‘Boondocks’ screened at Animated Film Festival

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Wednesday, December 10, 2008

“The Boondocks” enthusiasts, Modern Culture and Media concentrators and even an aspiring engineer gathered last night in Salomon 101 for the Emancipation Presentation: Brown’s (Black) Animated Film Festival.

A part of the Black Heritage Series, the film festival featured four animated clips. The sparsely attended event also featured a panel on African Americans in animation with special guests Brandon Schultz, president of ImajiMation Studios and Christopher Lehman, professor at St. Cloud University and author of several books on the subject.

The night started off with a Yuletide-themed episode of Eddie Murphy’s “The PJs,” and was followed by an episode of “The Boondocks,” an animated television show known for its social satire of race relations.

“‘The Boondocks’ was what brought me here,” said Calvin Main ’12.

The clips screened spoke to how African Americans are depicted in the media and perceived by the global community.

“It’s a revolutionary show,” said Eve Blazo ’12. “There’s a huge difference between black people represented in cartoons versus in real life. And through comedy you can talk about political issues (in a) comedic way.”

She added that though comedian Dave Chappelle may have addressed similar issues on his show, “The Boondocks” is able to comment on sensitive topics because, as a cartoon, audiences do not necessarily take its presentation of issues seriously.

“The Boondocks” episode shown addressed the R. Kelly scandal of 2002, when the R&B star was indicted for statutory rape. After the episode, Schultz also screened a clip from a music video – commissioned by R. Kelly – in which an animated version of the singer tried to enter a church but was denied admission. Schultz credited the artist for his creative prowess despite the controversy surrounding the musician.

“R. Kelly may be troubled, he may be a criminal, but he is a musical genius,” Schultz said.

The panel then discussed past African American presence in animation. According to Lehman, there had not been any black animators before 1954, though African Americans had been depicted in several cartoons prior to that time.

Lehman described the research process for his books on black representation in animation as difficult, but he defended past animators who may have depicted African Americans in an unflattering light in their shows.

“They didn’t see themselves as being negative toward African Americans. Animators were just copying what they saw in pop culture, for animation is an imitative medium,” he said.

Schultz said “The Boondocks” in particular was an important show for African Americans in animation because it was the first primetime show with black animators focused on African American culture.

When speaking of the upcoming movie “The Princess and the Frog,” which will introduce Disney’s first black princess, Schultz had mixed feelings.

He said there was a lot of “animosity toward Disney” in the animation industry, though he also said he was excited that the director of “The Proud Family,” a Disney TV show about an African American family, would be on the film’s creative team.

Schultz said shows like “The Boondocks” have an effect on the future of black animation. “‘The Boondocks’ is like Neil Armstrong on the moon. Space voyages can only go from here,” he said.