August 21, 2006

Smoking cuts for classic cartoons

By Mike Collett-White

LONDON (Reuters) - Turner Broadcasting is scouring more
than 1,500 classic Hanna-Barbera cartoons, including old
favorites Tom and Jerry, The Flintstones and Scooby-Doo, to
edit out scenes that glamorize smoking.

The review was triggered by a complaint to British media
regulator Ofcom by one viewer who took offense to two episodes
of Tom and Jerry shown on the Boomerang channel, a corporate
sibling of Time Warner Inc.-owned Turner Broadcasting.

"We are going through the entire catalog," Yinka Akindele,
spokeswoman for Turner in Europe, said on Monday.

"This is a voluntary step we've taken in light of the
changing times," she said, adding the painstaking review had
been prompted by the Ofcom complaint.

The regulator's latest news bulletin stated that a viewer,
who was not identified, had complained about two smoking scenes
on Tom and Jerry, saying they "were not appropriate in a
cartoon aimed at children."

In the first, "Texas Tom," the hapless cat Tom tries to
impress a feline female by rolling a cigarette, lighting it and
smoking it with one hand. In the second, "Tennis Chumps," Tom's
opponent in a match smokes a large cigar.

"The licensee has ... proposed editing any scenes or
references in the series where smoking appeared to be condoned,
acceptable, glamorized or where it might encourage imitation,"
Ofcom said, adding that "Texas Tom" was one such example.

Akindele said cartoons would only be modified "where
smoking could be deemed to be cool or glamorized," and that
scenes where a villain was featured with a cigarette or cigar
would not necessarily be cut.

"These are historic cartoons, they were made well over 50
years ago in a different time and different place," she added.
"Our audience is children and we don't want to be

Turner Broadcasting in the United States could not
immediately be reached for comment.

Ofcom said it recognized smoking was more generally
accepted when cartoons were produced in the 1940s, '50s and
'60s, but argued that the threshold for including such scenes
when the audience was predominately young should be high.

About 56 percent of Boomerang's audience is aged four to 14
years old.

Early reaction to the review on Web logs broadly attacked
Turner's decision.

"Have to dig out all those photos and films of (Winston)
Churchill and airbrush out the cigars," said a message posted
on the "Organ Grinder" forum on the Guardian newspaper's Web

The review was not the first time a famous cartoon
character was forced to give up smoking.

Belgian cartoonist Maurice de Bevere replaced his most
popular creation Lucky Luke's ubiquitous cigarette with a blade
of grass, winning him an award from the World Health
Organization in 1988.