The 5 Most Ridiculous Attempts to Censor Popular Cartoons
The whole problem with censorship is that it's so arbitrary. For instance, you could make a strong argument in favor of a cartoon getting censored, like when it involves replacing smoking references in The Flintstones and Tom & Jerry, or getting rid of over-the-top racist stereotypes, or not getting blown up -- all of which was deemed appropriate for broadcast at one point or another. But then the stuff that does get censored makes no goddamned sense.
Sure, cultural differences get in the way sometimes (see: Thailand, which blurs one-piece swimsuits in imported anime), but other times the desire to protect children's sensitive brains turns into bizarre self-parody. For example ...
The '90s Spider-Man Cartoon Was Forbidden from Showing Punches
Hey, children of the '90s, remember Spider-Man: The Animated Series? Can you name a single instance of Spider-Man punching someone in that show? Or anyone punching anyone? Surely there's at least one example -- how about that fight with Venom where Iron Man crashed the show for some reason?
"Take thish, Hulk! *hic*"
"Dude, I can feel your breath through the mask. You need help."
Nope: They just roll around in a way that we find strangely arousing. OK, then, what about the super-violent confrontation between Blade and Morbius? Nope again: They throw shit at each other but never actually fight.
"My secret weakness! Bricks!"
The closest we come to a punch in this series is an episode featuring the villain Spot where Spider-Man is forced to propel his fist through a portal to hit him, as the writers must have suddenly realized that grappling and dodging make less sense if done interdimensionally.
Although technically that's what they call a donkey punch.
Well, this was all quite deliberate: The producers had a set of rules stating that Spider-Man "couldn't throw punches, toss anyone through glass, put children in jeopardy, have anyone threatened by fire," or even say the word "kill" (so instead of getting murdered, Uncle Ben moves to Canada). That's also the reason why the grunge-era cops inexplicably carried around futuristic non-lethal blasters.
If you're gonna try and tase Electro, you're gonna need some better hardware, boys.
The most noticeable rule was probably the anti-punching one -- every fight scene turned into a predictable formula of Spider-Man dodging things thrown at him and then wrestling his opponents into submission before shooting his milky web goo and incapacitating them. Head writer/producer John Semper explained that the writers were told to always be careful that "when Spider-Man lands on the roof, he doesn't harm any pigeons." Either the censors didn't understand how animation works or the scripts were peppered with random acts of bird murder that we never got to see.
In contrast, please enjoy this compilation of Spider-Man punching people, getting shot with guns, and getting punched with guns in the 1960s cartoon:
Donald Duck Builds an Atom Bomb, Gets Censored for Selling Hair Tonic
Occasionally, Disney looks at an old comic it made, says "Holy shit, did we really publish that?!" and censors it in all future reprints. Such is the case with "Donald Duck's Atom Bomb," a comic first given away in cereal boxes in 1947. Can you guess why they did it?
No, that says "jigger."
In the comic, Donald Duck, already a prolific inventor, takes a page out of the official terrorist training manual and tries his wing at making an atom bomb. However, encouraging kids to mix chemicals and blow up their school wasn't why the comic was censored -- remember, this was 1947, a time when showing thigh was verboten and making atomic weapons was a wholesome and patriotic activity.
In the comic, while Donald and Fowl-Qaida are thankfully unable to create a working atom bomb, he does manage to produce a quasi-dirty bomb that subsequently detonates in the city's river, releasing waves of radiation. The radiation causes the town's residents to lose all their hair, making the citizens of Duckburg look like the male cast of Breaking Bad.
Thanks, Donald, for showing us the lighter side of severe radiation poisoning.
That's still not why the comic was censored, though. After that little snafu, Donald realizes that he failed to build a working bomb and gives up. However, he decides he still wants to make some money off it, so he goes back to his capitalism lab and invents an atomic hair growth elixir ...
"Buy it or spend your last weeks on Earth as a sexless abomination!"
... and that's why the censors flipped out. The Disney executives felt that Donald was too "mean spirited" in this ending and banned the comic in its original form. Trying to build a WMD? Fine. Dooming a city to a slow death of radiation sickness? Sounds good. Selling a hair-growth tonic? DONALD, YOU MONSTER. From then on, every time the comic was reprinted, it showed a new ending with Donald and his nephews looking super stoked about giving the tonic away for free.
They were promptly disowned by Uncle Scrooge.
As a result, the original uncensored giveaway comic now goes for over 900 bucks. So maybe Donald's plan did work in the end.
In England, the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Couldn't Be Ninjas
In the '80s, the U.K. went batshit for ninjas. The idea that everyone was about to put on black pajamas and overthrow the monarchy terrified the authorities ... and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles ended up paying the price. Since ninjas weren't allowed to appear in cartoons and the British censors weren't so cruel as to deprive their children of Turtlemania, they reached a compromise: The word "ninja" was edited out of the theme song and the show was retitled Teenage Mutant Hero Turtles.
Something similar happened to that Chris Farley movie that flopped in the U.K., Beverly Hills Fat Person.
