Jungle Jitters

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Jungle Jitters
Merrie Melodies - Jungle Jitters (1938) - Lobby Card.jpg
Lobby card
Directed byI. Freleng
Story byGeo. Manuell
Produced byLeon Schlesinger
StarringMel Blanc
Tedd Pierce
Edited byTreg Brown
Music byCarl W. Stalling
Animation byPhil Monroe
Rod Scribner
A.C. Gamer
Layouts byGriff Jay
Backgrounds byArt Loomer
Color processTechnicolor
Distributed byWarner Bros. Pictures
The Vitaphone Corporation
Release date
  • February 19, 1938 (1938-02-19)
Running time
7:03
7:13 (a.p.p. edition)
LanguageEnglish

Jungle Jitters is a 1938 Warner Bros. Merrie Melodies cartoon directed by Friz Freleng.[1] The short was released on February 19, 1938.[2]

Because of the racial stereotypes of black people throughout the short, it prompted United Artists to withhold it from syndication within the United States in 1968. As such, the short was placed into the Censored Eleven, a group of eleven Merrie Melodies and Looney Tunes shorts withheld from official television distribution in the United States since 1968 due to heavy stereotyping of black people; because its copyright had already lapsed without renewal a year before this decision, it has remained publicly available through numerous unofficial distributors via secondhand prints.[3]

Plot[edit]

A scene depicts three African men playing their drums at the beginning.

In a jungle, a primitive tribe of people with black noses and dark skin with light muzzles are going about their day, with the jungle elements being intertwined with modern-day gags; for example, the people dancing around a tent (in a style more reminiscent of Native American fire dances) when it turns into a makeshift merry-go-round, to the tune of "The Merry-Go-Round Broke Down," which promptly deflates and slows to a halt, and at least one of the denizens wears a top hat in resemblance of minstrel show stereotypes.

A traveling dog-faced salesman named Elmer (a parody of Al Pearce's character Elmer Blurt) comes by to offer them the latest in "assorted useful, useless, utensils". The natives, after initially trying their hardest to avoid him, decide he would make a delicious dinner, so they invite him in, ransack his goods, and throw him into a cauldron while a mammy chef prepares him as soup. They proceed to familiarize themselves with vacuum cleaners, batteries, light bulbs, etc.

The village queen (depicted as an old, chicken-like white woman, probably as a parody of Edna May Oliver and possibly to avoid any problems with the Hays code over the issue of miscegenation) hears of the arrival of the salesman, and desperate for a husband, she brings him in. As Elmer delivers his sales pitch, the queen sees him as Clark Gable and Robert Taylor and is smitten, demanding her to be married right away. The two are rushed into a marriage, and when asked to kiss the bride, Elmer panics and jumps back into the cauldron; in a closing shot, he curses his captors with the hope that "they all get indigestion" as he submerges into the pot to his death.

Reception[edit]

The Film Daily said on January 31, 1938, "Producer Leon Schlesinger goes to darkest Africa in this one with a highly amusing set of characters... There are some very funny sequences and gags, with the characterizations very amusing."[4]

National Exhibitor agreed on February 1: "It sounds forced to say that this is better than the best so far, but that is what one must say about a series that improves continually. This is full of cute little touches that will be best appreciated by a class audience, but will still have the masses chuckling."[4]

Home media[edit]

The full short.

Jungle Jitters fell into the public domain in 1967, and is available on many public domain home video collections.[citation needed]

Notes[edit]

  • A film by the name of "Jungle Jitters" was referenced by Daffy Duck in the 1950 Looney Tunes short The Ducksters but is not related to this short, as the film mentioned in The Ducksters features a gorilla, which this short does not.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Beck, Jerry; Friedwald, Will (1989). Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies: A Complete Illustrated Guide to the Warner Bros. Cartoons. Henry Holt and Co. p. 68. ISBN 0-8050-0894-2.
  2. ^ Lenburg, Jeff (1999). The Encyclopedia of Animated Cartoons. Checkmark Books. pp. 104–106. ISBN 0-8160-3831-7. Retrieved 6 June 2020.
  3. ^ The Straight Dope.
  4. ^ a b Sampson, Henry T. (1998). That's Enough, Folks: Black Images in Animated Cartoons, 1900-1960. Scarecrow Press. p. 106. ISBN 978-0810832503.

External links[edit]