You are currently browsing the tag archive for the ‘1941’ tag.

Director: Bob Clampett
Release Date: March 29, 1941
Rating: ★★★½
Review:

Goofy Groceries © Warner Bros.‘Goofy Groceries’ was the first Merrie Melodie directed by Bob Clampett, and thus his first color film.

In this film Clampett made a follow up to Frank Tashlin’s cartoons, ‘Have You Got any Castles?‘ and ‘You’re and Education‘ (both 1938), in which things come alive at night, featuring Hollywood caricatures. Moreover, he maintains Tashlin’s high production standards and original cinematography. Thus, ‘Goofy Groceries’ is a beautiful and well-made picture, even though it makes little sense.

As the title implies, now things come to life in a grocery store, including caricatures of Ned Sparks, Jack Benny and Leopold Stokowski. The best parts are a Busby Berkeley ballet of some feminine sardines, and Tomato cans dancing a can-can. The musical number is interrupted by a King Kong-like gorilla, which prompts the stock battle scene, until he’s called home by his mother.

‘Goofy Groceries’ is far from a classic, but it shows that the Leon Schlesinger studio was capable to incorporate the innovations by one director, in this case Frank Tashlin, into other directors’ films, making the studio improve with a remarkably speed.

Watch ‘Goofy Groceries’ yourself and tell me what you think:

‘Goofy Groceries’ is available on the DVD sets ‘Looney Tunes Golden Collection Volume Three’

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Director: Tex Avery
Release Date: July 5, 1941
Stars: Bugs Bunny, Willoughby
Rating: ★★★★★
Review:

The Heckling Hare © Warner Bros.The dumb dog Willoughby was a minor Warner Brothers character, created by Tex Avery, and starring a few cartoons in the early 1940s.

The dog kept changing names, and that’s probably one of the reasons he never got famous. ‘The Heckling Hare’ was his third cartoon, and in it he remains nameless. Tex Avery puts him against his much more famous creation, Bugs Bunny. Penned by Michael Maltese, the result is an inspired cartoon, full of gags.

Willoughby swaps places with Elmer Fudd in hunting rabbits. He’s of course no more successful than Elmer, and Bugs tricks him a lot. The best scene is when Bugs makes the dumb dog making faces, while he puts forward a sign to the audience reading “Silly, isn’t he?”.

However, the cartoon is most famous for its finale: for it ends with a lengthy fall from a cliff by both characters. This scene is obviously cut short in the final version. Producer Leon Schlesinger didn’t like the original ending, which apparently involved no less than two other falls, and ordered the cut. Rumors have it that this was the reason for Tex Avery to leave Warner Bros. This isn’t true. Tex Avery wanted to do a series combining live action animals with animated mouths. Schlesinger wasn’t interested, so Avery ended up doing this series, Christened ‘Speaking of the Animals’ at Paramount. However, this was not a success, and by September 1941 Schlesinger was making cartoons again, now at MGM, where he would direct his greatest shorts.

In his book ‘Chuck Amuck’ Chuck Jones argues that ‘The Heckling Hare’ was the cartoon that re-established Bugs Bunny’s character, after three somewhat misguided cartoons by himself, Tex Avery and Friz Freleng. Bugs Bunny certainly is much more himself and in any of the previous cartoons. In any case, he would meet Willoughby again in the dog’s very last cartoon, ‘Hare Force’ (1944), directed by Friz Freleng, in which the dog is called ‘Sylvester’.

Watch ‘The Heckling Hare’ yourself and tell me what you think:

This is Bugs Bunny cartoon No. 5
To the previous Bugs Bunny cartoon: Hiawatha’s Rabbit Hunt
To the next Bugs Bunny cartoon: All This and Rabbit Stew

Director: Walter Lantz
Release Date: September 1, 1941
Rating: ★★★★
Review:

The Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy of Company B © Walter LantzBased on the 1941 hit song by the Andrews sisters, ‘The Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy of Company “B”‘ tells the story of a black trumpeter who gets drafted and has to blow the reveille, which he does in a swinging style, introducing the song.

