The Isle of Pingo Pongo
The Isle of Pingo Pongo is a 1938 Warner Bros. cartoon directed by Tex Avery. It is the first of Avery's spoofs of travelogues. The cartoon was banned from TV syndication in 1968 by United Artists (the owners at the time) for racist depictions of black people and is one of the "Censored Eleven".
The short follows a cruise ship’s trip from New York to the island, presumably located in the South Seas. The ship sails past the Statue of Liberty, who acts as a traffic cop, past the “Canary Islands” and “Sandwich Islands,” and the overall story was less plausible than some of Tex Avery's other cartoons.
The cartoon revolves around themes of jazz and primitivism, and is set on a remote island. The central character is an early version of Elmer Fudd known as Egghead, and most of the cartoon consists of travelogue-type narration and blackout gags, many including Egghead. The inhabitants of Pingo-Pongo are mostly tall, black, and have big feet and lips. Like other cartoons at this time, the native inhabitants resemble animals and reflect stereotypes of the time. The natives are at first playing drums, then break into a jazz beat, still described as a “primitive savage rhythm,” which leads the audience to connect the savage jungle to modern jazz music. 
The ban has been upheld by the cartoon's successive owners and is unlikely to be released on home video, however, as The New York Times reports, unauthorized copies are relatively easy to find. The cartoon was reissued as a Blue Ribbon Classic, however, a print with original titles is known to exist. Today the cartoon can be easily accessed on YouTube. Additionally, the short was recently viewed with other films part of the Censored Eleven at the TCM Film Festival in Hollywood on April 24, 2010 as part of a classic film series, presented by Donald Bogle.
References[edit | edit source]
- Barrier, Michael. Hollywood Cartoons: American Animation in Its Golden Age. Oxford University Press, 2003. page 343
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