Jungle Jitters is a one-reel animated cartoon short subject in the Merrie Melodies series, produced in Technicolor and released to theatres on February 19, 1938 by Warner Bros. Pictures and The Vitaphone Corporation. It was produced by Leon Schlesinger and directed by Friz Freleng, with musical supervision by Carl W. Stalling and voices by Mel Blanc.
The cartoon features a number of racial stereotypes throughout the short (such as people in blackface), which prompted United Artists (the then-current owners of the pre-1948 WB library) to withhold this cartoon from syndication in 1968, making it one of the Censored Eleven
Since the cartoon fell into the public domain in 1966-1967, it has been distributed without copyright, therefore can be distributed to any video sharer. It has ended up in low pitch, poor quality, bootleg copies over the years, but there is an a.a.p. copy that is in average condition that exists as well.
Jungle Jitters opens to a scene of an African jungle showing the natives going about their day, with the jungle elements being intertwined with modern-day elements, IE: the people dancing around a tent when it turns into a makeshift merry-go-round, to the tune of "The Merry-Go-Round Broke Down."
A traveling salesman (who represents Al Pearce's character Elmer Blurt) comes by to offer them the latest in "assorted useful, useless, utensils." The natives capture him, throw him into a pot of boiling water, and ransack his goods. They proceed to familiarize themselves with vacuum cleaners, batteries, light bulbs, etc.
When the salesman is introduced to the village queen (depicted as a white woman, possibly to avoid any problems with the Hays code over the issue of miscegenation), she takes a liking to him, imagining the cartoon dog as none other than Clark Gable and Robert Taylor. The salesman finds himself with the choice between a forced marriage with the homely queen, or the boiling pot of water. He chooses the pot.
This cartoon has never received an official video release. Warner Bros. planned to release a DVD containing this cartoon and the rest of the Censored Eleven, but such a release has been delayed indefinitely. However, the short is in the public domain and can be found on DVD and VHS releases of varying quality.
- 1-3 years after falling into the public domain, United Artists removed Jungle Jitters from the airwaves in the United States due to its racial stereotyping of blacks. It is one of the Censored Eleven cartoons and it has not been seen on television since 1968. Despite the controversy, the cartoon was seen on television in Costa Rica in the early 1990s. Other countries continue to air the cartoon quite often, despite bans.
It is one of 3 not to be shown at TCM festivals, probably because it was one of the most offensive to Turner, who currently owns the rights to the short.
This cartoon is referenced in the 1950 Daffy Duck/Porky Pig cartoon The Ducksters, via Daffy mentioning that Miss Shush is Mamie, a 600 pound gorilla who appears in Obnoxious Pictures' "Jungle Jitters". Both the character and film are fictitious; since the original cartoon did not feature a gorilla.