The Museum Of UnCut Funk, a virtual space that pays homage to 1970's Black Culture and the icons that made this decade so special, is celebrating Saturday morning cartoons from the 70s.
“Funky Turns 40: Black Character Revolution Exhibition,” is the museum’s national touring show that commemorates the 40th anniversaries of 1970's Saturday morning cartoons that featured positive Black characters for the first time in television history.
The exhibit opens at the Northwest African American Museum on Nov. 22, and will be on display there until May 3, 2015. The exhibition just completed its run at the DuSable Museum in Chicago.
The Funky Turns 40: Black Character Revolution Exhibition includes 60 pieces of animation art from the Museum Of UnCut Funk collection, one of the world’s most unique and extensive collections of original animation production cels – celluloid sheets that the original art was created on -- and drawings from 1970’s Saturday morning cartoons that feature Black characters.
The original production art in the exhibition were actually used under the camera to produce these cartoons. The hand drawn and inked cels used in the animation production process of the 1970’s represent a lost art form compared to today’s digitally created cartoons.
The virtual museum also features an extensive collection of 1970's black culture artifacts, which include animation art, Broadway window cards, coins, comic books, movie posters and stamps that incorporate black images.
The Funky Turns 40: Black Character Revolution Exhibition is a fun, colorful, nostalgic experience that is culturally and historically relevant for the Black community but also appeals to a broader audience. Back in the 1970's, before the explosion of cable TV channels, everybody watched the same cartoons. Since then, many of these cartoons have re-aired on cable networks reaching new generations of children.
What makes the Funky Turns 40: Black Character Revolution Exhibition unique is both the breadth of the artwork and the historically important story that it tells.
Practically every piece of art represents a historical first, such as:
Peter Jones - The Hardy Boys (1969) - First positive Black male character in a Saturday morning cartoon series
Valerie Brown - Josie And The Pussy Cats (1970) - First positive Black female character in a Saturday morning cartoon series
Harlem Globetrotters (1970) - First positive Black cast Saturday morning cartoon series and the first featuring Black athletes
The Jackson 5ive (1971) - First positive Black cast Saturday morning cartoon series featuring Black musicians
Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids (1972-1985) - Longest running positive Black cast Saturday morning cartoon series
Kid Power (1972) - First truly multicultural Saturday morning cartoon series and the first featuring Black characters to be created from a syndicated comic strip, Morrie Turner’s Wee Pals comic strip
Lt. Uhura - Star Trek (1973) - First positive Black character from a television series to appear as the same character in a Saturday morning cartoon series
Verb - Schoolhouse Rock (1974) - First Black male superhero character in a cartoon - second Schoolhouse Rock episode to feature Black Characters
Chuck Clayton - The U.S. Of Archie (1974) - First Black male character in an Archies Saturday morning cartoon series
Astrea - Space Sentinels (1977) - First Black female superhero character in a Saturday morning cartoon series
Billy Jo Jive - Billy Jo Jive (1978) - First positive cartoon series featuring Black characters to be created from a series of children’s books - Ted and John Shearer’s Billy Jo Jive book series - Aired as segment during Sesame Street
SuperStretch and MicroWoman - Tarzan And The Super 7 (1979) - First Black superhero duo in a Saturday morning cartoon series
It was the first time that cartoons like Josie And The Pussy Cats, Kid Power and Star Trek featured strong, positive Black female characters. It was also the first time that Black people like Bill Cosby and Berry Gordy led the development of animated television programming featuring Black characters, from concept through to art creation and production. I believe these cartoons are national treasures. They were seen by a generation of children and not only changed the way that Black kids saw themselves but the way white kids saw them as well. Prior to the 1970's, Black characters in cartoons were depicted in a very derogatory manner.