Technology has the potential to put swathes of golden age cartoons at our fingertips. So why is it mostly disappearing instead?
One thing I either didn't see in this piece or didn't understand when I saw it: does somebody want to dumb down for me why this is happening? Like, these companies own these cartoons, right? So what do they have to lose by putting them on their streaming services?
A very good essay, as usual. But a sad addendum to the end paragraph: Disney recently canceled Rudish’s brilliant Mickey Mouse shorts. Two steps forward, one step backward.
At one point, me wanted to show kids Bugs Bunny, and thank Keebler me decided to seach on own first, because one of those off-brand streaming services you only use as last resort — Tubi? Glorbo? Squirtle? — had old Looney Tunes shorts. Me not recognized titles, and me very quickly found out why.
Me knew there were some moderately racist Looney Tunes that not have aged well and WB has issued along with disclaimer. What me discovered is that there are also jawdroppingly racist Looney Tunes shorts that WB has rightfully buried. Me got about one minute into one where Bugs spars with character who was clearly precursor to Elmer Fudd, as he was hunter with shotgun, but can only be described as Sambo figure. At one point, Bugs distracts him by throwing pair of dice, because what black person can resist shooting dice and gambling? It was somehow even less subtle and tasteful than me making it sound; me turned it off before Bugs started measuring his skull.
Anyway, it make even stronger case for well-curated collection to preserve Bugs' legacy (and classic cartoons that remain very funny, and have magic that subsequent animators found very hard to recapture.)
Looks like they should've made that left turn at Albuquerque. 😞
It is very sad that such amazing works of art aren't available. To me it's like somebody decided that the Mona Lisa shouldn't be viewable publicly... And that's that.
The Rabbit of Seville, What's Opera, Doc?, and A Corny Concerto were my introductions to classical music. ❤️ I bet I'm not alone.
A major problem is that, while we as film fans largely know better than to assume that modern super-conglomerates should be trusted to handle their live-action back catalogs unsupervised, animation often doesn't seem to enter into the same consideration. TCM only regularly shows cartoons as part of its Saturday morning matinee, and while Criterion has occasionally showcased them on its streaming service (the Hubley retrospective was a pleasant surprise in particular), neither it nor other cinephile home-video outlets have consistently done the same in its physical media.
"It’s among the 256 shorts removed from the service in a purge of every such short released between 1950 and 2004. Also pulled: “Duck Amuck,” “One Froggy Evening,” “What’s Opera, Doc?,” and a bunch of others even casual fans know by name."
I had not heard this until now, and it is both offensive and nonsensical. Why in the world wouldn't these be a selling point for subscribing to Max?
"It’s a curious situation: Much of Disney and Warner Bros.’s identities are built atop the iconic characters who starred in shorts that most people don’t watch anymore, often because they can’t watch them."
I've had this thought cross my mind before: Mickey and Minnie et al are still the faces of Disney, but how many kids have actually seen them as characters in stories at this point?
In some ways it seems like we've gone backwards. When I was a kid in the 80s, my parents could rent old cartoons to show us. I saw a ton of old Disney and Looney Tunes that way. But now you can't rent or even BUY a lot of that stuff.
I started watching Buster Keaton shorts on Criterion before bed and was so excited to do the same with Looney Tunes before I remembered they all got yanked off MAX and was so mad
The world would be a better place if copyrights could expire. Sure you'd get Bugs Bunny porn and exploitative garbage like Blood and Honey but you'd also have people who genuinely care about curating these classics be able to just do it. People who love a work of art will go far above and beyond anyone with a profit motive (for a great example, check out fan translations of games).
Also maybe people would make new IPs once in a while?