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    Tuesday, September 4, 2018

    The Need to Expand the Black Cinema Renaissance to Animation

    I think it's fairly evident, especially to avid moviegoers and stringent cineastes alike, that we appear to be in the midst of a Black television and film belle epoque.  Perhaps it was due to the clarion call that came from the #OscarSoWhite controversy demanding that changes be made in the casting of underrepresented minorities within the white and male dominated Hollywood film industry.  And we can even argue further, as to pinpointing when this new renaissance began.  Was it filmmaker/actor, Jordan Peele's unique take on the horror genre with his highly acclaimed and financially successful, Get Out film?  Or can we move the starting point post the release of Marvel's afrofuturistic superhero film, Black Panther?  One could even make a postulation that TV's Shonda Rhimes and her vaunted Shondaverse (recently extending to a multi-year Netflix streaming imprint) might have planted a seed with this current spate of viable Black culture content on celluloid. There have been a number of high concept and/or popular periods in American cinema when Black culture made the transition from subcultural anonymity to mainstream consciousness.  Whether it was Oscar Micheaux' race films made for primarily Black audiences at the dawn of the Harlem Renaissance or the beloved albeit artistically complicated 70s Blaxploitation period, the dynamism of the Black experience on screen has always garnered a great deal of interest.....for a finite moment in time.

    It's unfortunate what's happening cinematically doesn't seem to be commensurate with diversity and experimentation in the popular Black music scene....of course, there's Afropunk (and the Black Rock Coalition):


    But I digress.   How long these current succession of Black multi-layered TV, streaming shows and films are going to last is anyone's guess but the endgame is to establish something that is just foundational...normal.....something that is expected.  Something that just is.  And one thing I have noticed that is missing from the aforementioned Black motion picture recrudescence are animated films.  Ironically, it might lay at the feet of Marvel (Sony!)-again-through the superhero genre-again, to explore Black/Brown imagery:


    Just as the comic book medium is not solely relegated to costume vigilantism, smart and inventive animated depictions of people of color should be explored but with the verve and normalcy we see with white caricatures.  Peruse through Netflix' animation selection and there's an obvious void with cartoons having varied cultural themes.  Where's the Fat Albert, The Proud Family and Boondocks for this generation?  Shows such Disenchantment, Paradise PD, The Hollow, F is for Family, etc are greenlighted quite frequently, however the POC characters only possess ancillary roles that are essentially used to bolster the white protagonist's journey.

    Anyone can take a cursory look at the independent projects coming out of Kickstarter and it boggles the mind how these creators can't seem to garner deals with Adult Swim, Amazon, Netflix or the countless mediums now currently available. Interestingly enough, rap performer Tyler the Creator made an appearance at last week's Afropunk festival and although I'm not a fan of his music or deportment-he was correct on the dearth of Black cartoons (below):

    Check out this piece from Urban Intellectuals regarding the difficulty with a pitching a Black themed anime project, Black Sands to Netflix:

    And then there's Greg Burnham's Tuskegee Heirs graphic novel to cartoon imprint Netflix pitch. This should be a no brainer:

    I sense a part 2 to this diatribe is forthcoming.....

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    Item Reviewed: The Need to Expand the Black Cinema Renaissance to Animation Description: Rating: 5 Reviewed By: afronerd
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