This film is part of Free

Coco and the Bear

A cinema advert for cocoa that apes American cartoons, from a little-known corner of British animation history.

Advert 1946 2 mins


Are we sure this a British cartoon? An early Bugs Bunny wouldn't look out of place in this animated encounter between a grizzly bear and Coco - a boy who looks like Elmer Fudd in blackface. Even the voiceover is American, from the US-born singer and actress Elisabeth Welch. The clues are the brand - Yorkshire-based Rowntrees - and the production company GB Animation, part of Gaumont-British.

British movie mogul J Arthur Rank decided he wanted a home-grown animation studio to take on American cartoons in the 1940s, and brought across key Disney man David Hand to run it. Staffed by returned servicemen with an artistic bent, he gave the studio three years to train up before launching the Animaland and Musical Paintbox series from 1948. In the midst of their training they also produced some commercials, including four Coco films. The reasons for aping American cartoons were a mix of commercial and artistic ones - and the decision to make Coco a stereotyped black character is sadly not uncommon in chocolate advertising from this time.