It was not until 1934 when the things actually started to be serious about the code. Scenes, scripts, shoots even whole films were banned. Nude, violence, racial points of view or religious critics were cut. And, of course, that was for animation as well. But, unlike films, animation fed on irony, social and political criticism, sarcasm, surrealism and, of course, sex. People did not make drama or philosophy using animation and the code represented a hard blow for a business which was difficult enough. It was starting to be pretty difficult to make money with animation. The production required a higher technical quality every day and that meant money; however, the cost of the production increased day by day, the income produced by short cartoons did not. The effects of the depression were present all around; the problems with the censors made more complicated to find the fun for the cartoonist and the development of the new technologies were another handicap to add to the enough difficult economic situations during the depression.
However, even Disney was affected for the censorship. There were two main reasons for that. By one hand, the competitors who were not very happy with the successful of the mouse; by the other, Disney behavior became an example of how the things should be work in cartoons.
In February, 16, 1931 The Times explained:
“Motion Picture Producers & Distributors of America last week announced that, because of complaints of many censor boards, the famed udder of the cow in the Mickey Mouse cartoons was now banned. Cows in Mickey Mouse or other cartoon pictures in the future will have small or invisible udders quite unlike the gargantuan organ whose antics of late have shocked some and convulsed other of Mickey Mouse’s patrons. In a recent picture the udder, besides flying violently to left and right or stretching far out behind when the cow was in motion, heaved with its panting when the cow stood still; it also stretched, when seized, in an exaggerated way.”
What for the most of the people are all problems is the same that for someone become an opportunity. Disney had the right point of view, the one which audience were opened for accepting and dreaming with. Free of what the conservatives could feel like a treat and full of the happiness and hope that the desperation of the time during the Big Depression needed it after, Disney had an opened path to becoming a kind of the land. He developed a character that represented the purest and classic American Spirit: Mickey Mouse became quickly a phenomenon. Disney, always learning from the successful before him, and deeply wishing to be as famous as they, wanted that his Mouse was more loved than the previous “Felix The Cat”. Mickey was ready to have his own line of products, but Disney was going to do it better, he was going to invent merchandising.
During the early years of the depression nothing was easy for nobody, but while the whole country was in bankruptcy Mickey Mouse/Disney became rich, richer and richer, and more and more selected as the model of the perfect American.
“The fresh cheering is for Mickey the Big Business Man, the world’s super salesman. He finds work for jobless folk. He lifts corporations out of bankruptcy. Wherever he scampers, here or overseas, the sun of prosperity breaks through the clouds.” H. L. Robbins. The New York Times March 1935.
The feeling and the rules of censorship will be changed, but for that moment, Disney was already the absolute kind of the land. Disney was seeding cartoons with a very concrete and defined way to do it. The eternal happy Disney ending, and cute characters with sweet colors suitable for the whole family, according to with a conservative point of view, had shown how substantial business it could be. Because finally, that is what all is about!
And cartoons started to become sweeter, happy and sex free like if that was a natural way to do it, and the only right way for fantasy films and adults were losing their interest. And one day, suddenly, it seemed like nobody thought about animation for adults anymore…. until now, when business is growing up again thanks to the whole family concept again.
But that is another story….
We hope you have enjoyed the Cartoons for Children series by our new contributing writer Pepa Llausas. Pepa comes to us from Spain, by way of Paris… and we welcome her! Stay tuned for more of Pepas’ look at the History of animation in coming weeks!