That wasn't the only change: Check out the British intro and compare it to the original one. It's almost like it's a different show, one with far less nunchakus -- a bizarre, improbable alternate reality where Michelangelo was allowed to remain on the team not because he was useful in a fight, but because the others actually liked his jokes.
Well, there's a reason for that. Apparently envisioning a post-apocalyptic society where children fought to the death with hero weapons, pretty much any scene involving weapons was toned down or cut entirely -- with a special focus on Michelangelo's nunchakus. Because to the minds of people who've chosen to censor cartoons for a living, two sticks tied together with a string is much deadlier than a razor-sharp samurai sword.
Yet they never edited out any of the bits where the Turtles dress like sex offenders.
At first Michelangelo's nunchaku usage was simply reduced, but at some point the mere existence of his signature weapon was deemed so dangerous to society that they actually went ahead and replaced it with a grappling hook called the turtle line, which is somehow worse than having no weapon at all.
If Shredder's next plan involves spelunking, he is fucked.
Having been almost completely de-awesome-ized, Michelangelo remained the only mutant mountain climber in the New York sewer system until the show was canceled. Since then, the more recent versions of the Ninja Turtles in the U.K. have reverted back to the original name and weapons, which probably accounts for the 2011 England riots.
Censors Tried to Remove a Black Character from a Comic About Racism
"Judgment Day" was a little known '50s comic that revolved around an astronaut who arrives on an alien planet to check on the progress of robots that humans left there thousands of years ago. It was one of several stories in the magazine Weird Fantasy.
There's another comic with the same name today, but it mostly concerns human-equine romance.
When he arrives on the planet, the astronaut soon realizes that the robots have separated themselves into two divisions: orange and blue. Their entire world is segregated, with orange pretty much treating blue like crap, making them live in robo-ghetto areas and even forcing them to sit at the back of the robo-bus. Where do these writers come up with this stuff?
"If only they could be more CIVIL and respect each other's RIGHTS. Also RACISM IS BAD."
The astronaut observes all this and sadly notes how stupid and unfair their society is for judging each other for something as unimportant as the color of metal ... before removing his helmet to reveal that he's black.
"WRITER: M. Night Shyamalan, Age -17."
However, in an extreme case of missing the fucking point, Judge Charles Murphy, the censor for the Comics Code Authority (the self-policing organization created after America became convinced that comics were gay communist propaganda), asked that the character's race be changed to Caucasian. Bear in mind that this wasn't some random letter writer making a crazy demand that could be easily ignored -- this story was only getting printed in the first place because the Code had already rejected another one. That's how much power the Code had.
Still, the editor refused to change the character's ethnicity. In an effort to compromise, Murphy then asked for the "beads of sweat" to be removed instead (maybe that way Murphy could convince himself it was a white astronaut in shadow, or a guy with a tan or something). The editor and artist promptly told Murphy "fuck you" in unison and hung up the phone. They went ahead and published the comic anyway -- it was the last one the company ever published, but we're pretty sure it was worth it.
Classic Warner Bros. and Disney Cartoons Got Censored Over "Animal Nudity"
If you're a Cracked reader, it's easy to get the impression that the funny animal cartoons of the mid-20th century were made without the slightest supervision, what with all the racism, smoking, and beloved characters in Nazi costumes going on back then. However, the censors were actually quite busy monitoring the content of these cartoons; they were just focusing on the wrong things. Like putting some damn pants (or feathers, whatever) on Tweety Bird:
Before his 70-year quest to eat Tweety, Sylvester was actually quite well-fed.
Yeah, being a featherless baby bird, Tweety originally appeared pink, but the censors feared that he looked naked and had the animators color him yellow to give him feathers. This tells us two things: 1) apparently a stuffed turkey would be considered hardcore porn for these people and 2) holy shit, Tweety's a dude?!
That's the sort of crap the Hays Code (the MPAA's strict set of rules for what could be portrayed in Hollywood and cartoons) worried about -- making sure talking cartoon animals were properly dressed. Even before the code went into effect, Disney ran into trouble for depicting swinging cow udders, which "shocked some and convulsed others." Given these Depression-era sensibilities, Disney had to give all their cows udder reductions, if not remove the udders completely.
It didn't stop there, though: The character Clarabelle Cow also came under fire somewhat paradoxically for both being naked and wearing a skirt. It was a no-win situation, all thanks to the dark imagination of censors who were probably battling their own inner-furry demons.
"My boner informs me that perversion emanates from this here scene." -1930s censor board member
Once the code was in full swing, they apparently had an ever-evolving set of rules for how cows could be depicted, no doubt the result of careful analysis of the bovine anatomy and heated debates. First, in 1932, they had to have a skirt to cover up their udders:
By 1939, cows were forced to walk upright and wear a full dress, slowly turning them from cartoon characters into anthropomorphic fetishes. In other words -- perversion averted!
"Now please add a leather mask and some whips."
Related Reading: For the opposite of this article, click here and learn how the Animaniacs slipped a filthy joke about Prince into an episode. To see how Iran edits films for modesty, click here. And if you'd like to see the Cracked forums make photos filthy with needless censorship, this link is your friend.