The Censored Eleven, Part Two: Sunday Go to Meetin' Time (1936)

“The Censored Eleven” are the unofficial eleven animated shorts that have been banned, censored, or edited from public consumption and haven’t been seen by most in America. While some of the shorts have been released with a commentary about its social and political context, most are strictly taboo. In this limited series, we’ll review the censored eleven and figure out why these titles are still very volatile.

Sunday Go to Meetin’ Time (1936)
Friz Freleng
Merrie Melodies

Et tu, Friz? Et tu? Friz Freleng directs what is clearly one of the most vicious of the Censored Eleven. It’s a movie about shaming the black man and giving him punishment for not adhering to a strict regimen of church and not disrupting the white man’s environment. “Sunday Go To Meetin’ Time” features a long montage of life as an African American as depicted comically. So kids are given black shoe polish on their heads, and their scalps are shined, and they’re followed around by a nanny in maid garb, all of which leads to their journey to the local church. When one of the local Black men refuses to go to church and instead chase around a chicken (presumably for fried chicken?), he is knocked on the head and enters in to hell.

Of course he comes across stereotypical African American devils that torment him with musical numbers, while he shuffles away from them. He then comes face to face with a stereotypical African American devil that challenges his sins and reads down a list of his crimes. Though he doesn’t outright declare it, in the bottom of the book there’s an entry that reads “Stealin’ Watermelons.” Just downright uncomfortable, if there ever was a racially offensive portrayal of the African American in animation. Of course not wanting to be sent to damnation for refusing to adhere to his people’s traditions, he zooms in to church and becomes the subservient follower for his religion.

“Sunday Go to Meetin’ Time” really has its finger on the pulse of ignorant portrayals of African Americans and spares no time in squeezing in as many stereotypes as possible. Plus it has no real respect for the African American community resorting to either demonizing them or portraying them as slack jawed morons. There’s nothing really unique here about the animation either, as it’s all fairly rote for Warner and Freleng. As a Merrie Melodies short, it’s dull and pretty lifeless with its musical numbers lacking the luster of the usual Warner orchestra. Thankfully this was never a recurring series of shorts from Merrie Melodies.