Sunday, March 25, 2012

Black bird walking

I don't know what to do with this. It somehow relates to the last couple of posts, even if it's a stretch. I've been writing about odd memories being jogged loose, with the result that old songs leap forth as if they were compressed like a jack-in-the-box.

This time it's a cartoon, with music attached. Not Ah Poor Bird, not Frere Jacques or even Mahler's Third Symphony. I had some dim memory of a cartoon or cartoons that featured a sombre-looking black bird, not flying but walking with deliberate pace, occasionally (and inexplicably) hopping up in the air.

I somehow conflated this with a Popeye cartoon in which Wimpy chased a duck around with a meat grinder, but it wasn't the same one. It seemed more like one of those old Warner Brothers cartoons, with snappy patter and non-stop action. But where, when, how? It must have been a long way back, and I could not for the life of me remember anything else about it.

I tried to find it on YouTube, using terms like "black bird walking" or "Warner Brothers cartoon with black bird". Came up empty. But one thing I did remember was the musical accompaniment to all this walking and hopping.  Though I didn't know the name of it back then, it somehow got recorded deep in my brain.

I don't know how many years or decades went by before I was able to recognize it: Hey, that's the piece in the bird cartoon!  It's called Fingal's Cave, part of the Hebrides Overture by Mendelssohn.

When I searched under "cartoon Fingal's Cave", it magically popped up, even though those words were nowhere in the description. And lo: it was one of those old things from the '40s, now deemed too racist to show. Maybe that's why this cartoon was silenced, probably around 1960 or '61.

The character is called Inki, a little African kid who hunts game with disastrous results. He's a little too much like Little Black Sambo for comfort, though on YouTube pages people always rant about political correctness and about how THEY are little African kids who hunt game, too, and love the cartoon and think it's swell.

Inki, as it turns out, was featured in a whole series of cartoons, all with the black bird walking solemnly along to that low-key, almost eerie string version of Fingal's Cave. He would make a cameo appearance in a number of other cartoons, which tells me that he must've been popular for some reason, if only for his oddness.

So it actually happened, these cartoons are real. I'm not sure of the connection with Ah Poor Bird and Mahler and all that: maybe just birds and classical music? It's an unlikely combination, after all. But there it is.


Dear Sir or Madam, will you read my book
    It took me years to write, will you take a look


  1. Thank you so much for this!! I was looking for this for years and everyone thought I was crazy.

    1. I feel the same way. If it weren't for YouTube, I'd never find these things! I have since made some gifs of this figure and used them on my post of June 10/14 to illustrate The Raven by Edgar Allan Poe. Glad you enjoyed this!

  2. I was searching for this bird for a while! It just came to mind and I used so many different searches to find it and came across your post with so much information! Thanks!