CARTOONS FOR CHILDREN, OR MAYBE NOT. III PART. THE CODE
III PART: THE CODE
In 1930, therefore, a new code, which came to be known as the Hollywood Production Code or Hays Code, was written. Hays Office had to organize formal self-regulation of movie content through its notorious Production Code Administration (PCA). But, that, certainly was not a real censorship for movies industry. Censorship takes place when an outside force, usually a governmental agency, dictates what may be published or shown. The Hays Office policed the productions of its own member companies: any fines were paid to the Hays Office, owned by and operated for the members themselves. The PCA was created so that federal censorship, most strongly advocated by the Catholic Church, would not become the law of the land.
The industry accepted The Code nominally. Hays had established some kind of morality suggestions more than rules and the most producers followed them or pretended to do it. However, after a few years the guidelines started to relax and by the coming of sound in the late 1920s, the treatment of crime, violence, sexual infidelity, profanity, and even nudity became alarming to some people. The arrival of sounds made even more shocking this kind of contents and the strong morality Catholic group in society claimed for the necessity of a governmental censorship control.
THE NATIONAL LEGION OF DECENCY
In 1933 a new organization dedicated to identifying and combating objectionable content in motion pictures from the point of view of the American Catholic Church was founded, it was The National Legion of Decency, also known as The Catholic Legion of Decency. At the time, the population of Catholics, some twenty million, were theoretically forbidden from attending any screening of films under the notion of mortal sin. Then, films were submitted to the National Legion of Decency to be reviewed prior to their official duplication and distribution to the general public, after receiving a stamp of approval from the secular offices behind Hollywood’s Production Code.
Hays and Hollywood reacted and 1 July 1934, Hays’ Code was actually working. For that reason, movies made between 1930 and 34 are thus often referred to as precede or pre-code, even though the Production Code was theoretically in effect. Under the original 1930 Production Code, all films were designed to be suitable for viewers of all ages, even if adults were their primary target audiences. They were created for an adult audience and they were full of trickery and salaciousness, as well animation. Like the rest of the industry, cartoons were not particularly worried about The Code. They do include the broad ethnic and gender stereotyping that was common to the comedy of the era, and an inordinate amount of caricatured cameos of celebrities and newsmakers.
BETTY BOOP VS MINNIE MOUSE
Betty Boop made her first appearance on August 9, 1930, in the cartoon “Dizzy Dishes”; the sixth installment in Fleischer’s Talkartoon, a series of 42 animated cartoons produced by the Fleischer Studios and distributed by Paramount Pictures between 1929 and 1932. At 1932, Talkartoon were replaced by the Betty Boop series, which continued for the next seven years. It is regarded as one of the first and most famous sex symbols on the animated screen. As it is well known, Betty, a sexualized woman character, has never been the favorite character between conservatives, however, her popularity was drawn largely from adult audiences having a healthy profitable life until 1934 when The Production Code was operating effectively. The Code of imposed guidelines on the Motion Picture Industry and placed specific restrictions on the content films could reference with sexual innuendos. This greatly affected the Betty Boop cartoons in deep.
At that time, Minnie Mouse was as well displayed showing their underwear or bloomers regularly, but in the style of childish or comical characters, not an entirely defined woman’s form. Disney’s style had no problems with the conservative Catholic thought. Although his ancestors arrived at EEUU in between the lately 18th and the early 19th centuries, his family preserved the original Irish Catholic mentality. Elias Disney educated his children inside of a strict conservative style of life. Walt Disney did not need to do any work to make cartoons according to with the imperative moral at the moment because he was a good example of it. And audiences appreciated it. So, meanwhile others producers were in trouble with the application of The Code, that became an excellent opportunity for the company of the Mouse.
DISNEY AND THE DEPRESSION
It was not until 1934 when the things actually started to be serious about the code. Scenes, scripts, shoots even whole films were banned. Nude, violence, racial points of view or religious critics were cut. And, of course, that was for animation as well. But, unlike films, animation fed on irony, social and political criticism, sarcasm, surrealism and, of course, sex. People did not make drama or philosophy using animation and the code represented a hard blow for a business which was difficult enough. It was starting to be pretty difficult to make money with animation. The production required a higher technical quality every day and that meant money; however, the cost of the production increased day by day, the income produced by short cartoons did not. The effects of the depression were present all around; the problems with the censors made more complicated to find the fun for the cartoonist and the development of the new technologies were another handicap to add to the enough difficult economic situations during the depression.
However, even Disney was affected by the censorship. There were two main reasons for that. By one hand, the competitors who were not very happy with the successful of the mouse; by the other, Disney behaviour became an example of how the things should be work in cartoons.
On February 16, 1931, The Times explained
“Motion Picture Producers & Distributors of America last week announced that, because of complaints of many censor boards, the famed udder of the cow in the Mickey Mouse cartoons was now banned. Cows in Mickey Mouse or other cartoon pictures in the future will have small or invisible udders quite unlike the gargantuan organ whose antics of late have shocked some and convulsed other of Mickey Mouse’s patrons. In a recent picture the udder, besides flying violently to left and right or stretching far out behind when the cow was in motion, heaved with its panting when the cow stood still; it also stretched, when seized, in an exaggerated way.”
But that what for the most of the people are all problems is the same that for someone become an opportunity. Disney had the right point of view, the one which audience were opened for accepting and dreaming with. Free of what the conservatives could feel like a treat and full of the happiness and hope that the desperation of the time during the Big Depression needed it after, Disney had an opened path to becoming a kind of the land. He developed a character that represented the purest and classic American Spirit: Mickey Mouse became quickly a phenomenon. Disney, always learning from the successful before him, and deeply wishing to be as famous as they, wanted that his Mouse was more loved than the previous “Felix The Cat”. Mickey was ready to have his own line of products, but Disney was going to do it better, he was going to invent merchandising.
THE MOUSE’S MERCHANDISING
During the early years of the depression nothing was easy for nobody, but while the whole country was in bankruptcy Mickey Mouse/Disney became rich, richer and richer, and more and more selected as the model of the perfect American.
“The fresh cheering is for Mickey the Big Business Man, the world’s super salesman. He finds work for jobless folk. He lifts corporations out of bankruptcy. Wherever he scampers, here or overseas, the sun of prosperity breaks through the clouds.” H. L. Robbins. The New York Times March 1935.
The feeling and the rules of censorship will be changed, but for that moment, Disney was already the absolute kind of the land. Disney was laying the foundation of cartoons production with a very concrete and defined way to do it. The eternal happy Disney ending, and cute characters with sweet colours suitable for the whole family, according to with a conservative point of view, had shown how substantial business it could be. Because finally, that is what all is about!
And cartoons started to become sweeter, happy and sex free like if that was a natural way to do it, and the only right way for fantasy films and adults were losing their interest. And one day, suddenly, it seemed like nobody thought about animation for adults anymore…. until now when business is growing up again thanks to the whole family concept again.
But that is another story….