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Western Animation / Coal Black and de Sebben Dwarfs

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"Well, hallelujah!"

Coal Black and de Sebben Dwarfs is a controversial 1943 short directed by Bob Clampett for the Merrie Melodies series. It is a retelling of Snow White with a modernized setting (for the 1940s) that uses an all-black cast and a hot jazz soundtrack — as well as a lot of outdated racial stereotypes and wartime references.

Animation historians (as well as general fans of classic animation) consider this short to be one of the finest cartoons ever made... but they also acknowledge that it is one of the most racially insensitive cartoons ever made (not just with its caricatures of African-Americans, but there is some World War II racism). It remains part of the "Censored Eleven" (a collection of 11 Warner Bros. cartoons that have been pulled from distribution since 1968 due to extensive stereotyping of African-Americans). While there have been attempts to get this cartoon released to a mainstream audience, nothing has come of it.

Coal Black and de Sebben Tropes:

  • Adaptational Ugliness: In the original story, the Queen was very beautiful (at least on the outside), enough to be considered "fairest of them all" until Snow White took the title. This Queen, however, is flabby and unappealing, even ignoring her... dated design elements.
  • Animation Bump: This is one of the most lavish shorts ever produced at Warners. Scenes like the mother silhouetted against a roaring fireplace in the opening, or the close-up of Prince Chawmin's "Rosebud" lips, are almost Disneyesque in the attention to detail given, while keeping with Bob Clampett's wacky, surreal style.
  • The Big Damn Kiss: This not only brings So White back to life, but turns her hair ribbons into little American flags.
    Prince Chawmin': Man, what you got / that makes So White think you so hot?
    Dwarf #7: Well, dat is a military secret!
  • Blackface-Style Caricature: The stereotypical designs of the characters.
  • Black Jezebel Stereotype: The titular character (a parody of Snow White) got Race Lift into a stereotypical black woman who is lusted after by every male character in the short. She has a pair of very exaggerated big breasts and a similarly large backside and the animator will focus on it whenever she is not singing. This is especially in contrast with The Ingenue Snow White in the box office hit Disney version released 6 years earlier that the shorts is parodying.
  • Bookends: The short begins and ends with a mother sitting next to a fireplace, as she tells her child the story. Of particular note is that this shot replaces the standard "That's all folks!" card.
  • Chewing the Scenery: This is done — literally — by the Queen after she gives the order to "black out So White". Specifically, she rips off the phone bit with her mouth and chews on it like mad.
  • Covered in Kisses: The thugs of Murder, Inc. after they drop So White off, implying she charmed them into not killing her.
  • Deranged Animation: This is typical of Clampett's work. The most notable example in this short comes from the scene where Prince Chawmin steps out of his limousine and walks around very oddly.
  • Dude Magnet: So White, unsurprisingly. She's lusted after by every male character in the short.
  • Evil Laugh: The Queen does one when she thinks she has "blacked out So White".
  • Girlish Pigtails: So White.
  • God Save Us from the Queen!: "That mean ol' queen, she sure is a fright..."
  • Ironic Name: So White, for obvious reasons.
  • Literal Metaphor: When So White is abducted by assassins and Prince Chawmin' does nothing to help, he develops a broad yellow streak down his center, marking him as a "yellow-belly" (i.e., a coward).
  • Magic Skirt: So White's micro-mini, with the slits up each side, certainly counts. She also spends a lot of time bent over a washtub or a cooking stove.
  • Mickey Mousing: The entire cartoon is bouncing to a jazz beat.
  • Mouthscreen: Used as a gag when the camera cuts to an extreme close up of Prince Chawmin's mouth when he says "Rosebud!"
  • Ms. Fanservice: "...but her gal So White is dynamite!"
  • Murder, Inc.: This is literally used in the short to "black out So White".
  • No Sparks: Prince Chawmin' tries to apply his dynamite kiss to So White, but it does nothing. (The Dopey expy does the trick.)
  • Race Lift: All the characters are made black.
  • Recycled with a Gimmick: This is "Snow White" with AN ALL-BLACK CAST AND A JAZZ SOUNDTRACK!
  • Rhymes on a Dime: All of the dialogue follow this rule, save for the last line.
  • Sex for Services: Implied — when the hitmen drop So White off in the woods unharmed, they are all covered in lipstick.
  • Shout-Out:
    • The short has many parallels to Walt Disney's take on the tale, notably the scene where So White stands over a well and says, "Some folks think I'm kinda dumb / but I know some day my prince will come."
    • When Prince Chawmin' arrives for The Big Damn Kiss, he declares, "I'll give her a kiss and it won't be a dud / I'll bring her to life with my special..." It then cuts to a black screen with the Prince's disembodied lips exclaiming, "Rosebud!"
    • So White sings, "I work all day, and I get de bluuuuuues in de night." This was because Bob Clampett was a fan of African-American jazz music.
    • While in her old hag disguise, the Queen wears a Gag Nose and briefly does a Jimmy Durante imitation.
  • Silly Walk: Prince Chawmin' does one during his introduction.
  • Something Else Also Rises: The Dopey expy kissing So White has a stronger reaction than the Prince's attempts.
  • The Speechless: Averted with the Dopey expy, who even has a line in their introductory song.
  • Stock "Yuck!": A worm living in the apple poisoned by the Queen complains that the poison smells like Limburger cheese.
  • Subverted Rhyme Every Occasion: The last line. When Prince Chawmin' asks the question "Man, what you got that makes So White think you so hot?!" to the Dopey expy, "Dopey" replies with "Well, dat is a military secret!"
  • Through a Face Full of Fur: Prince Chawmin' turning completely pale (save for most of his teeth), due to his attempts at reviving So White with his rosebud kisses literally taking the life out of him in the original, freaky version of that part. In the alternate version, his face turns gray as he tries in vain to awaken So White by kissing, then his hair turns gray, stands back and becomes wavy, then white and receded, and his face is now a high-yellow shade in lieu of his normal, darker complexion.
  • Visual Pun:
    • The part where the queen is eating "Chattanooga Chew-Chews" is a Shout-Out to the classic big band tune, ''Chattanooga Choo Choo."
    • And she has a bottle of "Eli Whitney's Cotton Gin".
  • Vocal Dissonance: While the Mammy telling her daughter the story at the start of the short actually was played by a black actress (Lilian Randolph, who had a long career but is best known today as Mammy Twoshoes in Tom and Jerry), the little girl is clearly voiced by Mel Blanc talking in falsetto.
  • Wartime Cartoon:
    • When describing how rich Ol' Queenie is, they show her with piles of gold and jewels... and tires, sugar, and coffee — all of which were strictly rationed during wartime.
    • The "Murder, Inc." van advertises: "We rub out anybody - $1.00 / Midgets - 1/2 price / Japs - FREE"
    • The dwarfs themselves are all U.S. Army soldiers. So White becomes the cook for their platoon.