The song itself is accompanied by various gags on blacks in the army. Even the Andrews Sisters themselves make a cameo, although they do not sing. Typical of the era, the blacks are pretty stereotyped, with huge lips, grammatically incorrect speech, and allusions to gambling. Two of them even die during the cartoon: one black after playing xylophone on some shells, while the other gets eaten by an alligator. So I can understand if some people find it hard to watch this cartoon today. Even so, the cartoon is less offensive than ‘Scrub Me Mama With a Boogie Beat’ from six months earlier, from which the cartoon reuses some animation.

Indeed, the overall mood of the cartoon is cheerful and rather innocent, emphasizing the swinging mood. In fact, thanks to the catchy song and some flexible animation ‘The Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy of Company “B”‘ is one of the great jazz cartoons. It’s also one of the most enjoyable army cartoons of the era, of which it is probably the first. It’s at least one of the first American cartoon on conscription, which had come in effect in September 1940, as a reaction on the war in Europe. The cartoon thus predates cartoons like the Pluto short ‘The Army Mascot‘, ‘Donald Gets Drafted‘ featuring Donald Duck, and the Woody Woodpecker cartoon ‘Ace in the Hole’ (all from 1942).

Watch ‘The Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy of Company “B”’ yourself and tell me what you think:

Director: Dave Fleischer
Release Date: November 21, 1941
Stars: Superman
Rating:
 ★★★½
Review:

The Mechanical Monsters © Paramount‘The Mechanical Monsters’ was Superman’s second cartoon, and it is almost a copy of the first one.

Again, there’s an evil scientist, this time a jewel thief, who robs jewelry using huge flying robots. Again, Lois gets herself into trouble by her curiosity and, again, after Superman has saved the day, Lois and Clark discuss Lois’s article in the newspaper.

This copying of a formulaic story format is the main weakness of the Superman series, and it’s saddening to see it already happening in the second cartoon. Luckily, the execution of the formula is better than in the first cartoon. This evil scientist is drawn more realistically, and the sidekick has gone. The elaborate intro has been shortened into a few seconds, leaving more room for the story. Moreover, watching Superman knocking down giant robots is more enjoyable than watching him defeating a ray.

Watch ‘The Mechanical Monsters’ yourself and tell me what you think:

This is Superman film No. 2
To the previous Superman film: Superman
To the next Superman film: Billion Dollar Limited

Director: Dave Fleischer
Release Date: September 26, 1941
Stars: Superman
Rating:
 ★★★
Review:

Superman © Paramount‘Superman’ is the first Superman cartoon, the very first cartoon series to feature realistic characters, and the Fleischer Studio’s most ambitious cartoon series.

Superman, of course, was based on the comic strip hero who made his debut in 1938. For his screen debut, the studio made a long introduction of the character, which lasts almost two minutes.

After this intro a very simple story develops, which contains many elements to be reused in later Superman cartoons, becoming a routine all too soon:

1) an evil scientist
2) something big to beat (in this cartoon a deadly ray, which Superman ridiculously punches away)
3) Lois getting intro trouble due to her curiosity, and
4) an ending with Lois and Clarke reading a newspaper article written by Lois Lane.

Despite elaborate shadows and special effects, this first realistic theatrical cartoon (not counting the works by Winsor McCay) hasn’t aged very well. The scientist is still half cartoony, and he has an animal sidekick, which mimics his moves.

The rest of the characters are drawn realistically, but also stiff and expressionless. They look forward to the wooden realistic cartoons of the TV era. The character was very popular, however, and inspired a couple of parodies, most notably the Bugs Bunny cartoon ‘Super Rabbit’ (1943). It’s ironic that after Popeye the Fleischer again had to rely on a character created elsewhere to achieve success. Unfortunately, this meant they couldn’t exploit Superman’s popularity as much as they could have with a character of their own.

Superman would star in seventeen cartoons, all from 1941-1943, nine by the Fleischer Studios, and eight by its successor, Famous studios. In 1943 the series was dropped because it was too costly to produce.

