Funky Turns 40: Historical Black Cartoon Exhibit At Pensacola Museum of Art

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The FUNKY TURNS 40: BLACK CHARACTER REVOLUTION exhibition has been available for circulation to museums nationwide through 2017. The exhibit, which started in 2014 in New York, will be featured at the Pensacola Museum of Art through April 9.

This special exhibition commemorates the 40th anniversaries of 1970’s Saturday Morning cartoons that featured positive Black characters for the first time in television history, such as “Fat Albert and The Cosby Kids,” “The Harlem Globetrotters,”  “The Jackson 5” and many more.  The exhibition includes original production cells and drawings used to produce these cartoons. Also included are images from the animated opening to Soul Train and two of the few Black cast/Black focused animated features that have been produced since the 1970′s, BeBe’s Kids (1992) and Our Friend Martin (1999).

You’ll see original pencil drawings of characters from your favorite shows, as well as animated production cells that jump with that special tint of ’70s color. The hand drawn and inked cells used in the animation production process of the 1970’s represent a lost art form compared to today’s digitally created cartoons. Multi-media screens show excerpts from the shows.

Pensacola New Journalist, Troy Moon writes about how these cartoons opened his eyes to black culture as a kid:

We had a few black kids that went to school with us, but just a few. Yes, we were the same — I’ve always believed that. But we were different, too. And when you’re faced with stale and pale, different is good. But as a child in the 1970s, those differences weren’t always celebrated in my redneck of the world.

Then, I heard the Jackson 5. Sure, Donny Osmond was fine. But that little Michael Jackson youngster? He oozed kid cool. The moves. The funky fashions. The funky hair……….A year later, 1972, 10-year-old me was introduced to a whole gang of black friends courtesy of “Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids”  Albert — “Hey Hey Hey!”, Weird Harold. Mushmouth, Bill, Rudy. They were regular young people, having regular young people fun. Strange, it took cartoons to bring that normalcy to the forefront in my white world.

The 60 Works of Art Featured in the Exhibition
Represent Several Historical Firsts:

  • First positive Black male character – first positive Black male musician in a Saturday morning cartoon series – Peter Jones – The Hardy Boys (1969)
  • First positive Black male character – first positive Black male athlete in a Primetime cartoon series – Freight Train – Where’s Huddles (1970)
  • First positive Black cast Saturday morning cartoon series – first positive Black cast Saturday morning cartoon series featuring Black athletes – Harlem Globetrotters (1970)
  • First positive Black female character – first positive Black female musician in a Saturday morning cartoon series – Valerie Brown – Josie And The Pussy Cats (1970)
  • First positive Black cast Saturday morning cartoon series featuring Black musicians – The Jackson 5ive (1971)
  • Longest running positive Black cast Saturday morning cartoon series – Fat and the Cosby Kids  (1972-1984)
  • First truly multicultural Saturday morning cartoon series – first Saturday morning cartoon series featuring Black characters to be created from a syndicated comic strip, Morrie Turner’s Wee Pals – Kid Power (1972)
  • First Schoolhouse Rock episode to feature Black Characters – I Got Six (1973)
  • First Black character to appear in a Peanuts television cartoon special – Franklin Armstrong – There’s No Time For Love Charlie Brown (1973)
  • First positive Black character from a television series to appear as the same character in a Saturday morning cartoon series – Lt. Uhura – Star Trek (1973)
  • First Black male superhero character in a cartoon – second Schoolhouse Rock episode to feature Black Characters – Verb (1974)
  • First Black male superhero character in a Saturday morning cartoon series – Hong Kong Phooey (1974)
  • First Black male character to appear in an Archies Saturday morning cartoon series – Chuck Clayton – The U.S. Of Archie (1974)
  • First Black female superhero character in a Saturday morning cartoon series – Astrea – Space Sentinels (1977)
  • First positive cartoon series featuring Black characters to be created from a series of children’s books –Ted and John Shearer’s Billy Jo Jive book series – Aired as segment during Sesame Street  –
    Billy Jo Jive (1978)
  • First Black superhero duo in a Saturday morning cartoon series – First Black Husband and Wife superhero duo in a Saturday morning cartoon series – Segment in Tarzan and the Super 7  – Superstretch and Microwoman (1979)

The 60 pieces are from the Museum Of UnCut Funk collection, one of the world’s most unique and extensive collections of original animation production cells and drawings from 1970‘s. Pamela Thomas is the curator of the Museum.

To see the exhibit, visit the Pensacola Museum of Art.

9 thoughts on “Funky Turns 40: Historical Black Cartoon Exhibit At Pensacola Museum of Art

      • My daughter saw Motown 25 for the first time in 2012, she fell asleep and missed MJ. Like mother, like laugh because I did as well and watched it on beta the next morning. She saw it again a year ago and ever since has been head over heels for him. I bought her the J5 cartoon for Christmas and it’s her favorite. Although, the jokes are at his expense, I actually like the Black Dynamite episode made a few years ago called “Jackson Five Across Your Eyes” just because it’s set in the 70s. I love that era, even though I was only there for 5 years of it.

      • You look so young, not that your old! I thought that you were in 20’s. You must have good genes. I love it when the new generation discovers Michael. He will always be remembered.

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