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Museum Of UnCut Funk PaysTribute to Black Animation Stars

Photo of Jerry Beck By Jerry Beck | Animation Scoop January 28, 2014 at 4:35PM

Hey, hey, hey! "Funky Turns 40: Black Character Revolution Animation Exhibition" opens at the Schomburg Center in New York City on February 4th.
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Harlem Globtrotters
The Museum Of UnCut Funk, a virtual space that pays homage to 1970's Black culture, has curated Funky Turns 40: Black Character Revolution Animation Exhibition opening at New York's The Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture on February 4th

From their Press Release

The Funky Turns 40: Black Character Revolution exhibition includes 60 pieces of animation art from the Museum Of UnCut Funk collection that feature Black characters from 1970's Saturday morning cartoons. The original production cels and drawings in the exhibition were actually used under the camera to produce these cartoons. The hand drawn and inked cels used in the animation production process of the 1970's represent a lost art form compared to today's digitally created cartoons. 

The Funky Turns 40: Black Character Revolution exhibition is a fun, colorful, nostalgic experience that is culturally and historically relevant for the Black community but also appeals to a broader audience. Back in the 1970's, before the explosion of cable TV channels, everybody watched the same cartoons. Since then, many of these cartoons have re-aired on cable networks reaching new generations of children. This exhibition will definitely bring back fond memories for anyone who watched these cartoons.

What makes the Funky Turns 40: Black Character Revolution Exhibition unique is both the breadth of the artwork that we feature and the historically important story that it tells. We own one of the world's most extensive collections of 1970's Black Animation art, which allows us to create a truly unique exhibition experience. More importantly, our exhibition focuses on one of the positive outcomes of the Civil Rights Movement, a story that to this point has not been told. The art in the exhibition commemorates the 40th anniversaries of 1970's Saturday morning cartoons that featured positive Black characters for the first time in television history.

This 1970‘s revolution in how Black animation characters were developed and portrayed in Hollywood represents historic change and the ultimate manifestation of Dr. Martin Luther King's dream. For the first time characters of all races lived, played and worked together as equals. By highlighting this positive aspect of our experience we are able to engage and educate people in a fun and uplifting way. 

Practically every piece of art represents a historical first, such as:

  • Peter Jones - The Hardy Boys (1969) - First positive Black male character in a Saturdaymorning cartoon series 
  • Hey, Hey, Hey, It’s Fat Albert (1969) - First positive Black cast cartoon to appear in a primetime television special and to be created from a comedy routine, Bill Cosby's 1967 Buck, Buck routine from his Revenge Album
  • Valerie Brown - Josie And The Pussy Cats (1970) - First positive Black female character in a Saturday morning cartoon series  
  • Harlem Globetrotters (1970) - First positive Black cast Saturday morning cartoon series and the first featuring Black athletes 
  • The Jackson 5ive (1971) - First positive Black cast Saturday morning cartoon series featuring Black musicians  
  • Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids (1972-1985) - Longest running positive Black cast Saturdaymorning cartoon series
  • Kid Power (1972) - First truly multicultural Saturday morning cartoon series and the first featuring Black characters to be created from a syndicated comic strip, Morrie Turner's Wee Pals comic strip
  • Clerow Wilson - Clerow Wilson And The Miracle of PS 14 (1972) - First positive Black characters from a television series, The Flip Wilson Show, to appear as the same chartacters in a primetime cartoon special
  • Lt. Uhura - Star Trek (1973) - First positive Black character from a television series to appear as the same character in a Saturday morning cartoon series
  • Verb - Schoolhouse Rock (1974) - First Black male superhero character in a cartoon - second Schoolhouse Rock episode to feature Black Characters
  • Astrea - Space Sentinels (1977) - First Black female superhero character in a Saturdaymorning cartoon series 
  • Billy Jo Jive - Billy Jo Jive (1978) - 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

It was the first time that cartoons like Josie and the Pussy Cats, Star Trek and Kid Power featured strong, positive Black female characters. It was also the first time that Black people like Bill Cosby and Berry Gordy led the development of animated television programming featuring Black characters, from concept through to art creation and production.

I believe these cartoons are national treasures. They were seen by a generation of children and not only changed the way that Black kids saw themselves but the way white kids saw them as well. Prior to the 1970's, Black characters in cartoons were depicted in a very derogatory manner.

The Funky Turns 40: Black Character Revolution Exhibition will be touring to the following museums in 2014-early 2015:

    • February 5-June 14, 2014 - The Schomburg Center For Research in Black Culture – New York, NY
    • July 13-October 20, 2014 - DuSable Museum Of African American History - Chicago, IL
    • November 22, 2014 -March 1, 2015 - Northwest African American Museum - Seattle, WA

You can learn more about the exhibition at their website - http://museumofuncutfunk.com/2012/01/08/funky-turns-40-black-character-revolution-animation-exhibition/ and at the Schomburg website - http://www.nypl.org/events/exhibitions/funky-turns-40-black-character-revolution.

They are doing a Curator's talk on the evening of February 4th starting at 6pm. The exhibition opens to the public on February 5th. They are currently booking more museums for 2015 - 2016.


You can learn more about the Curator's Talk at the Schomburg Center Website -  http://www.nypl.org/locations/tid/64/node/234824?lref=64%2Fcalendar, and you can register for the event at Eventbrite - https://www.eventbrite.com/e/curators-talk-funky-turns-40-tickets-9485402093.

This article is related to: Fat Albert

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