Draw the Line

10 Banned Cartoons You’ve Probably Never Seen

Ren and Stimpy banned

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By Sara Franks-Allen

We all know that cartoons can be for kids, adults, or adults who wish they were still kids. But every so often, somebody decides that a cartoon isn’t suitable for any audience. Some of these cartoons are racist, some are violent, and some are downright dangerous. Much like Eric Jonrosh’s The Spoils Before Dying, they were banned by the powers that be and rarely seen. Here are ten cartoons that were all pulled from the airwaves or otherwise made unavailable over the years.

1. Song of the South

Disney’s live-action/animation hybrid based on the tales of the fictional Uncle Remus has been the subject of controversy since its release in 1946. The film’s detractors take issue with its overly rosy depiction of African-American life in the South during the late 1800s. Because Disney is averse to controversy, it’s been out of print for decades in the U.S. Like the original book it’s based on, Song of the South is set after the Civil War during the Reconstruction era. Whatever else the movie may be, it’s not a story about happy slaves.

2. Coal Black and de Sebben Dwarfs

No prizes for guessing what story this 1943 Warner Brothers cartoon is a parody of. The most famous of the “Censored Eleven,” a set of Warner Brothers shorts featuring ethnic stereotypes withheld from syndication, the short reinterprets the Snow White fairy tale with a 1940s American setting and an all-black cast. Director Bob Clampett intended the cartoon as a tribute to the jazz musicals of the time, but the depictions of the characters and African-American culture look horribly racist to modern eyes. The short remains hard to find, though there has been talk about releasing it on a DVD along with other controversial shorts.

3. “Bugs Bunny Nips the Nips”

When America joined World War II, Hollywood followed. Audiences of the day could watch films and shorts glorifying our brave troops and demonizing the enemy forces. The propaganda cartoons of the era showed everything from racy depictions of women in shorts intended for the troops to extremely racist depictions of Japanese soldiers to Donald Duck being convinced to do his taxes in order to “defeat the Axis.” Some war cartoons have been released on DVDs marketed strictly to adult film and animation fans. Others, like the cringe-inducingly titled “Bugs Bunny Nips the Nips,” remain locked away in the proverbial vaults.

4. “Rude Removal,” Dexter’s Laboratory

One of the skeletons in Cartoon Network’s closet is “Rude Removal,” a Dexter’s Laboratory episode that was never aired in the U.S. Boy genius Dexter invents a machine to remove the rudeness from his sister Dee Dee. Dee Dee, of course, interferes and she and Dexter are each split into two versions of themselves: one sweet and polite pair and one pair that swears like particularly raunchy sailors. The obscene language is all bleeped out, but between context and some pretty accurate lip-synch, viewers can get an idea of what the rude Dexter and Dee-Dee are saying. The short was occasionally shown at animation festivals and speaking appearances by series creator Genndy Tartakovsky. In 2013, Cartoon Network put it up on their Adult Swim YouTube channel, theoretically out of reach of impressionable young children.

5. “Deadly Force,” Gargoyles


The critically acclaimed animated series Gargoyles was known for not talking down to its audience and this first season episode was no exception. “Deadly Force” tackles the issues of gun violence and accidental shooting head on, including a scene that shows one of the series’ heroes lying in a pool of her own blood before cutting to a commercial break. Despite the episode’s good intentions, Disney pulled it out of circulation on their own networks for a time. The episode was eventually aired again, but with edits that removed any images of blood. The series has since been released on DVD with the original unedited cut of “Deadly Force” included.

6. “One Beer,” Tiny Toon Adventures

Another “issue” episode that proved a little too harsh for the network, “One Beer” has stars Buster Bunny, Plucky Duck, and Hamton J. Pig experiencing the dangers of drinking firsthand. Passing around the titular single bottle, they become immediately plastered and are suddenly dressed like hobos. But where most cartoons of this type end with ashamed (and possibly hungover) characters swearing to never drink again, “One Beer” ends with the toons driving a stolen car off a cliff and plummeting to their deaths. (The video shown here cuts out before this happens.) There are a few references to the whole thing being less “real” than a regular episode, like the scene at the end where the characters emerge unscathed on a set and talk about doing a funny cartoon next time. But it wasn’t enough to soften the episode’s harshness. It aired once and never again.

