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Pet Sins March 2005

When are we going to see a black animated movie hero?

As of 2004, we haven't yet seen a full length US-made animated feature with a full cast of unambiguously black characters, or even one with a black hero for that matter. Sure, there have been some animated movies with black supporting characters. Disney's 2001 animated feature Atlantis, the Lost Empire featured the first black Disney character that wasn't an embarrassing caricature, Dr. Joshua Strongbear Sweet (btw, Dr Sweet is half Native American and half black). This was followed by Mr Bubbles in Disney's 2002 feature Lilo and Stitch. There are black side-kick characters in Columbia Picture's Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within (2001) and DreamWork's Sinbad: Legend of the Seven Seas (2003).

Made-for-TV cartoon series with black characters have been around for a while. Some recent examples include 'Boondocks' and 'Static Shock'. Two the shorts in the US/Japan joint venture made-for-TV animated collection Animatrix (2005) - 'Final Flight of the Osiris' and 'World Record'- had black central characters, but Dan Davis, the main character in 'World Record', is in the stereotypical role of an athlete. 'Final Flight of the Osiris' features the relationship between Thadeus (a black man) and Jue (an East Asian woman).

But as of this writing, there are no full-length U.S.animated theatrical-release movies with a black protagonist although animated movies with South and Central American characters, e.g. Disney's Emperor's New Groove (2001) and DreamWorks' The Road to El Dorado (2000) have already played in theaters. There are a number of animated movies with native North Americans as main characters too - Disney's Brother Bear (2003), DreamWork's Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron (2002) and Disney's Pocahontas (1995). Even East Asians, South Asians and West Asians have their share of the big screen: Disney's Mulan (1998), Disney's Jungle Book/Jungle Book 2 and Disney's Aladdin (1992). Despite their significant presence in the US, and their significant buying power, blacks are prominently absent from animated movies. The French already beat the U.S. to it by making Kirikou and the Sorceress, a well-received film with black African characters.