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  • One of the many racist-and-clever-at-the-same-time Looney Tunes cartoons, Tex Avery's "The Isle of Pingo Pongo" spoofs 1930s travelogues. As this comes from Tex, there's no shortage of gags (some of which also appeared in "You're an Education"). Just like in other cartoons with similarly offensive images of non-white people, the material is equally as clever as it is racist (other examples include "Johnny Smith and Poker-Huntas" and "Coal Black and de Sebben Dwarfs").

    The unofficial star of this short is none other than Elmer Fudd's prototype Egghead. When he first appeared and asked his question, I suspected that I was in for a cool finale. Maybe it wasn't quite as zany as I would have hoped for in a Tex Avery cartoon, but it was still pretty neat. I recommend the cartoon, just as long as you understand the racist content. Available on YouTube, and preceded by the Blue Ribbon reissue in place of the credits.
  • Many of Tex Avery's cartoons at Warner Bros were parodies of the short subjects that (in those days) were screened during a trip to the movies before the main feature. 'The Isle of Pingo Pongo' is a parody of travelogue movies: specifically, the 'Going Places' shorts that Lowell Thomas narrated for Universal. Since modern viewers of this toon are unlikely to be familiar with the original material being parodied, a large amount of the humour is lost.

    There are also references in this 1938 cartoon to other cultural fixtures of that time, such as the then-popular 'Life Goes to a Party' feature in Henry Luce's weekly magazine, and the wildlife documentaries of Martin and Osa Johnson. Perceptive modern viewers will sense that something is being guyed here, but will be frustrated because they probably don't know the source material.

    Some of the material here is worse than it needed to be. There's a rather strained gag, depicting a ship taking a circuitous route across a map of the world from the United States to Africa. But the gag is not made funnier by the map's gross inaccuracy. Would it have hurt Leon Schlesinger's production schedule to include an accurate map of the world in that shot?

    This cartoon has provoked some controversy for racist content. Sure enough, we get the usual dumb jokes about African natives with pneumatic lips and bones in their topknots. I found the jokes mostly so weak that they aren't malicious, but also so weak that they aren't funny. What did offend me here was the narrator's continuous referrals to these African caricatures as 'savages' and 'aborigines'.

    Even some brilliant Warners toons are seriously weakened by bad running gags ending in limp finishes: a classic example of this problem is 'The Dover Boys', featuring innovative animation, a clever and unusual premise, but an incredibly bad running gag leading into a weak fade-out. Here in 'The Isle of Pingo Pongo' we seem to have one more example of that same problem, with Egghead (Tex Avery's proto-Elmer Fudd character) periodically showing up with a violin case and asking the unseen narrator 'Now, boss?'. 'Not yet!' the narrator tells him each time. I had very low expectations for a funny pay-off gag, but I was pleasantly surprised.

    Lowell Thomas's travelogues always ended in a deep cliché of his own creation: "And so, as the sun sinks slowly in the west, we bid a fond farewell to...". My former mother-in-law recalled for me that, as a moviegoer in the 1930s, she would hear members of the audience reciting these overly-familiar words along with Thomas's narration. In the last few seconds of its screen time, 'The Isle of Pingo Pongo' goes a considerable distance towards redeeming itself with a juicy parody of Thomas's sign-off, giving Egghead a closing gag that turns out to be surprisingly very funny indeed.

    Unfortunately, modern viewers who aren't familiar with the clichés being parodied here won't get the full effect of the good jokes, but WILL get the full effect of the racial stereotyping. Under the circumstances, my rating for this bad 'un is just 3 out of 10.
  • Avery was getting ready to really skewer travelogues. This shows him finding his feet.

    This was actually banned for the musical interlude. Showing the natives doing the cakewalk then a scat version of 'Sweet Georgia Brown' probably would rub a few the wrong way. But it was done with affection. Right down to the scatting of the Fats Waller clone.

    Otherwise it's just a series of spot gags. Avery did spot gags well and this is no exception.

    The egghead character makes an appearance here too. Apparently, Egghead was a caricature of a radio comedian that never made it. Avery was a fan so that's the reason for his use. He would later morph into Elmer Fudd. (Really!)

    There's enough here to get a few laughs out of anyone.
  • This short is the first of several spoofs of the travelogue shorts popular at the time that showcased exotic locales for movie audiences. While a good cartoon, not on a par with later ones such as Detouring America or Crazy Cruise. Avery was still finding his range on the material. Still some good stuff here anyway. This one features Egghead in a running gag that has a funny finish. Enjoyable and entertaining, it's well worth hunting down. Recommended
  • Tex Avery pioneered the spot gag format in cartoons. These had no plot and were simply a series of sight gags centered around a theme with an offscreen narrator. Most of the spot gag cartoons he did were parodies of travelogues and wildlife documentaries. It can be arguably said that he also pioneered "mockumentaries" as we know them today.

