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.