Sunday Go to Meetin' Time (1936)
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This cartoon is part of the Censored Eleven and, like the rest of the cartoons, it has historical value but it is obvious why these cartoons are banned from television. For Pete's sake, even the demons are in blackface. It's a good thing America eventually got tired of black stereotypes!!! They're not looked kindly upon today, that's for sure.
This cartoon is not enjoyable as most WB cartoons are, and in my opinion the only reason the Censored Eleven, including Sunday Go to Meetin' Time, are not completely forgotten today is because they teach us how stupidly cruel and disrespectful society was back in the day.
I give this cartoon a 6 out of 10 because the only people who should watch this are the people who have a lot of interest in history, animation, or both.
But I digress. This cartoon is worth seeing, just as long as you understand the offensive content.
However, this cartoon is more known today for it's racist imagery and negative stereotypes of African Americans. It's almost a catalog of common stereotypes and ignorant perceptions people had of African Americans in the pre-civil rights era. It's hard to believe that people actually found these things funny. This has made it a difficult cartoon to see for many years and for good reason. The only redeeming value this short has is the title song, which is catchy.
What's interesting about this short, is that the sequence in Hades could have easily have been very frightening along the lines of PLUTO'S JUDGEMENT DAY (1935). I wonder if that was the case when it was shown in the 30's and 40's. At least, it doesn't come across as very frightening, but that's probably because the stereotypes are more prominently noticed nowadays. The cartoon WHOLLY SMOKE, which was released two years later, conveyed the theme of a character learning their lesson through a frightening nightmare much more effectively.
The only real value this early WB cartoon has is as an example of how ignorant people used be and how African Americans were once portrayed in the early decades of cinema. These films should not be forgotten and should given a small degree of accessibility to film students and historians, but otherwise do not belong on syndicated television.
It is also not as racist as 'Jungle Jitters', 'Angel Puss' and 'All This and Rabbit Stew', in fact apart from one bit, the portrayal of its stereotypes and the character designs 'Sunday Go to Meetin' Time' is one of the tamer ones from the group. However, it takes a decent if very familiar premise of a character going to hell but executes it in a less than memorable or imaginative manner.
Not as dull as 'Angel Puss' or 'Hittin' the Trail for Hallelujah Land', but when it comes to the "Censored 11" cartoons there are a few that still entertain hugely such as 'Goldilocks and the Three Jivin' Bears' and 'Coal Black and De Sebben Dwarfs', a level that 'Sunday Go to Meetin' Time' never quite reaches.
The best thing about it is the music score, it's not Carl Stalling but it's still lively, characterful and beautifully orchestrated stuff that fits very well. Most of the animation is also very fluid and detailed with lovely use of colour. There are a few amusing moments, such as the citing of the charges, which is the most imaginative the premise gets.
On the other hand, the premise could have been more imaginatively and energetically handled. It just lacked zip and doesn't do much new with a premise done to death in cartoons and much more memorably, not enough stands out here. There are amusing moments certainly, but they come sporadically and sharper timing generally would have helped to make it more consistent. While it has been said that there are far more offensive cartoons in the "Censored 11" group, it is easy to see why 'Sunday Go to Meetin' Time' is seen offensive enough to withhold it from being distributed.
There is one scene that is racially offensive, which involves shoe polish, that scene was just not in good taste not just for now but back then too. The very exaggerated character designs are grotesquely and unnecessarily ugly, and the characters are stereotypes not painted in a good light, if nowhere near as objectionable as the likes of 'Jungle Jitters', 'Tin Pan Alley Cats' and 'All This and Rabbit Stew' as prime examples of the "Censored 11" cartoons.
In conclusion, forgettable cartoon with moments but could have done much more with a decent if familiar premise. 4/10 Bethany Cox
I believe those involved with this short probably thought they were telling a colorful, harmless story with a nice moral lesson, using minstrel imagery and stereotypes that weren't considered offensive at the time (at least in the mainstream). Now, of course, this is something that's difficult for many of us watch and certainly difficult to enjoy in the way it was intended. These things can be hard to rate fairly but I'll try. The depictions of blacks are grotesque but, otherwise, the animation is solid for the time. It's hard to judge color and sound quality when this hasn't been released in any kind of cleaned-up condition that I'm aware of. Overall, racism aside, it's a forgettable short that was pretty typical of the kinds of cartoons that were being produced at the time by Leon Schlesinger. If you're an animation buff you'll want to see it and the other shorts on the Censored Eleven list. Most people won't want to see this and children certainly shouldn't be exposed to it until they are old enough to understand the context and history behind it. I should also add that, while watching this makes me uncomfortable, I'm against locking it away and pretending it doesn't exist. That doesn't help anything.