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Southern Fried Foster: Representing Race and Place through Music in Looney Tunes Cartoons

Southern Fried Foster: Representing Race and Place through Music in Looney Tunes Cartoons JOANNA R. SMOLKO Southern Fried Foster: Representing Race and Place through Music in Looney Tunes Cartoons When we watch animated cartoons, how much does music shape our perception of the narrative? And why are Stephen Foster ’s songs so prevalent in cartoon music in what has come to be known as anima- tion’s golden age (1930s–1960s), especially in cartoons that depict African American slaves, blackface minstrelsy, and the South? This article ex- plores how Foster ’s songs were used in Warner Bros.’ Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies cartoons as unsettling symbols to evoke race and place. It examines the complex associations and subtexts that are constructed through the pairing of Stephen Foster songs with particular images and themes across these cartoons, especially those scored by Carl Stalling (1891–1972). Stalling directed music at the Warner Bros. studios from 1936 through 1958 and was the primary arranger of the cartoon scores during this period. A survey of these themes will lead into a close analysis of three cartoons that use multiple Foster songs in their scores. Finally, I will discuss a few ways that we can evaluate these cartoons today. As icons of American culture, the Looney Tunes cartoons reveal cul- http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png American Music University of Illinois Press

Southern Fried Foster: Representing Race and Place through Music in Looney Tunes Cartoons

American Music , Volume 30 (3) – Apr 24, 2013

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Publisher
University of Illinois Press
ISSN
1945-2349

Abstract

JOANNA R. SMOLKO Southern Fried Foster: Representing Race and Place through Music in Looney Tunes Cartoons When we watch animated cartoons, how much does music shape our perception of the narrative? And why are Stephen Foster ’s songs so prevalent in cartoon music in what has come to be known as anima- tion’s golden age (1930s–1960s), especially in cartoons that depict African American slaves, blackface minstrelsy, and the South? This article ex- plores how Foster ’s songs were used in Warner Bros.’ Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies cartoons as unsettling symbols to evoke race and place. It examines the complex associations and subtexts that are constructed through the pairing of Stephen Foster songs with particular images and themes across these cartoons, especially those scored by Carl Stalling (1891–1972). Stalling directed music at the Warner Bros. studios from 1936 through 1958 and was the primary arranger of the cartoon scores during this period. A survey of these themes will lead into a close analysis of three cartoons that use multiple Foster songs in their scores. Finally, I will discuss a few ways that we can evaluate these cartoons today. As icons of American culture, the Looney Tunes cartoons reveal cul-

Journal

American MusicUniversity of Illinois Press

Published: Apr 24, 2013

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