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Southern Fried Foster: Representing Race and Place through Music in Looney Tunes Cartoons

Southern Fried Foster: Representing Race and Place through Music in Looney Tunes Cartoons JOANNA R. SMOLKO When we watch animated cartoons, how much does music shape our perception of the narrative? And why are Stephen Foster's songs so prevalent in cartoon music in what has come to be known as animation's golden age (1930s­1960s), especially in cartoons that depict African American slaves, blackface minstrelsy, and the South? This article explores how Foster's songs were used in Warner Bros.' Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies cartoons as unsettling symbols to evoke race and place. It examines the complex associations and subtexts that are constructed through the pairing of Stephen Foster songs with particular images and themes across these cartoons, especially those scored by Carl Stalling (1891­1972). Stalling directed music at the Warner Bros. studios from 1936 through 1958 and was the primary arranger of the cartoon scores during this period. A survey of these themes will lead into a close analysis of three cartoons that use multiple Foster songs in their scores. Finally, I will discuss a few ways that we can evaluate these cartoons today. As icons of American culture, the Looney Tunes cartoons reveal cultural attitudes from the 1930s­1960s that resound even today. The Looney Tunes cartoons, beginning in 1930 and http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png American Music University of Illinois Press

Southern Fried Foster: Representing Race and Place through Music in Looney Tunes Cartoons

American Music , Volume 30 (3) – Apr 24, 2012

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Publisher
University of Illinois Press
Copyright
Copyright © University of Illinois Press
ISSN
1945-2349
Publisher site
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Abstract

JOANNA R. SMOLKO When we watch animated cartoons, how much does music shape our perception of the narrative? And why are Stephen Foster's songs so prevalent in cartoon music in what has come to be known as animation's golden age (1930s­1960s), especially in cartoons that depict African American slaves, blackface minstrelsy, and the South? This article explores how Foster's songs were used in Warner Bros.' Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies cartoons as unsettling symbols to evoke race and place. It examines the complex associations and subtexts that are constructed through the pairing of Stephen Foster songs with particular images and themes across these cartoons, especially those scored by Carl Stalling (1891­1972). Stalling directed music at the Warner Bros. studios from 1936 through 1958 and was the primary arranger of the cartoon scores during this period. A survey of these themes will lead into a close analysis of three cartoons that use multiple Foster songs in their scores. Finally, I will discuss a few ways that we can evaluate these cartoons today. As icons of American culture, the Looney Tunes cartoons reveal cultural attitudes from the 1930s­1960s that resound even today. The Looney Tunes cartoons, beginning in 1930 and

Journal

American MusicUniversity of Illinois Press

Published: Apr 24, 2012

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