Fred Patten co-founded the first American anime fan club, the Cartoon/Fantasy Organization, in 1977, won Comic-Con’s Inkpot Award in 1980 for introducing anime to American fandom, and for several decades has been one of the animation field’s most prolific reviewers and researchers. Despite the lasting effects of a stroke suffered in 2005, Patten continues to write at a pace few fans can equal.
Fred contributes a weekly column, “Funny Animals and More” to Jerry Beck’s Cartoon Research site. A recent installment was devoted to “Debunking the Myths” about Crusader Rabbit’s first air date, and Walt Disney’s racism and anti-Semitism.
He’s also a critic for Animation World Network, where he complemented the Disney article with a review of two books about Song of the South —
Although very similar in subject matter, they are very different in theme. Disney’s Most Notorious Film, from the University of Texas Press and filled with scholarly footnotes, starts out with the preconception that Disney’s combination live-action/animation feature Song of the South, made in 1946 when Walt Disney was very much in charge of his studio, was a blatantly condescending racist film, an embarrassment that the studio has been trying to cover up while continuing to cash in on as much as possible. In other words, the book is an academic exposé. Who’s Afraid of the Song of the South?, by a longtime Disney studio employee and fan, argues that it is not racist, and that the Disney company should stop suppressing it today and release it on home video.
And Fred’s news and reviews are available on Flayrah: furry food for thought.
Sometimes Fred himself is the newsmaker. He’s been an active editor, with two anthologies out last year — Already Among Us: An Anthropomorphic Anthology (Legion Printing, June 2012); and The Ursa Major Awards Anthology: A Tenth Anniversary Celebration (FurPlanet Productions, June 2012) – and another anthology coming from FurPlanet this July.
Fred remains a favorite interview subject of anime historians. Otaku in a Bottle talked to Fred about the early popularity of anime in America in a March 2012 post.
I found a copy of SONG OF THE SOUTH in a thrift store recently. It is a bootleg DVD that appears to have been copied from a VHS.
The story itself is bland, The outstanding bits are the animation and the songs. It is racial, but not racist. I once read a piece where someoe insisted it was sugar coating the master/slave relationship, which is absurd. As far as depicting blacks in films, it is a step forward.
The film has been available in Japan, and the laser disc of the film often shows up on eBay, bringing big bucks (I watched one go for $199.–). Since laser discks are not copy protected, it was a good place to mint a bootleg DVD. Far from being suppressed, it had at one time been sold overseas.
For anyone who may have heard of Fred Patten through other fandoms but didn’t know how important he is to Western anime/manga fandom, this timeline explains some of it, including how Westercon and The Man From U.N.C.L.E. played a critical role.
Very interesting. And I remember when Fred and Richard Kyle ran Wonderworld Books in the 70s.
It’s odd that the timeline should get wrong what city the Cartoon Fantasy Organization met in — it’s an LA-area group (Inglewood, in the early days). Not San Francisco.
Update: But I see from this Wiki entry the group eventually had chapters all over, so maybe that created some confusion about where it started — http://en.wikifur.com/wiki/Cartoon/Fantasy_Organization