The Black Duck (1929)
PASSED · 6min · Animation, Comedy, Short · 17 March 1929
Okay, this is an entry in the "Aesop's Sound Fables" and is a version of the little-black-duck and the wolf-in-sheep's clothing fables about the sibling duck who was shunned because of his color, and not because of race---Aesop was not into revisionist racial-sightings. Perhaps those who see Race in this one overlooked the fact that the hero (who is a Mickey Mouse swipe) is 'black' and all of the cats are black (especially the one who is a dead-ringer swipe of 'Felix the Cat.) It is a tad-bit on the adult side, which was not unusual for cartoons made in the pre-code days of 1934. There is a duck-herder (a black mouse ) leading his flock, with a sheepherder's staff, to water. All the ducklings are white except the one who is black, and it is not unusual in the animal-and-barnyard kingdom to find various colors in the litters, broods and egg-hatching departments. The black-hero mouse finally gets all the ducks afloat in the lake and he takes a break. Up on the hill is a cat, wearing an eye-patch and named Butch, and he is pulling a little cage with a real-little black-mouse in it, for Butch, it turns out, is in the duck-napping racket. Cut to a saloon/jazz joint/cat-house (a couple of the ladies appear to have been around the friendly-for-pay course a few times) called the "Day & Night Club." That is because this gin-joint is open 24-7 and has nothing to do with light and dark. There is a whole lot of hot-piano playing (and one of the cats is playing a hot harp), dancing, beer-and-whiskey quaffing going on, and this is just in the front room. The waiter is also drunk, just from drinking what has spilled on his tray. Felix...uh...Butch the Ducknapper enters and asks the biggest and blackest, cigar-smoking cat---this is a black-and-white-cartoon---if he wants to buy a duck and Mutt the Cat allows as how he is indeed in the market for a duck-dinner...if someone could bring a duck. Butch hotfoots it back to the lake, gives Mickey the Duck Herder a Bathing Beauties magazine to distract him and this magazine does just that as some of the depicted bathing beauties---all white---resemble Gloria Swanson in her Mack Sennett days. Then Butch has the little-black mouse get into a drake-duck suit and lure all the female-or-gay ducks away. I'm sure that there are those who can find some kind of racial symbolism in the fact that a black-cat has a little black-mouse as a lackey henchman. Butch gets all the hot-to-trot ducks inside a Duck Corral, Mutt shows up and pays him, pulls out a knife and has intentions of having some cut-up duck for dinner...but the little black duck alerts the black duck-herder (who still looks like Mickey Mouse) and the black mouse ends the career of the culinary black cat. Okay, one of the fable sources is the old...mouse-in-a-duck's-clothing bit...and not a wolf(probably black)-in- (probably white)sheep's-clothing bit. That ol' Aesop was one racist dude. One of the great anti-prohibition films.
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