    THE ISLE OF PINGO PONGO was the first spot gag short that was done. Tex cited the Fitzpatrick travelogues of the material he parodied. This was a film series that showcased the culture of a people in a faraway land. Documentaries like these tended to speak condescendingly of the cultures discussed. And that dismissive tone carries over into this short. While the island culture depicted is fictitious (given the deliberate geographic errors for comic effect), they do represent how America perceived "natives" in other lands in this era. This has made it unsuitable for broadcast/video release in recent decades. Although, with the advent of the internet, this short is now easily accessible.

    I found it unusual that the animation is lacking on this short. It doesn't look as smooth as the kinetic animation from Avery's cartoons released this same year. The one redeeming quality that this short has is the swinging rendition of Sweet Georgia Brown. Other than that, Avery's better travelogue parodies are DETOURING AMERICA (1939) and CROSS COUNTRY DETOURS (1940).
  • Warning: Spoilers
    . . . team of Ted Turner and his then-spouse "Hanoi Jane" Fonda ignorantly red-lined this key Warner Bros. cartoon offering on the fateful night when they were smashed from chugging six pitchers of mint juleps on Ted's veranda and putting together their infamous Looney Tunes "Forbidden Eleven" List because it hit too close to home in parallel to this hypocritical pair's own Racist Tendencies. Put together by the same creative team as JUNGLE JITTERS--also Verboten by Ted and Hanoi J.--THE ISLE OF PINGO-PONGO was likewise written by the future Secwepemc Shuswap Kamloops Chilliwack Kootenai Cowichan Canadian Indian Chief George Manuel. The Clairvoyant Mr. Manuel foresaw that his Southern Neighbor--the USA, that is--was irrevocably on a course where the majority of NFL American football players would be Black (shown at 6:02), the media would be totally dominated by Black Music (7:48), and Blacks would monopolize EVERY aspect of American Culture (passim). For Racists such as terrible Ted and juvenile Jane, the Truth hurts too much to be allowed to see the Light of Day.
  • Tex Avery was a wonderful animator and animation director, one of the best there was/is, responsible for many great cartoons and some among the best ever made.

    Not all his cartoons are fantastic, but even when Avery was not at right at the top of his game, even his lesser cartoons fare better than most. 'The Isle of Pingo Pongo' is lesser Avery but worth watching at least once. It is known as one of the "Censored 11" cartoons, and while there are more offensive and duller cartoons of this group it is easy to see why 'The Isle of Pingo Pongo' is part of it. It's not a great cartoon but not a travesty.

    Humour wise, it is very hit and miss. Some of the jokes work and are clever and imaginatively animated, but others sorely needed sharper timing and come off as strained, such as the ship taking the route around the map of the world. The subject it's spoofing is very interesting and works well enough times to still make the cartoon watchable but lacks consistency. Most of the references were recognisable to me so understanding the joke in question didn't present a problem, there were a few that weren't so familiar so they went over my head.

    Ranking it among the "Censored 11" cartoons, it ranks somewhere around the middle but nowhere near among the worst. Comparing the other "Censored 11" cartoons in regard to dubious content, while there are more offensive cartoons in the group around (like 'Jungle Jitters' and 'Angel Puss') any stereotypes or anything deemed offensive is less than tame here. The Natives are very stereotypically drawn and written with grotesquely ugly character designs (am really starting to grow tired of the over-sized lips), while there is some less than flattering or tasteful language in reference to them in the narration and the musical number (although the music itself is very good) is also not for the easily offended.

    However, the animation is just wonderful, aside from the character designs of the Natives. A lot of it is beautifully drawn, everything is meticulously detailed especially the backgrounds and vibrantly coloured. Carl Stalling's music score is the highlight, as well as being lushly and cleverly orchestrated it is infectiously lively, characterful and dynamic with the action as well as enhancing it.

    As said too, some of the jokes and references were easy to get and very amusing (but Avery showed since that his humour was more consistent in quality. Egghead is a likable and fun enough character, and much of the pacing is lively apart from a few dull stretches where some of the jokes feel strained or over-egged. The voice acting is good.

    In conclusion, some obvious good points but very hit and miss as a cartoon. A lesser effort from Avery, though still watchable. 5.5/10 Bethany Cox
  • This film is in the style that was popular with Looney Tunes back about 1940 or so. It's one of many fake documentary cartoons and this time it's about the mythical island of Pingo Pongo off the coast of Africa.

    This is one of almost a dozen cartoons that were pulled from circulation by United Artists back when they owned the rights to these cartoons. Ted Turner continued the ban and I can think of no logical reason why Time-Warner-AOL would change this decision now that they own the rights.

