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Sunday, January 14, 2018

Meet Private Snafu - WWII Propaganda Cartoons

Today I have for you a cartoon character created by Frank Capra... the legendary director who did that great Jimmy Stewart movie It's A Wonderful Life, from which I bastardized the title for this blog, because it's one of the greatest movies ever made!

And, if you think that's the only famous name I'm dropping here, prepare yourself. 

Anyhow, that character is none other than Private Snafu.

The Private Snafu black and white cartoons were created between 1943 and 1945 and were meant to provide a humorous way to instruct service personnel about security, proper sanitation habits, booby traps and other military subjects, and, of course to hep improve troop morale.

The cartoons use Private Snafu to show how doing all the wrong things can screw up the war for the Allied troops in the European and the Pacific theaters of WWII.

By the way... the name Snafu... is a military acronym which means: "Situation normal all fugged up".

Obviously I misspelled "fugged", but you get the idea. It is where the word snafu has it origins.

Scene From Episode 25: Operation Snafu, from December 22, 1945.
The voice of Private Snafu is quite obviously the same as Bugs Bunny, for those in the know, which means it was performed by the one and only Mel Blanc... and not his son Mel Blanc Jr., who was good, but you could always tell it wasn't his dad.

The cartoons were directed mostly by Chuck Jones, who amongst a score of writing, directing and producing Warner Brothers cartoons featuring Bugs Bunny, Porky Pig, the Coyote and Roadrunner, he also created the very famous Michigan J. Frog.

Yes... hello my baby!

Other directors include Fritz Freleng, Bob Clampett and Frank Tashlin  - who also did Warner Brothers cartoons - and Hugh Harman... who with Rudolph Ising helped found both Warner Brothers and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM) animation studios. So... very good directors all.

The Private Snafu cartoons were mostly written by Ted Geisel... I know... famous right? Still not sure what I am talking about? Think of The Lorax, The Cat In The Hat, Green Eggs And Ham.. that's right Geisel is the real name of Dr. Seuss, who was very much a pro-American and during the war hated the Japanese for their attack on America, IE Pearl Harbor.

The Private Snafu cartoons are funny, and ultimately racist in their depiction of the Japanese (whenever they appear)... but keep an open mind and recall that this was during the height of WWII when Japan was still very much the enemy.

Walt Disney was given the first shot at producing the cartoons, but Leon Schlesinger (May 20, 1884 – December 25, 1949) under bid him by two-thirds. Schlesinger had founded the Leon Schlesinger Studios, which later became the Warner Bros. Cartoons... and he was a distant relative of the Warner Bros.

You know that Michigan J. Frog was/is the official mascot of the WB television network, right?


There were a total of 27 cartoons (though one was lost after the Master Copy was sent to the Army, and was never released, and is considered lost - it was called Secrets Of The Carribean), roughly four minutes apiece, produced, and what is interesting to note, is that the Private Snafu cartoons were an actual military secret, and classified as government documents.

Employees working on the cartoons had to be fingerprinted and given FBI clearance. And, when working on the cartoons, workers at the ink and paint department, for example, only had 10 cels at a time to work on to prevent them from determining the story content.

You can find the cartoons easily enough on the Internet these days, but allow me to present to you Private Snafu In The Aleutians:


Banzai,
Andrew Joseph

2 comments:

  1. Im really liking these blogs with old timy videos.

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    1. Thanks, Julien! I'll get to that news story you sent me very soon!

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