Disney’s savages: ALICE CANS THE CANNIBALS (Walt Disney 1925)

The most interesting aspect of Disney’s “Alice” silent cartoon series was that it predated Mickey Mouse by several years. The “Alice Comedies” were a hybrid of live action (a young girl named Virginia Davis) with animated characters, particularly a cat named Julius.

Cats were winning the media wars over mice in those days, almost a century ago, when the most recognisable cartoon character was Felix the Cat from Australian cartoonist Pat Sullivan. Winkler Pictures had dropped Felix after a row with his creator, and Disney was able to get them to distribute Alice and even pay to bring young Virginia from Missouri to Los Angeles to star in the work. Julius was so similar to Felix he could have been a littermate.

In the Alice series, Julius does most of the heavy lifting, but Alice gets the naming rights, since the universe they inhabit originates in her dreams after she visits a cartoon studio in the very first episode, Alice’s Wonderland (based on Lewis Carroll of course, but also perhaps a nod to Surrealism and Dada that were revolutionising art after the Great War). There were 57 cartoons in total, all directed, produced and animated by Walt, but of course we are only interested in number 12, Alice Cans the Cannibals, released in 1925.

Alice and Julius drive their car into the sea and lasso a fish to drag them to land (the car floats! The fish cooperates! They have a lasso in their possession! It’s a dream, OK?) They land on an island that is inhabited by cannibals (luckily, there is a signpost in the ocean saying “this way to the Cannibal Islands”). Cannibals, of course, were then widely considered the ubiquitous inhabitants of any land not yet settled by white people – the eternal others. The cannibal king wears a crown, so he must be every inch a king, and the cannibals spend the rest of the cartoon chasing Alice and Julius, hoping, no doubt, to eat them.

The image of a six-year-old girl being chased as prey, hit with a rock and speared in her behind might seem a little unusual these days, but it was 1925, it was a dream, and it was a cartoon, so what the hell, huh Walt? Anyway, Alice can hold her own against a bunch of primitive natives, and she instructs Julius to use a rubber tree to shoot rocks to knock them all down.

The cannibals are very accurate spear throwers, hitting both Alice and Julius in their bums, the only places that spears ever penetrated in cartoons. Alice throws the spears back with surprising accuracy.

The barrage of spears proves useful – they form a ladder up the cliff, from which our heroes can brain the cannibals below with rocks and old ostrich eggs (once again, it’s a dream).

Alice saves the day when she realises that cannibals always have rings through their noses and throws a spear which manages to go through those rings and into the bum of a hippo, who pulls them to a watery grave.

One more spear, this time into the rather easier target of the king’s bum, and white supremacy over the dark cannibals is restored.

Let’s not take it too seriously – it’s a light-hearted cartoon about a little girl’s dream of overcoming cannibals – I wonder if Freud saw it? The main interest is its depiction of the outsider – those who had not yet been colonised and enlightened (or massacred) were unarguably cannibals, and a spear up the wazoo was the least they could expect. It was the white man’s burden.

Walt Disney: eating children: ROBOT CHICKEN S1E2 “Nutcracker Suite”

Robot Chicken is a stop-motion television series which started in 2005 on Adult Swim, the “adult” channel of Cartoon Network. It is created and produced by Seth Green and Matthew Senreich along with co-head writers Douglas Goldstein and Tom Root.

The show takes a sometimes sardonic look at popular culture. This episode, the second ever shown (and it’s now in its tenth season!) took on the rumour circulating on social media that Walt Disney’s head had been frozen after his death in 1966, in the hope that he could be revived later (there is a huge industry of cryogenics).

vlcsnap-00001.jpg

vlcsnap-00002.jpg

It’s not true, just BTW.

In this reimagining of the Disney legend, Walt is not the lovable avuncular figure that (older) readers may remember from black and white TV. The episode starts by rehashing the old story about his antisemitism, then we see his head being cut off with a chainsaw for freezing. Under the Matterhorn, later, his head is thawed out and grafted onto a steel spider frame, reminiscent of War of the Worlds. He has death rays in his eyes, and he HUNGERS!

vlcsnap-00017.jpg

vlcsnap-00014.jpg

He’s in this cannibal blog because he’s, well, become a cannibal, eating children to keep his monstrous form alive. They are brought to him by his minions.

vlcsnap-00005.jpg

“Bring in the first human child!”

vlcsnap-00006.jpg

He builds a theme park in Florida, so that he can access lots of children, and keep his appetite satiated. But then, “one fateful day”, he sees on television the story of Elián González, the little Cuban boy was was involved in a huge custody battle which became an international incident between the US and Cuba.

He hungers for Elián and decides to invade Cuba. As he begins his attack on Cuba, the Cuban standing at the monitor can be heard yelling the same Spanish phrases as the popular cartoon character Speedy Gonzales.

Disney causes havoc, knocking planes out of the sky à la King Kong. Poor Elián appears on the shore, offering to sacrifice himself to save his beloved Cubans, but then Fidel arrives!

vlcsnap-00018.jpg

vlcsnap-00020.jpg

Look, it’s a satire on American imperialism of course, but it has a lot to say about the cannibalistic nature of capitalist consumerism and the voracious appetite of corporates who look to eat up the culture and the cash of their target audience. Imperialism is not just via planes and tanks and giant spiders with frozen heads on top. Cuba has been embargoed from receiving the benefits of American culture for decades, and some of them seem to like it just fine that way.

vlcsnap-00009.jpg