Birth of an Industry: Blackface Minstrelsy and the Rise of American Animation
Nicholas Sammond is Associate Professor of Cinema Studies at the University of Toronto. He is the author of Babes in Tomorrowland: Walt Disney and the Making of the American Child, 1930-60, and the editor of Steel Chair to the Head: Essays on Professional Wrestling, both also published by Duke University Press.
This chapteroffers a detailed and careful analysis of how animation demonstrates the historical specificity, the continuities and discontinuities in racial formations. The transition to sound was ushered in by jazz music and jazz cartoons: fantastic representations of the imagined realms of a black jazz underworld. Some of these cartoons continued in the tradition of blackface minstrelsy. Others, though, trafficked in a relatively more virulent form of racist caricature, visiting fantastic violence on ostensibly black bodies. This chapter charts the complex relationship between cartoon minstrels and racist caricature in 1930s and 1940s animation. Animation, so suited to expressing the impossible, unleashed...