Uncle Tom's Bungalow is a Merrie Melodies animated cartoon directed by Tex Avery, and released to theatres on July 12, 1937 by Warner Bros. The short cartoon is a parody of the 1852 novel, Uncle Tom's Cabin and the “plantation melodrama” genre of the 1930s. It contains many stereotypical portrayals of black characters. . The cartoon plays off of the Harriet Beecher Stowe novel in that it portrays Uncle Tom as an old man, and wooden shacks and cotton fields pervade the scenery. Director Tex Avery adds his own sense of humor and “trickster” animation, giving the classic theme a modern, humorous twist.
In 1968, the cartoon became a part of the infamous Censored Eleven, a group of cartoons banned from syndication by the United Artists due to the controversy surrounding their ethnically offensive content. Brief segments did, however, appear in Turner Entertainment's 1989 home video release, Cartoons For Big Kids, hosted by Leonard Maltin.
After a narrator introduces the players, Simon Simon Legree (pronounced Seemoan Seemoan), a greedy used slave trader, sells Uncle Tom to Eve (a young white girl) and Topsey (a young black girl) on layaway. In winter, Legree finds that the girls have missed their last three payments and sets out to get his money or take Uncle Tom back. The girls hide Uncle Tom upon learning of Legree's arrival and Eliza, a black woman, whisks them away and a chase ensues. In the end Legree and his dogs corner Eliza, Topsey and Eve, when Uncle Tom arrives in a car and clearly much richer than before. Uncle Tom pays Legree the money he's owed and he leaves. The narrator suspects that Uncle Tom cashed in his social security, but it is soon revealed that he earned his newfound fortune by playing craps.
The cartoon was included in the Censored Eleven, as it was deemed offensive by United Artists, and it is currently withheld from distribution. However, today the cartoon can be easily accessed on DailyMotion. Additionally, the short was recently viewed with other films part of the Censored Eleven at the TCM Film Festival in Hollywood on April 24, 2010 as part of a classic film series, presented by Donald Bogle.
A DVD release of this and the other 10 in the Censored Eleven has been announced for 2011 by Warner Archive. However, this has yet come to fruition.
↑The Colored Cartoon: Black Representation in American Animated Short Films, 1907-1954; Christopher P. Lehman; page 62