Walt Disney with Mickey Mouse, circa 1935
General Photographic Agency / Getty Images
By Lily Rothman
October 16, 2014

When the Disney Brothers Studio got its start on this day, Oct. 16, in 1923, Walt Disney couldn’t have predicted that his animation studio would become the entertainment powerhouse that it’s been for nearly a century.

He also probably failed to predict that, within a decade, he’d get hit with what must be one of the sillier censorship cases in history.

Here’s how TIME described what happened in February of 1931:

That’s right: Clarabelle Cow’s udders were deemed inappropriate for tender American audiences, who one must presume did not know where milk comes from. Clarabelle was also censored at one point, in Ohio, after she was seen reading a racy book.

But, it turns out, Clarabelle wasn’t the only one of Disney’s creations to get adjusted by decency boards during the studio’s first decade. Canada banned another cartoon because of the way a fish got too close to a mermaid’s thigh, and German censors objected to a cartoon in which Mickey and friends were approached by cats wearing German military garb, which was seen as offensive to Germans. (It’s unclear from TIME’s coverage whether the German censors objected to being compared to undignified felines or to anti-Mickey predators.)

It was probably not because of her udders, but Clarabelle has largely faded away from the list of popular Disney characters, which means that–to paraphrase another cartoon icon, Bart Simpson–most of the studio’s movies these days do not, in fact, have a cow, man.

Read TIME’s 1937 cover story about Walt Disney here, in the archives: Mouse & Man

Write to Lily Rothman at lily.rothman@time.com.

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