Mary Elizabeth Williams: It's Time to Release Looney Tunes' Racist Cartoons

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[Mary Elizabeth Williams is a staff writer for Salon and the author of "Gimme Shelter: My Three Years Searching for the American Dream."]

Nobody ever accused Bugs Bunny and company of being the most culturally sensitive pack of cartoon animals. Even their taste in opera ran toward the controversial – what was up with all the Wagner? Yet the recent rumors that Warner might at last be releasing Looney Tunes' and Merrie Melodies' notorious "Censored Eleven" vintage shorts has raised questions yet again about whether some things from the past are better left in the past.

The shorts, all dating back to the 1930s and '40s, have been out of general circulation since 1968. But in recent years, thanks to the miracle of YouTube, contentious classics like "Coal Black and de Sebben Dwarfs" and "Jungle Jitters" have been popping up again. And when eight of the famous 11 made their first official public appearance in decades last April at a "Removed from Circulation" screening at the Turner Classic Film Festival, it seemed the moment might be at hand for a legitimate release.

Sure enough, while attending last weekend's New York Comic-Con, Toonzone News reporter Michael Lachman posted, "I paid a visit to the Warner Archive booth and discovered a most pleasant surprise. The man working said they are coming out with the infamous Censored Eleven, and it will be available though the Archive sometime in 2011. He also mentioned that it is their most requested title ... [and] they will be completely uncensored."...

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