Coonskin is a film about an African American rabbit, fox, and bear who rise to the top of the organized crime racket in Harlem, encountering corrupt law enforcement, con artists and the Mafia. The film, which combines live-action with animation, stars Philip Michael Thomas, Charles Gordone, Barry White and Scatman Crothers, all of whom appear in both live-action and animated sequences. Coonskin utilizes a number of references to various elements from African American culture, ranging from African folk tales to the work of cartoonist George Herriman, and satirizes racist and other stereotypes, as well as the blaxploitation genre, Song of the South, and The Godfather.
Originally produced under the titles Harlem Nights and Coonskin No More..., Coonskin encountered extreme controversy before its original theatrical release when the Congress of Racial Equality strongly criticized the content as being racist, although none of the group's members had seen the film. When the film was finally released, Bryanston gave it limited distribution and initially received negative reviews. Later re-released under the titles Bustin' Out and Street Fight, Coonskin has since been reappraised, with many considering it to be one of Bakshi's finest works.
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