A New York television station planned to return the 1961 cartoon series "Dick Tracy" to its lineup today, after the program's producers edited out two characters that were criticized by Asian and Latino groups for being stereotypes.
But Los Angeles' KCAL Channel 9, which also pulled the cartoons, will not reschedule them despite the editing changes.
Hank Saperstein, chairman and president of U.P.A. Productions and the original producers of the cartoons, said he removed all of the shorts containing the characters of Joe Jitsu and Go Go Gomez from the package of "Dick Tracy" programs the company is offering in Los Angeles and New York.
Joe Jitsu was a Japanese policeman in the series who mispronounced his "l's," bowed frequently and said "Sayonara" at the end of each episode in which he appeared. Go Go Gomez, also a policeman, was shaped like a Mexican jumping bean, wore a sombrero and frequently napped in a hammock.
"We completely edited out Go Go Gomez and Joe Jitsu, the two supposedly objectionable stereotypes," said Saperstein, miffed at the criticism of his 30-year-old cartoons. "We presented them with a completely sanitized version."
Ted Faraone, spokesman for WNYW-TV, the Fox station in New York, said the station pulled the original cartoons even though it had received no protests against them, after reading newspaper accounts that said members of the Latino and Asian communities in Los Angeles were offended by them.
Station officials, he said, learned a lesson from the L.A. experience.
"Our sensitivities have been heightened," Faraone said. "Just because there are not a great many Mexican-Americans and Japanese-Americans in New York is no excuse for us not to be sensitive. The argument was made that it might not be such a good idea to show ethnic stereotypes to children, and we agreed."
At KCAL, however, "Underdog" cartoons will continue to run in the time slot originally scheduled for "Dick Tracy," said program director Matt Cooperstein.
Disney, which owns KCAL, had wanted to air the animated cops and robbers show as a complement to its June release of the "Dick Tracy" movie starring Warren Beatty and Madonna. Now that the movie is more than a month old, there is no reason to run the series, Cooperstein said.
"We don't have any interest in bringing the series back at this point," Cooperstein said. "We've made the change and were going to stay with the change that we've made."
Saperstein said that of the 70 cities where "Dick Tracy" cartoons are currently running, only in New York and Los Angeles have questions been raised about Joe Jitsu and Go Go Gomez and the programs pulled as a result.
While the two characters have now been edited out for those two markets, Saperstein said, he is not happy about it. Saperstein likened the "censoring" of his cartoons to attempts to quash such controversial art exhibits as the Robert Mapplethorpe photography show.
"A cartoon is by definition a caricature," Saperstein said. "The other characters in the show are caricatures, too. Hemlock Holmes is a British stereotype who speaks with a Cary Grant type voice. And Heap O'Callory is an overweight Irish cop who speaks with a bit of a brogue."