7. “Electric Soldier Porygon,” Pokémon


Before Pokémon the game was even released in the US, Pokémon the animated series was making worldwide headlines due to this infamous episode. The plot, which involves Ash and his friends going inside a computer to figure out what’s causing the digital Pokémon transfer system to malfunction, was not the issue. The problem was an effect in the show involving rapidly flashing red and blue light. Roughly 12,000 viewers in Japan experienced symptoms ranging from nausea to seizures and temporary blindness. Over 600 were sent to the hospital. Most of the affected viewers recovered quickly, but two victims of “Pokémon Shock” — as the press dubbed it — were hospitalized for more than two weeks. The series was pulled from Japanese television for four months and the episode never aired again in any country. Extreme precautions were taken when the show was imported to the US, including slowing down the speed of any scene involving rapidly flashing colors. (Watch the episode here. Don’t say we didn’t warn you.)

8. “Mr. Skinnylegs,” Peppa Pig

What could possibly be objectionable about Peppa Pig, a seemingly innocuous show for preschoolers about a young pig and her friends and family? Most of the time, nothing. But when the episode “Mr. Skinnylegs” aired, the Australian Broadcasting Company started receiving complaints. At issue was the episode’s message: spiders are small, harmless creatures that can be our friends. It’s a fine message for most children and most spiders. But in Australia, home to a number of venomous arachnids, being friends with a spider may not be such a good idea. The Australian Broadcasting Company agreed that pro-spider propaganda was not appropriate for Australian children and the episode was not aired again.

9. “Stokey the Bear,” Dudley-Do-Right

The less than flattering depiction of the Canadian Mounties on The Rocky and Bullwinkle Show segment may have caused some hurt feelings north of the border, but it was the U.S. Forest Service that got an episode pulled. Stokey the Bear was hypnotized by Dudley’s nemesis Snidely Whiplash, who had the bear starting forest fires instead of preventing them. The U.S. Forest Service took offense at the parody of their mascot and threatened legal action. Despite possible calls for the negatives to be destroyed, the cartoon survived and was included in a 2005 home video release.

10. “Man’s Best Friend,” Ren and Stimpy

Ren & Stimpy was well known for its innuendo and gross-out humor thanks to series creator John Kricfalusi pushing the envelope of what was acceptable in cartoons for kids. Some episodes, including this one, went too far for the show’s home network, Nickelodeon. Much of the humor and language is standard for the series, but a scene towards the end where Ren brutally beats the pair’s new owner with an oar is uncharacteristically violent. Nickelodeon refused to air the episode and Kricfalusi cites it as the main reason he was fired from the series. “Man’s Best Friend” eventually aired as part of the short-lived Spike series Ren and Stimpy’s Adult Cartoon Party.

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Weird Roles

Anthony Michael Hall’s Most Rotten Movies

Catch Anthony Michael Hall in Weird Science on Friday at 8P on IFC.

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Photo Credit: Universal/Everett Collection

Anthony Michael Hall was the quintessential ’80s nerd. We love him in classics like The Breakfast Club and National Lampoon’s Vacation. But even the brainiest among us has his weak spots. In honor of Weird Science airing this Rotten Friday, we analyze Hall’s worst movies.

Weird Science (1985) 56%

A low point for John Hughes, Weird Science is way too wacky for its own good. Anthony Michael Hall’s Gary and his pal Wyatt (Ilan Mitchell-Smith) create the “perfect woman.” Supernatural chaos ensues. The film costars a young Bill Paxton, floppy disks, and a general disconnect from all reality.

The Caveman’s Valentine (2001) 46%

This ambitious drama starring Samuel L. Jackson couldn’t live up to its rich premise. Jackson plays Romulus, a Juilliard-educated, paranoid schizophrenic who lives in a cave. Hall co-stars as Bob, a rich man, who wants to see Romulus play the piano. The plot centers around Romulus investigating a murder, but with so much going on, the movie never quite finds its rhythm.

