“I’m not bad. I’m just drawn that way.” – Jessica Rabbit, Who Framed Roger Rabbit?
There have been attempts to inject eroticism and pornography into cartoons for as long as printed cartoons have existed. Tijuana bibles were small hand-sized comics, typically featuring popular comic strip characters engaging in sexual activity. The “underground comix” movement of the 1960s were focused on counterculture drives, including sex.
But sometimes people just go too far.
One example: Mort Walker’s Beetle Bailey. One mention of that strip in the same breath as “censorship” and anyone familiar with it knows exactly where I’m going with it: Miss Buxley.
It was actually Sarge. And Beetle. And Zero. Most of them, in fact, but one particular portion of their anatomy… Their belly buttons.
From The Atlantic:
“Belly buttons were a big battle of mine. Down at the syndicate they would clip them out with a razor blade. I began putting so many of them in, in the margins and everywhere, that they had a little box down there called Beetle Bailey‘s Belly-Button Box. The editors finally gave up after I did one strip showing a delivery of navel oranges.”
Another example? Tweety Bird. The world-famous Looney Toons character was depicted in his first few films as pink. His coloring was changed to yellow because movie industry censors were concerned about his pink color being interpreted as nakedness.
In that, they weren’t incorrect; Tweety’s first appearance was as a new hatchling in A Tale of Two Kitties. But Tweety is not Jessica Rabbit. He’s a bird, a bulbous-headed, tiny-bodied bird. America of the 1940s could handle World War II; they could certainly handle a baby bird.
Disney wasn’t immune to the censors, either. When Clarabelle Cow was featured in early cartoons like The Plow Boy, she wore a top but her udders hung loose. As milking was one of the farm tasks Mickey Mouse performs, it makes sense. But when she started to appear in non-farm situations, the censors responded quickly… and she received the dress that has become part of the character’s design.
Question of the night: What’s your earliest happy cartoon / comic strip memory?