A Haunting We Will Go (1939) is the third and final cartoon starring Lil’ Eightball. It is different from the other two cartoons on a surface level. First, it is not part of the “Eightball” series but rather the “Cartune” series, which had been launched in 1934, “featuring Lil’ Eightball.” All of producer Walter Lantz’s cartoons for Universal Pictures after 1939 were “Cartunes;” when he briefly worked with United Artists in the 1940s, he did not bring the “Cartunes” name with him. Second, A Haunting We Will Go is the only Technicolor cartoon starring Eightball, because Lantz had recently stopped producing black-and-white films. Third, Eightball’s pet dog does not appear in this last episode.
Otherwise, the elements are the same. Eightball sets about to disprove something, lectures in minstrel dialect and in long words with multiple syllables, gets caught in slapstick situations, and concedes defeat. This time, a young ghost tries to scare Eightball, but the protagonist refuses to believe in ghosts. The young ghost takes him to a nearby ghost-hideout, where other spirits join the young one in trying to scare Eightball. After a series of surreal gags, Eightball retreats in fright to his house.
Concerning stereotypes, this episode plays with the old trope of the African American becoming bug-eyed and fearful when seeing a ghost, especially in a graveyard. The majority of the film’s length consists of Eightball not being scared of ghosts, and he does not show fear until well into the episode’s second half. Also, there is the usual grammatical correctness and formality (“Your confidence is commendable”) mixed in with crude dialect (“we childrens”). And of course, his eyes eventually do bug out, and his lips are sizable.
The addition of Technicolor reveals some disturbing aspects of Eightball. The viewer now more clearly sees that Eightball spits when he talks. The spittle enhances the stereotype of the big lips, and Eightball himself draws attention to it by wiping the spittle from his lips with his sleeve. Speaking of clothes, Technicolor shows us that he only wears an oversized shirt and shoes. The scene in which he rides in an invisible car briefly shows his shirt flying above his legs. In that moment the viewer sees that Eightball not only wears no underwear but has no genitalia. Granted, the film is a product of the conservative Hays Era, in which filming of exposed genitalia was not allowed. Still, just as Hollywood desexualized African Americans with “sambo” and “mammy” characterizations, Lantz literally desexualized Eightball by making him a sambo-ish eunuch.
By the release of this film, Lantz had a hit character with Andy Panda. When Eightball’s director Burt Gillett left the studio in 1939, Lantz retired the character. Hollywood was not quite finished with animated “sambo” figures, and producer George Pal’s character Jasper would achieve popularity in the 1940s. The failure of Eightball meant that audiences simply did not want a “sambo” figure that experimented with ethnic tropes; they just wanted the tropes.