Black and Animated!

Hello all!! I’m so glad to be back! After an overwhelming schedule last month I was not able to properly blog like I feel comfortable doing nor was I able to craft a single Black History Month post. However, better late than never. I want to share three animations that centered around Black and POC characters and were very influential to me. Growing up I was not aware of race. I grew up in a relatively diverse family, in a diverse neighborhood and did not attend a predominantly single race/Black school until junior high and that is when I started becoming more aware and understanding of race/ ethnicity and nationalities alike.

The first cartoon is Bruce W. Smith’s animated feature BeBe’s Kids! I remember sleeping over at my cousins’ house and that morning we woke up we must have been super energized because my uncle popped in this tape into the VCR to hush us up for a while. Although the movie came out in 1992 I’m pretty sure I saw it in maybe ’94 or '95 but I digress. I grew up like most 20somethings on Disney, Warner Bros., MGM, Tex Avery cartoons and more. They were a lot of animals, princesses,  witches you name it and even though my imagination made it really easy to enjoy each of these studios’ cartoons I had never experienced something like BeBe’s Kids in my all of 5-6 years of life and watching cartoons at that time.

Bebe’s Kids is based on one of Robin Harris’ standup routines. IMDb summarizes the movie as “To impress his new girlfriend, a man agrees to look after her friend's kids, only to find that they are uncontrollably rambunctious.”  I guess for little me back then who LOVED Rugrats this was gold! These were kids doing all the things I wish my cousins and I could have done at theme parks and then there was the real life aspect of their home situation. Bebe's Kids brought a really basic understanding that all kids do not have the privilege of having mommies or daddies care for them like mine, my cousins and friends did. To this day I believe that this was and is a revolutionary piece of to be considered in Animation, Black Animated history for sure. (I will also add that BeBe’s Kids had a game for Super Nintendo that I always played at my other cousin’s house. (Youtube has a video of the gameplay.)

The next animation is Happily Ever After: Fair Tales for Every Child. Wikipedia describes it as an American anthology animated television series. I’m pretty sure I was in 2nd or 3rd grade when I first saw this on HBO Kids at a different set of cousins’ house. (I come from a big extended family). The series aired from March 1995 to July 2000. This show blew my mind in a different way at that time because it is essentially retelling ALL of the fairytales I grew up with which was through the Disney lens and now I’m seeing them completely different. With different music, with characters that look like me, my classmates, and other children of the neighborhood. It was amazing. I remember seeing a Chinese Little Red Riding Hood, which made me think of my Chinese best friend Barbara at that time. The Caribbean Rumpelstiltskin remind me of my own family, the Latin Cinderella also reminded me of my family and my classmates. It was truly amazing. It is practically impossible to get the all three seasons of the show on DVD but maybe one day right?

The last cartoon I want to talk about is The Proud Family. Created by Bruce W. Smith (that’s right the director of BeBe’s Kids). This came out in September 2001 ( I was 12) and ran until August 2005 and I watched all of it over and over again. I remember making a big deal out of new episodes on Friday's with my friends, we would basically have a viewing get together at their house. The Proud Family came about at a perfect time because this was when I started taking art classes in school and developing as an artist instead of solely drawing on the side of my notes in class. I attended an exhibit about animation and I knew I wanted to be an animator. To have The Proud Family exist like this made me feel like I can do it because I see it. Like Bebe’s Kids I LOVED the characters, Penny’s (the main character) friends felt like mine. I actually felt like we were one in the same. It broke my heart when it ended.

Although there have been and are cartoons with Black characters and POC as leads (such as Doc McStuffins, Dora The Explorer, Ni Hao Kai-Lan) I am not only waiting for the reemergence of animated films and series like the ones I mentioned but I am completely looking forward to being apart of the movement.