Mixed with Black, White, Native American, Jewish and Asian ancestry, Koriander is not afraid to tackle issues of race in media.
While you may have already heard about the controversy over Pepé Le Pew and you may already know about Bosko, Buddy, Cookie and Honey's absence from the cast of Space Jam 2, there's even more recurring Looney Tunes characters whose spotlight lies in doubt.
Speedy Gonzales is a polarizing character. Half of the faithful Looney Tunes fans praise him for being thoughtful, intelligent and for being a Robin Hood style of character for the Hispanic market, while others view him as an outdated stereotype of Mexican Americans. With his sombrero and his constant repeating of out of place catchphrases, it's easy to see why he isn't everyone's favorite mouse, but some of the lore about the racial undertones of Speedy may be misattributed, and it may actually be his cousin fans should take umbrage with.
Slowpoke Rodriguez as his name suggests, is slow. His eyes tend to droop independently of one another and because of his inability to keep up with his cousin Speedy, the townsfolk rarely see him as a proper replacement for Speedy if his cousin can't be found to help with "El Gato" in time.
Some believe that Slowpoke embodies the old "lazy Mexican" stereotype typically referred to on the homemade signs of racists. Others take offense to his slowness being played up for laughs, because of an old stigma about people who are differently abled. Because of this, some stations have opted not to play his two cartoons, the 1959 Mexicali Schmoes and the 1962 Mexican Boarders.
And yet, he has his own following.
In his two appearances, we learn that he is armed and knows how to hypnotize his enemies. The sudden turn usually gets a laugh out of even the hardest to please Looney Tunes watcher, and this appeal to those who can laugh at inappropriate things may be why he found himself in the Speedy Gonzales Super Nintendo game and more recently on The Looney Tunes Show, which ran from 2011 to 2014.
Inki and the Minah/Mynah Bird
Debuting in 1939 and appearing off and on until 1950, Inki is a silent, small child living in a nondescript country in "deepest darkest Africa" who is trying his very best to become a lion hunter.
He is drawn as a "savage" stereotype, wearing a grass skirt with a bone through his ponytail and often with a spear.
In alternating cartoons, he has been drawn both with a regular human nose and with a black button dog nose, yellow-peach bubble lips and in alternating cartoons, he is either drawn with red underwear or none at all.
With him in every cartoon is the Mynah or Minah Bird, whose name changes from short to short.
Like Inki, he too is silent in every cartoon. He often shows up walking across the room looking down just before doing something violent for laughs.
A similar character, a tiny pigeon known only as "The Tough Bird" appears in two cartoons, imitating Mynah, only more hostile.
The Tough Bird, Mynah and Inki were all created by Chuck Jones, who claimed he didn't intend to offend anyone with this obviously offensive character, and found himself "baffled" with how the five shorts came out, though this is more in reference to Mynah.
The Mynah Bird has since made appearances on Tiny Toons and Animaniacs and has appeared on a small amount of merchandise both with and without Inki, yet both have been off and on canceled.
Aside from a few VHS tapes and LaserDiscs in the 80s and 90s, Inki has not appeared on any new Warner Brothers releases, and all five of his cartoons were pulled out of syndication by the early 90s, making him more "canceled" than Bosko, Pepé Le Pew, Speedy and Buddy combined, each of whom still have cartoons legally available on DVD.
Inki does however appear on multiple "public domain" VHS and DVD releases via smaller companies and all five of his cartoons are available off and on via illicit YouTube channels, but as of this writing, Inki is not yet available on any legal streaming service or via Blu-Ray from Warner Brothers.
Inki was not "canceled" by any "cancel culture" of the time, but by Warner Brothers themselves deciding to end the stereotyping of Black characters in 1950 with Caveman Inki being the last Black stereotype short that year, however they would continue Hispanic, Asian and Native American stereotypes through 1969, not counting compilation specials and films.
Foxy and Roxy
Despite following the formula of Mickey Mouse, Goofy, Felix the Cat, Bosko, Oswald and later Piggy of being a white faced, black bodied cartoon character based on blackface minstrel comedy skits on vaudeville, Foxy found himself canceled - at least temporarily - for a surprising reason.
Debuting in August of 1931, Foxy was the creation of Rudolph Ising, who was riding a wave of success after co-creating Bosko and Honey with Hugh Harman. While credited as a Looney Tunes Star, Foxy actually was the first star of the new Merrie Melodies line of shorts and was the first to say "That's All, Folks" at the end of a cartoon.
Looney Tunes, Merrie Melodies and Harman and Ising's later MGM run of Happy Harmonies were all titled to poke fun at Walt Disney's Silly Symphonies, but unlike the Disney shorts which relied on public domain tracks, Harman and Ising could use all of the licensed, current pop songs of Warner Brothers as long as they were under contract, and once they got into MGM, the use of songs from the MGM library was an option for them as well. This certainly gave them an edge.
Although they would later favor Disney with help on his mid-30s shorts, Harman and Ising enjoyed taking shots at their former friend and employer.
And why not?
Walt Disney had taken a 1925 cartoon Harman had drawn of Walt next to cartoon mice. Walt had Ub Iwerks re-draw one of the mice Harman created, and from that tracing came Mickey Mouse, which Walt took complete credit for.
Harman and Ising were not amused, so in several Bosko and Foxy cartoons, they found ways to poke fun at the growing empire.
But where Bosko made parodies of Silly Symphonies and poked fun at Mickey being based on the blackface minstrel shows Walt enjoyed, Foxy seemed more like a direct jab at Mickey.
Foxy and his girlfriend Roxy looked identical to Mickey and Minnie Mouse, save but for bushy tails and a slight point in their ears.
Walt Disney wasn't exactly thrilled with Foxy, so less than two months into Foxy's run, he personally called Ising and told him not to draw anyone so close to Mickey.
How did Ising respond?
Well from then on, Bosko in several shorts finds himself in violent fights with a very tiny Mickey Mouse clone.
Also, Foxy got shot.
Two months after his debut, Foxy appears in One More Time being murdered by a bird in front of Roxy with a large assault rifle to end the cartoon.
But Foxy's brutal death does take place in a Warner Brothers cartoon, and Looney Tunes don't tend to stay dead.
Foxy found himself in colorized shorts in the 1970s before joining the cast of Tiny Toons in the 90s as a "new" star.
He has since appeared on Cartoon Network, Boomerang, HBO Max and all three of his shorts are available on Warner Brothers DVDs, making him the most welcome of the "un-canceled" set of Looney Tunes characters.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2021 Koriander Bullard