Richard Leskosky notes:
"This is an animated cartoon, but the animals are realistic enough that they
do not wear clothing or carry other identifying characteristics. It's
necessary for animators to do something to distinguish animals of the same
species significantly enough so that viewers do not get confused, and,
let's face it, one lion looks pretty much like another. The only way to
stage the fight scenes (between Scar and Mufasa and between Scar and Simba)
and make it clear who's who is to give them different colorations."
The coloring issue goes beyond TLK, though. For example, several reviewers
noted the dark skin tones of the evil poacher in THE RESCUERS DOWN UNDER.
Now, of course, there's a long *long* tradition of associating darkness with
evil--or at least not-goodness. We might assume that the roots of these
associations go back very far indeed, to a time when night was feared and
sunlight welcomed. But this has also crossed over, for a very long time indeed,
with associations of skin color as denoting states of goodness and not-goodness.
Are there racist implications in such
uses of color?
"No duh," as the kids say (I'm told). But what do we say beyond that?
Interestingly, compare the skin color issue in POCAHONTAS and THE HUNCHBACK OF
NOTRE DAME. On the other hand, ask how Eddie Murphy plays with and/or exploits
black stereotypes in THE NUTTY PROFESSOR--Sherman's family has obvious rural
southern roots (of a type explored much more deeply in Charles Burnett's TO
SLEEP WITH ANGER) and uses some common signifiers. For example, at the big
university reception in the film's final scene, when Sherman's parents think
their boy is being harassed, the father asks "Where's my razor?" and the mother
responds, "Wait. My razor is somewhere here in my purse!" Both characters
are played by Murphy himself.
Don Larsson, Mankato State U (MN)
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