    The reason I could see for banning this was pretty obvious. The African natives were all giant-lipped with bones through their hair AND they sang a minstrel number--definitely NOT politically correct images! However, while I am NOT a fan of political correctness, I can agree with the powers that be--it is pretty offensive. In addition, I also wouldn't mind seeing the film out of circulation because it's so gosh-darn dull as well! These documentary-style cartoons don't age well and while I might have laughed at much of the humor when I was a kid, now I would just stare at the screen because the jokes are so corny and unfunny--even without the stereotypes. In other words, by pulling this offensive cartoon, we really aren't missing out on much and this is one that isn't really worth your time! If you are curious, though, it and most of the other banned cartoons are available on YouTube and other sources as well.
  • This Warner Brothers cartoon does not feature any of their famous cast of characters, instead it takes the form of a travelogue, following the voyage of a cruise ship from New York to the Pacific island of Pingo Pongo. Once on the island it starts by showing us the strange native fauna which includes a mocking bird which repeats everything the commentator says in a sarcastic tone and a gazelle which when asked to stop so we can get a look at her stands on her hind legs to show off a (human shaped) feminine figure.

    The problems start in the second half when we are introduced to the native population; these are drawn in a way that one might think they were meant to be apes if one wasn't told otherwise. There were still a few decent jokes though, at one point we are told that the native is unaware he is being filmed then he whips out a camera and takes a photograph. I must admit that I was fairly amused by this overall, especially the sight gags that seemed popular in early cartoons, I could have done without the locals being drawn the way they were but wasn't too offended.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    This is a short by Tex Avery, in where he takes a group on a sight seeing tour around the world. This is pretty traditional of some of his cartoons with the exception that these had some racial stereotypes and some degraded examples of the white man's view of Blacks, Aborigine tribes, Japanese, etc.

    This is OK, it focus the attention of the wilderness of "Pingo Pongo" island by introducing us to some talking animals and birds. The mocking bird segment is pretty funny in which the bird imitates whatever the announcer says till it gets annoying.

    Midway you see the focus of the toon become the mocking of aborigine tribe possibly Cannibalistic by the looks of things.

    One funny segment has one of them being outsmarted by two deers who then take up as their dinner.

    Later on we see the tribe, drinking beer and singing tunes like "She'll be coming around the mountain when she comes". It doesn't seem racist but obviously we see a message about the white man trying to tame these people to his own liking as if there's something wrong with them since he already has his own bias views of the world.

    There's some pretty good gags though when altogether and the whole talking animals business to narrator is pretty fun. One animal is ordered to stop and then proceeds to give a small strip dance, pretty funny, then in another segment you see an elephant get gas, while the narrator ask if everything's OK.

    Obviously in 1938 this would have looked in appropriate nowadays there's so much crap that's shown on TV it's not funny.

    Good short.
  • utgard1420 January 2016
    Merrie Melodies short, directed by Tex Avery, notable today for being one of the Censored Eleven. For those who don't know, the Censored Eleven are cartoons that were withheld from syndication because they were considered to be too offensive due to their use of racial stereotypes and imagery. This one is a spoof of the travelogues that were popular at the time. Avery did quite a few of these and this is the first (and the only one on the censored list). The cartoon follows an ocean liner as it leaves New York and visits various tropical islands with some rather obvious gags that play off their names (Sandwich Island has a large sandwich on it, Thousand Island has a large jar of salad dressing, and so on). Finally the ship arrives at the island of the title, Pingo Pongo, and it is here we get to why the short has been banned. On the island are black natives who are drawn in the exaggerated and offensive style black people were drawn in cartoons back then. Other than the depiction of black people, the animation is quite nice and colorful. Carl Stalling's music is lively and upbeat. The gags range in quality with some, like the aforementioned island gags, not really working but others, like the mockingbird (who mockingly repeats whatever the narrator says in a snide tone) providing some chuckles. Also featured in this is Egghead, Tex Avery's largely forgotten creation that many people believe became Elmer Fudd. It's not a great cartoon, controversy aside, but it is worth a few laughs. It's probably one of the less offensive shorts that were on the Censored Eleven list but would still upset sensitive types today.
  • This is another of the "Censored 11" Warner Bros. cartoons that will probably never be seen on commercial television again. It starts harmless enough with various spot gags about the Sandwich Island (shaped like a...well, you know), as well as the Thousand Island (with a giant bottle of the salad dressing on board). There's also various birds represented such as a Mockingbird (who mocks everything the announcer says). Then there are various scenes with the natives who are portrayed here in animated form as black with white lips. As demeaning as these stereotypes are, they do provide some entertaining musical moments singing "Sweet Georgia Brown" and "She'll Be Comin' Round the Mountain", the last number in a Country-Western vibe. Then there's the running gag of Egghead (precursor of Elmer Fudd) asking the off-screen announcer, "Now, boss?" with the boss saying, "Not yet." When that boss finally gives his approval at the end, Egghead provides the short's topper. Since this was directed by Tex Avery, I do recommend The Isle of Pingo Pongo. Just be aware of the political incorrectness that pervades the last few minutes...