Bonus Crossing the Line – Coal Black and the Sebben Dwarfs


Because we had to resort to less straightforward means of viewing Song of the South, we were able to see what kind of quality the booths at Comic Book conventions hocking imported DVDs and bootlegs provided. The “50th Anniversary Edition” of Song of the South also included a Merry Melodies jem from around the same time period. Coal Black and the Sebben Dwarfs is a charming recreation of the Snow White story with black characters. I won’t bother with the full format with this one: the video should speak for itself.

MBRFT: As a bonus, we had a chance to take a look at “Coal Black and the Sebben Dwarfs,” a Warner Bros. short from 1943. In a little over seven minutes it manages to make “Song of the South” look as dignified and socially-progressive as “The Cosby Show.” I can only describe it as a spastic fire-storm of crude racist stereotypes, with Snow White being darkified into the voluptuous “So White.” The Sebben (sic) Dwarfs are strange anthropomorphic minstrels that scat in rhyme and embody a new level of racism that I didn’t know movies could ever reach. Even in its short running time, it manages to squeeze in equally offensive attacks on midgets and Japs (both of which are terms that are have since become politically incorrect).

For obvious reasons, both of these films have been swept under the rug by their respective studios and are unavailable on home video. I understand that decision from a PR standpoint, but pretending they don’t exist feels revisionist and German (Editor’s Note: or Turkish). Despite their overwhelming flaws, they are important historical documents and should be publicly available and packaged with information that gives them appropriate context as a product of their times (possibly an introduction by a white-friendly African-American entertainer such as Wayne Brady). And they also make good fodder for our weekly columns.

PsychoLarry: “Oh Honey Chile, what story would you like to have Mammy to tell you tonight?” has got to be the finest starting line in any cartoon, or story in general. I wonder if the director had to shoot extra takes with the voice actress there just to get her to sound “More Black, you know, like a real Mammy”. That opening tells you everything you need to know about the rest of the cartoon, you could probably just stop it at that point without missing any of the racism.

They persist on though don’t they? Somehow a 7 minute musical short runs the full gamut of African-American stereotypes, complete with blackface and overt black sexuality, while also managing to squeeze in some good ol’ American Japanese bashing so our kids would hate Tojo just as much as his brave Dad fighting overseas. Why weren’t there were cartoons like this for the Nazis, maybe a square jawed New Yorker messing up Fritz’s train schedule so bad he explodes, raining clocks and bratwurst on everyone.

Screaming Girl: (Editor’s note: As Screaming Girl could not be bothered to spend the 7 minutes required to watch this short and the 10 minutes needed to review it, there is nothing to put here. Pretend she said something about how she was shocked and appalled, maybe she denounced and rejected the Merry Melodies people or something. Oh, and I guess something about doing her hair or just wanting to dance tonight. Men are pigs would work too.)


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