162. Tin Pan Alley Cats – Bob Clampett

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SUMMARY: A feline caricature of Fats Waller ignores the warnings of a religious group in favour of the temptations of ‘wine, women and song’, indulgences which see him blown out of this world all the way to Wackyland.

WHY IT’S HERE: As part of the Censored Eleven, along with Clampett’s earlier ‘Coal Black and De Sebben Dwarfs’, ‘Tin Pan Alley Cats’ is another racially offensive and rarely seen cartoon. However, it also clearly celebrates the vibrant African American culture and captivatingly energetic jazz tradition, which makes it seem more akin to MGM’s ‘Old Mill Pond’ than the more frequently offensive ‘Coal Black…’ Black culture is somewhat simplistically boiled down to a choice between old-time religion and smoking-hot jazz decadence but this is more a result of typical cartoon exaggeration than any kind of genuine statement. This is made clear when the cartoon takes an unexpectedly surreal turn in its second half, as the main character is blown out of his world to Wackyland, the inspired surrealist creation that Clampett brought to life in his previous masterpiece ‘Porky in Wackyland’. This return to Wackyland (this time in colour) is another successfully unsettling and mesmerizing experience which helps make ‘Tin Pan Alley Cats’ rise above its stereotypes as it becomes clear than everything on offer here is meant to be taken as a grotesque exaggeration. These two visits to Wackyland inspired many attempts at recreation and imitation, but the dull results (including Friz Freleng’s weak remake ‘Dough for the Dodo’ and the Terrytoons rip-off ‘Dingbat Land’) only went to show that no-one could bring Wackyland to life like Clampett.

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