Inki is the lead character in an animated cartoon series of Warner Bros. Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies short films by animator Chuck Jones. Five Inki cartoons were made between 1939 and 1950.
Inki, created for Warner Bros.' Merrie Melodies series of theatrical animated shorts, is a little African boy who usually dresses in a simple loincloth, armband, legband, earrings, and a bone through his hair. He never speaks. The character's pickaninny look was designed by Disney veteran Charlie Thorson. The plot of the cartoon focuses on little Inki hunting, oblivious to the fact that he himself is being hunted by a hungry lion.
Also central to the series is a minimalist and expressionless mynah bird, spelled "minah bird" in the title of the third short. The bird, who is accompanied by Felix Mendelssohn's The Hebrides Overture, a.k.a. "Fingal's Cave", utterly disregards any obstacles or dangers. The mynah bird, shown as nearly almighty, appears randomly in the films, always intervening against the other characters. Occasionally, the bird's intervention benefits Inki by stopping Inki's pursuers. Inki then tries to thank the bird, but the latter ends up being disrespectful to Inki, too. He does not talk at all, and is droopy eyed almost all the time. The Minah Bird made a cameo appearance in the Animaniacs episode "Bad Mood Bobby" in a pet shop when he kicks The Goodfeathers away in retaliation for the insults against him when they make fun of him in order to cheer up Bobby.
Comics historian Don Markstein wrote that the character's racial stereotype "led to [the series'] unpopularity with program directors and thence to its present-day obscurity." He noted that, "The Minah Bird, which appears immensely powerful, [is] an accomplished trickster; and yet acts, when it acts at all, from motives which simply can not be fathomed". The series' director, Chuck Jones, said that these cartoons were baffling to everyone, including himself. He had no understanding of what the bird was supposed to do other than walk around. But the shorts were well-accepted by audiences. According to Terry Lindvall and Ben Fraser, Inki is an everyman who encounters mysterious forces of life. He serves as a symbol of all humanity, "frustrated and rescued by the wonderfully inexplicable". According to Jones, "he grew up sensitive to the feeling of minorities" and so never set out to mock them.
The series did not end due to outside pressure, but Warner Bros' cartoons dropped the use of racist caricatures at the end of the 1940s. Some of the last Warner cartoons with racial stereotypes were Bugs Bunny's 1949 Which Is Witch and Daffy Duck's 1949 short Wise Quackers; the last Inki cartoon was Caveman Inki, in 1950.
The 1986 videotape "I Taw a Putty Tat" included The Little Lion Hunter, Inki and the Lion, and Inki at the Circus. Also, in 2004, the "Cartoon Craze" DVD included Inki and the Minah Bird.