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Turner to ax smoking scenes from cartoons

Turner Broadcasting says it will go through more than 1,500 Hanna-Barbera cartoon classics, including The Flintstones and Scooby-Doo, to edit out scenes that glamorize smoking.
/ Source: 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 offence to two episodes of Tom and Jerry shown on the Boomerang channel, part of Turner Broadcasting which itself belongs to Time Warner Inc.

“We are going through the entire catalogue,” 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 irresponsible.”

Turner Broadcasting 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 site.

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.