times article that appeared on the front page of their Arts section and online.
From 1900 to 1960, over 600 cartoon shorts featuring Black characters were produced by some of Hollywood’s greatest White animators and biggest film studios. These theatrical cartoon film shorts portrayed Blacks in a racially derogatory and stereotypical manner as cannibals, coons, mammies and Stepin Fetchit characters with exaggerated features and ignorant dialect. Several famous Black jazz musicians such as Cab Calloway, Fats Waller and Louis Armstrong were also portrayed as stereotypical caricatures. In the 1950’s, several of these racist cartoons were shown on television. As a result of the civil rights movement, in the 1960’s the racial content of many of these cartoons was edited out or the cartoons were pulled from television altogether. Notably, The Censored Eleven, a group of Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies cartoons were banned from broadcast because they were deemed to be too offensive for contemporary audiences. In the case of The Censored Eleven, racist themes were so essential and so completely pervasive in the cartoons that no editing could make them acceptable for distribution.
It wasn't until the late 1960's/1970’s that for the first time Black children could see cartoon characters that looked, talked and acted more realistically like them, such as Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids, as well as more positive depictions of their favorite Black music icons and sports heroes like The Jackson 5ive featuring Michael Jackson and his brothers, The Harlem Globetrotters and I Am The Greatest featuring Muhammad Ali. For the first time Black children were able to see their cartoon role models teach positive messages like family values, the importance of education, friendship, civic duty, personal responsibility and sportsmanship.
The original production cels and drawings in the exhibition were actually used under the camera to produce these cartoons. The hand drawn and inked cels used in the animation production process of the1970’s represent a lost art form compared to today’s digitally created cartoons.
Exhibition Installation - July 2014
of African American HIstory, Chicago, IL
The 60 Works of Art Featured in the Exhibition
Represent Several Historical Firsts:
- First positive Black male character – first positive Black male musician in a Saturday morning cartoon series – Peter Jones – The Hardy Boys (1969)
- First positive Black male character – first positive Black male athlete in a Primetime cartoon series – Freight Train – Where's Huddles (1970)
- First positive Black cast Saturday morning cartoon series – first positive Black cast Saturday morning cartoon series featuring Black athletes – Harlem Globetrotters (1970)
- First positive Black female character – first positive Black female musician in a Saturday morning cartoon series – Valerie Brown – Josie And The Pussy Cats (1970)
- First positive Black cast Saturday morning cartoon series featuring Black musicians – The Jackson 5ive (1971)
- Longest running positive Black cast Saturday morning cartoon series – Fat and the Cosby Kids (1972-1984)
- First truly multicultural Saturday morning cartoon series – first Saturday morning cartoon series featuring Black characters to be created from a syndicated comic strip, Morrie Turner’s Wee Pals – Kid Power (1972)
- First Schoolhouse Rock episode to feature Black Characters – I Got Six (1973)
- First Black character to appear in a Peanuts television cartoon special – Franklin Armstrong – There’s No Time For Love Charlie Brown (1973)
- First positive Black character from a television series to appear as the same character in a Saturday morning cartoon series – Lt. Uhura – Star Trek (1973)
- First Black male superhero character in a cartoon – second Schoolhouse Rock episode to feature Black Characters – Verb (1974)
- First Black male superhero character in a Saturday morning cartoon series – Hong Kong Phooey (1974)
- First Black male character to appear in an Archies Saturday morning cartoon series – Chuck Clayton – The U.S. Of Archie (1974)
- First Black female superhero character in a Saturday morning cartoon series – Astrea – Space Sentinels (1977)
- First positive cartoon series featuring Black characters to be created from a series of children’s books –Ted and John Shearer’s Billy Jo Jive book series - Aired as segment during Sesame Street –
Billy Jo Jive (1978)
- First Black superhero duo in a Saturday morning cartoon series – First Black Husband and Wife superhero duo in a Saturday morning cartoon series – Segment in Tarzan and the Super 7 – Superstretch and Microwoman (1979)