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Director: Jack Kinney
Release Date: July 30, 1943
Stars: Goofy, Pluto (cameo)
‘Victory Vehicles’ is the only entirely war-themed Goofy short (although the end of ‘How to be a Sailor’ (1944) refers to the war, too). It’s no army cartoon, however. Instead, the cartoon parodies propagandistic shorts of the time, using a patriotic voice over and dealing with the (real) problem of rubber shortage.
‘Victory Vehicles’ introduces various silly inventions that should replace the car as a form of transportation. The solution finally settles on the pogo-stick: “the answer to a nation’s needs”.
‘Victory Vehicles’ is a very enjoyable cartoon in its silly satire. It’s also a nice window to the shortage problems of World War II America. The film contains a very catchy theme song ‘hop on your pogo-stick’, and a short cameo by Pluto.
‘Victory Vehicles’ is an important landmark in the Goofy series, because it marks Goofy’s graduation from single character to the prototypical everyman. In this short various types of Goofies can be seen, including women and children. They are provided with different voice overs, emphasizing that every Goofy we see is a different one.
Of all evolutions of a cartoon star, this is the most remarkable one. The thirties Goof, with his all too recognizable character traits has been transformed into an everyman who could be anybody, and, at the same time, still be Goofy.
Other directors would return to the original Goofy in cartoons like ‘Foul Hunting‘ (Jack Hannah, 1947) and ‘The Big Wash‘ (Clyde Geronimi, 1948), but Jack Kinney would stick to the everyman Goofy, making the most hilarious cartoons with this character.
Director: David Hand
Release Date: June 29, 1935
Rating: ★★★★★ ♕
‘Who Killed Cock Robin?’ is a musical mystery very loosely based on the nursery rhyme of the same name. Its source material notwithstanding, ‘Who Killed Cock Robin’ is the most adult Silly Symphony ever made.
True to the Silly symphony concept, all characters either sing or speak in rhyme (with Jenny Wren’s sensual blues as a highlight), but in a bare seven minutes the cartoon manages to mock both the law, racialism and gay people, while displaying an unusual eroticism through Jenny Wren, who is a very fine caricature of famous Hollywood actress Mae West.
These features are especially striking when one bears in mind that the Hays Code was already active in 1935. Due to his self-censorship of the movie industry sex and violence were banned from the movies. To illustrate its effect: due to this code an erotic cartoon character like Betty Boop had to be tuned down and was turned into a goody-goody and quite a bland character. Yet, ‘Who Killed Cock Robin’ displays its satire and eroticism in full glory.
When Cock Robin has been shot by a mysterious shadow, the Keystone Cop-like police randomly arrests some bystanders: a tough-looking guy, a black bird (in those days blacks were easily arrested just because of their color) and a cuckoo who resembles Harpo Marx. They’re treated very roughly, being knocked by the cops almost all the time. And when Jenny exclaims that justice should be done, the judge simply orders to hang all verdicts even though nobody knows who’s guilty!
It’s Cupid, an obvious caricature of a homosexual, who prevents this cruel sentence. Cock Robin appears to be alive, and finally he and Jenny Wren reunite in a hot kiss. Thus ends one of the most spectacular cartoons of the nineteen thirties.
Watch ‘Who Killed Cock Robin?’ yourself and tell me what you think:
Director: Jack Kinney
Release Date: January 1, 1943
Stars: Donald Duck
Rating: ★★★★★ ♕
Donald is awoken by a silly march band singing the sarcastic title song, he has breakfast that consists of only one coffee bean, ‘aroma de bacon & eggs’ and a slice of wooden bread, and he has to work at the assembly line, making shells and saluting to images of Adolf Hitler.
In the end, it appears that it was all just a dream, and Donald, in his Stars and Striped-colored room, sighs, embracing a golden copy of the statue of liberty: “Am I glad to be a citizen of the United States of America”. This closing scene is rather corny and the satire of the film misses some points: most of the (German) citizens of Nazi Germany were not poor and did not have to work like slaves, as is suggested here.
Nevertheless, ‘Der Fuehrer’s Face’ was both artistically and commercially the most successful of the Disney war time propaganda films. It even won an academy award for being the best animated short of 1943. It’s so successful, because, unlike most other propaganda shorts, it’s outrageously funny: its satire is so zany, its depiction of ‘Nutzi land’ so wacky, and the scene at the assembly line so out-to-lunch, that one cannot stop laughing. When Donald goes mad, these segments are even topped by a brightly colored, rather avantgardistic and very surrealistic stream-of-consciousness-like scene, which resembles similar dream sequences in ‘Dumbo’ (1941) and ‘The three Caballeros‘ (1944).
This short was not directed by any of the two regular Donald Duck directors of the time, Dick Lundy and Jack King, who both preferred a more unassuming type of humor, but by Jack Kinney, who is most famous for directing Goofy, and who was undoubtedly the wackiest of the Disney directors, of which this film certainly is proof.
Watch ‘Der Fuehrer’s Face’ yourself and tell me what you think: