Dennis Nyback presents: Bad Bugs Bunny
The truth about American history revealed in fabulous Warner Brothers cartoons! It is all here, the racism, sexism and violence.
"Bad Bugs Bunny is comprised of ten suppressed cartoons. I do not divulge the titles.
In 1993 I first showed my program Bad Bugs Bunny at the Pike Street Cinema in Seattle. I had been inspired to create it when I read in the Wall Street Journal that the Disney Company, acting on a complaint from one person, went through their entire archive of animation and removed all examples of smoking. The complaint had been lodged by an American mother who allowed her child to watch the Disney channel. She thought it was harmless until she saw an old Pecos Bill cartoon from the 1940’s. In that cartoon Pecos Bill rolled and smoked a cigarette. Why would Disney react to one complaint? It had nothing to do with the individual who complained. That individual was merely a walking dollar sign. They assumed that many walking dollar signs would be offended and that would cost them money. They decided to censor their own historic output. In addition to looking for instances of smoking, the people assigned to the task were told to cut out anything they found that they thought would offend anyone. My objection to this was tri-fold. First I felt that animation was art, and should not be capriciously censored. Secondly I felt that the reaction in censoring the material had nothing to do with right or wrong, but was merely for money. Thirdly I felt that these examples of the past were part of our history, and by altering them the Disney company was trying to erase the truth about the past.
I chose Warner Brothers cartoons for the program for a couple of reasons. One, I had a lot more Warner’s cartoons than Disney cartoons. Second, there was no way I wanted to get the Disney Company to mad at me. I figured that Warner’s might send some threatening letters. I was afraid Disney would send someone to kill me. Looking through my Warner Brothers cartoons, I selected the ones that I thought were most offensive to modern audiences. To make it an equal opportunity offensive program, I then selected cartoons that offended the widest range of groups. In a nutshell, the program was reflective of our history: full of racism, sexism and violence. All of these cartoons were no longer shown, many for over twenty years. I showed examples of racial stereotypes including those of blacks, native Americans, Chinese, Japanese and Arabs. I then picked out one good example of sexism, and one other example of violence.
With very little publicity, Bad Bugs Bunny sold out every show over a four day weekend at the Pike Street Cinema. I then brought it back for a two week run that did nearly as well. I then took it Europe in 1995 where it showed in over twenty cities. In 1996 I rented it to a distributor in England who booked into several British cities to uniformly large crowds. In 1997 I made the same arrangement with a booker in Australia with much of the same results. It was at a New York showing at the Cinema Village in 1997 that I finally heard from Warner Brothers. Of course it was not Warner Brothers, but Ted Turner’s company that had bought Warner’s. I spoke to them on several occasions, using every argument I could think of to let me show the program. That include paying them a percentage of the gate as a standard rental. There reply was NO. It was very important to them that NOBODY see these cartoons that they owned but had not produced. I told them that they could drag me into court. I thought a court case would allow media coverage of how corporate censorship worked in a free society.
I have since been allowed to present this version of Bad Bugs that continues to entertain, educate and thrill audiences." - Dennis Nyback