Inki

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Inki is an animated cartoon character in the Warner Bros. Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies series of cartoons. Inki is a cute little African boy who usually dresses in a simple loincloth, armband, legband, earrings, and a bone through his hair. He never speaks, and his usual pastime seems to be hunting jungle creatures.

Animator Chuck Jones first used the character in the 1939 short "Little Lion Hunter". The character's look was designed by Disney veteran Charlie Thorson. The plot of the cartoon focuses on little Inki out hunting, oblivous to the fact that he is being hunted himself by a hungry lion. As such, it is very similar to "Little Hiawatha", a Silly Symphonies cartoon Thorson had worked on in 1937.

Jones' officially named the character in the next film, "Inki and the Lion" (1941), another jungle hunting scenario. This cartoon introduces a strange, minimalist character in an expressionless mynah bird. The bird hops in time to Felix Mendelssohn's "Fingal's Cave Overture", totally oblivious to any obstacles or dangers. Inki once again runs afoul of a lion, only to be saved by the bizarre bird. The cartoon is still mostly cute Disney-esque fluff, but its more aggressive tone and unconventional humor show that Jones was already moving out of his "cute" phase.

"Inki and the Lion" was a surprise hit, and Jones brought Inki and the mynah bird back in three more cartoons: "Inki and the Minah Bird" (1943), "Inki at the Circus" (1947), and "Caveman Inki" (1950). As Jones moved further toward the humor-centered cartoons for which he is famous, however, he retired Inki along with other Disney-inspired characters like Sniffles. Inki's final film was "Caveman Inki" in 1950.

The Inki films are rarely seen today. Although the jungle boy character was never intended as a derogatory stereotype of Africans, he is easily viewed that way.

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