Should films with antiquated, offensive treatment of race be seen? Or should they be banned, kept inside a vault forever or destroyed? This is a debate that often comes up when films like 'Birth of a Nation,' 'Song of the South' and 'Triumph of the Will' are discussed for potential screenings and/or home video release. But how about 'Coal Black and de Sebben Dwarfs'? Or 'Jungle Jitters'? Those are two of the "Censored Eleven," a group of infamous Warner Bros. animated shorts -- mostly of the 'Merrie Melodies' franchise, though one is a Chuck Jones-helmed 'Looney Tunes' cartoon -- that have been officially withheld from syndication by United Artists since 1968. Now, after forty-two years, these films are set for release sometime in 2011 through the Warner Archive, according to ToonZone, who learned the news this week at the New York Comic-Con.
All eleven films can currently be seen via bootleg videos and on YouTube, including the most well-known shorts featuring Bugs Bunny. Eight of them were also screened earlier this year in association with the TCM Classic Film Festival, partly as a test to see if they'd be worthy of a DVD release. Like other controversial racially offensive works, they have long been deemed historically significant. However, it's doubtful that, despite the collection being Warner's "most requested title," it will be heavily marketed, especially as a collection to be enjoyed by kids.
The films, which were directed by animation legends like Friz Freleng, Tex Avery, Bob Clampett and Jones, are unmistakably important and worth a curious look, as are other non-"Censored Eleven" titles from Warner Bros., Disney, Fleischer, Hanna-Barbera and other works recognized by the Historical Preservation Library of Banned Cartoons. Even if this collection is a success, though, we're still unlikely to see a home video release for 'Song of the South,' which Disney CEO Robert Iger continues to claim is just too offensive.