Visiting "Funky Turns 40" exhibit, from the Museum of UnCut Funk. 

February 6th, 2014, 11am

Picture-taking was technically prohibited— I couldn’t help myself.

The point of “Funky Turns 40” was to celebrate all the realistic, positive black characters that revolutionized Saturday morning cartoons in the 1970s. The Museum of UnCut Funk had dozens of original cels from Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids, The Jackson 5ive, Josie and the Pussycats, Billy Jo Jive and the like.

I talked to one of the curators, Loreen Williamson, afterward; she told me this impressive cel collection got started back when she first discovered animation galleries. It was easy to buy cels of, say, the Looney Toons or Disney cartoons— but to find cels from famous TV series with black characters, she had to dig deeper.

“To find cels from shows with all black characters it’s a little more difficult. It takes a lot more work. But it’s possible,” she said.

She contacted studios directly and used her own art world connections to get her hands on cels with some of the characters she loved, like Fat Albert— characters that changed the face of television when she was growing up.

“You know, prior to the 70s black characters were very derogatory,” Loreen said. “But in the 70s they started changing. They were no longer mammies. They were colorful, fun characters who were more true to what black people looked like and acted like and talked like.”

She paused.

“I don’t think people think about how revolutionary that was.”

Anne Marie, Amal and David Wade said thanks.

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Annie Massa

I'm a journalist. I like denim, early mornings and hot sauce.

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