Inki hunting in Caveman Inki
|First appearance||The Little Lion Hunter (1939)|
|Created by||Chuck Jones|
History and description
Inki, created for Warner Bros.' Merrie Melodies series of theatrical animated shorts, is a little African boy who usually dresses in a simple loincloth, armband, legband, earrings, and a bone through his hair. He never speaks. The character's pickaninny look was designed by Disney veteran Charlie Thorson. The plot of the cartoon focuses on little Inki hunting, oblivious to the fact that he himself is being hunted by a hungry lion.
Also central to the series is a minimalist and expressionless mynah bird, spelled "minah bird" in the title of the third short. The bird, who is accompanied by Felix Mendelssohn's The Hebrides Overture, a.k.a. "Fingal's Cave", utterly disregards any obstacles or dangers. The mynah bird, shown as nearly almighty, appears randomly in the films, always intervening against the other characters. Occasionally, the bird's intervention benefits Inki by stopping Inki's pursuers. Inki then tries to thank the bird, but the latter ends up being disrespectful to Inki, too. He does not talk at all, and is droopy eyed almost all the time.
Comics historian Don Markstein wrote that the character's racial stereotype "led to [the series'] unpopularity with program directors and thence to its present-day obscurity." He noted that, "The Minah Bird, which appears immensely powerful, [is] an accomplished trickster; and yet acts, when it acts at all, from motives which simply can not be fathomed...." The series' director, Chuck Jones, said[where?] these cartoons were baffling to everyone, including himself. He had no understanding of what the bird was supposed to do other than walk around. But the shorts were well-accepted by audiences. According to Terry Lindvall and Ben Fraser, Inki is an Everyman who encounters mysterious forces of life. He serves as a symbol of all humanity, "frustrated and rescued by the wonderfully inexplicable".
- The Little Lion Hunter (October 7, 1939)
- Inki and the Lion (1941)
- Inki and the Minah Bird (1943)
- Inki at the Circus (1947)
- Caveman Inki (November 25, 1950)
- Cohen, Karl F. (2004), "Racism and Resistance:Stereotypes in Animation", Forbidden Animation: Censored Cartoons and Blacklisted Animators in America, McFarland & Company, ISBN 978-0786420322
- Lindvall, Terry; Fraser, Ben (1998), "Darker Shades of Animation:African-American Images in the Warner Bros. Cartoon", in Sandler, Kevin S., Reading the Rabbit: Explorations in Warner Bros. Animation, Rutgers University Press, ISBN 978-0813525389
- Inki and the Minah Bird at Don Markstein's Toonopedia. Archived from the original on August 22, 2015.
- Lindvall, Fraser (1998), p. 126-127
- "The Internet Animation Database - Little Tweety and Little Inki Cartoon Festival featuring "I Taw a Putty Tat"". www.intanibase.com. Retrieved 2018-01-21.
- Multi (2004-04-04), Donald Duck & Woody Woodpecker: Pantry Panic, Digiview, retrieved 2018-01-21