All About the Benjamins (2002) 30%

Ice Cube plays a bounty hunter who teams up with Mike Epps’ con man to catch diamond thieves. Hall plays Lil J, a small-time drug dealer. It’s definitely a role we’ve never seen Hall in, but overall the movie isn’t funny or original enough to justify its violence.

Freddy Got Fingered (2001) 11%

This showcase for Tom Green’s goofy gross-out comedy is often hailed as one of the worst films of all time. Green plays Gord, a 20-something slacker, who dreams of having his own animated series. Hall is Dave Davidson, a CEO of an animation studio who eventually helps Gord find success. Too bad Tom Green wasn’t so lucky.

Johnny Be Good (1988) 0%

Hall plays against type as Johnny Walker, a star quarterback. Robert Downey Jr. is his best friend and Uma Thurman plays his devoted girlfriend. Despite the support of a future A-list cast, the movie lacks central conflict and charm. Or, as TV Guide put it, “Johnny be worthless.” Ouch.

Catch the “Too Rotten to Miss” Weird Science this Friday at 8P on IFC.

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Season 6: Episode 1: Pickathon

Binge Fest

Portlandia Season 6 Now Available On DVD

The perfect addition to your locally-sourced, artisanal DVD collection.

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End of summer got you feeling like:

Portlandia Toni Screaming GIF

Ease into fall with Portlandia‘s sixth season. Relive the latest exploits of Fred Armisen and Carrie Brownstein’s cast of characters, including Doug and Claire’s poignant breakup, Lance’s foray into intellectual society, and the terrifying rampage of a tsukemen Noodle Monster! Plus, guest stars The Flaming Lips, Glenn Danzig, Louis C.K., Kevin Corrigan, Zoë Kravitz, and more stop by to experience what Portlandia is all about.

Pick up a copy of the DVD today, or watch full episodes and series extras now on IFC.com and the IFC app.

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Byrning Down the House

Everything You Need to Know About the Film That Inspired “Final Transmission”

Documentary Now! pays tribute to "Stop Making Sense" this Wednesday at 10P on IFC.

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Photo Credit: Cinecom/courtesy Everett Collection

This week Documentary Now! is with the band. For everyone who’s ever wanted to be a roadie without leaving the couch, “Final Transmission” pulls back the curtain on experimental rock group Test Pattern’s final concert. Before you tune in Wednesday at 10P on IFC, plug your amp into this guide for Stop Making Sense, the acclaimed 1984 Talking Heads concert documentary.

Put on Your Dancing Shoes

Hailed as one of the best concert films ever created, director Jonathan Demme (Silence of the Lambs) captured the energy and eccentricities of a band known for pushing the limits of music and performance.

Make an Entrance

Lead singer David Byrne treats the concert like a story: He enters an empty stage with a boom box and sings the first song on the setlist solo, then welcomes the other members of the group to the stage one song at a time.

Steal the Spotlight

David Byrne Dancing
Cinecom/Everett Collection

Always a physical performer, Byrne infuses the stage and the film with contagious joy — jogging in place, dancing with lamps, and generally carrying the show’s high energy on his shoulders.

Suit Yourself

Byrne makes a splash in his “big suit,” a boxy business suit that grows with each song until he looks like a boy who raided his father’s closet. Don’t overthink it; on the DVD, the singer explains, “Music is very physical, and often the body understands it before the head.”

View from the Front Row

Stop Making Sense Band On Stage
Cinecom/Everett Collection

Demme (who also helmed 1987’s Swimming to Cambodia, the inspiration for this season’s Documentary Now! episode “Parker Gail’s Location is Everything”) films the show by putting viewers in the audience’s shoes. The camera rarely shows the crowd and never cuts to interviews or talking heads — except the ones onstage.

Let’s Get Digital

Tina Weymouth Keyboard
Cinecom/Everett Collection

Stop Making Sense isn’t just a good time — it’s also the first rock movie to be recorded entirely using digital audio techniques. The sound holds up more than 30 years later.

Out of Pocket

Talk about investing in your art: Talking Heads drummer Chris Frantz told Rolling Stone that the members of the band “basically put [their] life savings” into the movie, and they didn’t regret it.

Catch Documentary Now!’s tribute to Stop Making Sense when “Final Transmission” premieres Wednesday, October 12 at 10P on IFC.

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