Watch ‘Superman’ yourself and tell me what you think:

This is Superman film No. 1
To the next Superman film: The Mechanical Monsters

Director: Tex Avery
Release Date: March 15, 1941
Stars: Bugs Bunny, Cecil Turtle
Rating: ★★★½
Review:

Tortoise Beats Hare © Warner Brothers‘Tortoise Beats Hare’ starts with one of the greatest openings of all Warner Brothers cartoons: Bugs walks along the title card, reading it aloud, mispronouncing all the names (Fred a-VEry).

When he reads the title, he gets angry, tears the title card apart and immediately looks up Cecil Turtle to make a bet. Cecil Turtle accepts, but when they’ve started off, he phones all his friends and relations to be his duplicate. This trick make the humble turtle seem to appear everywhere, driving Bugs mad.

‘Tortoise Beats Hare’ is Tex Avery’s first Bugs Bunny cartoon after Bugs Bunny’s debut in ‘A Wild Hare’ (1940). In it Tex Avery immediately does a surprising experiment to his beloved character by letting him play the role of the straight guy. In ‘Tortoise Beats Hare’ it’s the humble Cecil Turtle who gets all Bugs’s routines, like kissing the rabbit at unexpected moments and addressing the audience with a “we do this kind of stuff to him all through the picture”. As Chuck Jones writes in his book ‘Chuck Amuck’:

‘The Tortoise in fact becomes Bugs, and Bugs becomes Elmer Fudd, outwitted and outacted, thereby losing control both of the tortoise-hare race and of the picture itself’.

This experiment is not a success: watching Bugs Bunny being humiliated gives the viewer an uncomfortable feeling, and outside the Cecil Turtle cartoons it was rarely repeated. Nevertheless, Bugs’ first double take is a delight, and so is the animation on the slow hopping Cecil.

”Tortoise Beats Hare’ was only Bugs Bunny’s third screen appearance, and it shows: his design is still somewhat unsteady, and so is his voice. When Bugs addresses Cecil for the first time, it sounds like we hear many Mel Blanc voices after another.

At MGM Avery would reuse the idea of a guy popping up everywhere driving his opponent mad to greater effect, in two Droopy cartoons, ‘Dumb Hounded‘ (1943) and ‘The Northwest Hounded Police‘ (1946). In both cartoons Avery skips the explanation how the guy could be everywhere, making the result way funnier.

Meanwhile, Cecil Turtle would return in the Bob Clampett cartoon ‘Tortoise wins by a Hare’ (1942) and in the Friz Freleng cartoon ‘Rabbit Transit’ (1947).

Watch ‘Tortoise Beats Hare’ yourself and tell me what you think:

This is Bugs Bunny cartoon No. 3
To the previous Bugs Bunny cartoon: Elmer’s Pet Rabbit
To the next Bugs Bunny cartoon: Hiawatha’s Rabbit Hunt

Directors: Dick Lyford & Ford Beebe
Release Date: December 12, 1941
Stars: The Seven Dwarfs
Rating: ★★★½
Review:

7 Wise Dwarfs © Walt Disney‘7 Wise Dwarfs’ is Walt Disney’s second propaganda film for the Canadian government, and it uses the same two-part formula as the first (‘The Thrifty Pig‘), this time reusing animation from Walt Disney’s most famous film of all: ‘Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs’ (1937).

The first part of ‘7 Wise Dwarfs’ reuses animation of the seven dwarfs singing the mining song and ‘Hi-ho’, but with altered lyrics and backgrounds. There is some new animation of the Dwarfs entering and leaving the bank to buy war bonds. The second part is almost the same as that of ‘The Thrifty Pig’, ending with the same powerful image of planes gunning the words ‘Invest in Victory’. The Seven Dwarfs would return in ‘The Winged Scourge‘ (1943), which features a lot of new animation on them.

Watch ‘7 Wise Dwarfs’ yourself and tell me what you think:

Director: Ford Beebe
Release Date: 1941
Stars: The Three Little Pigs
Rating: ★★★★½
Review:

The Thrifty Pig © Walt DisneyBefore The United States were dragged into the war by Japan’s attack on Pearl harbor, December 7, 1941, Walt Disney Studio already had made four propaganda shorts for the Canadian government.

Canada, had declared war on Nazi Germany on September 10, 1939, a week after the United Kingdom, following Germany’s invasion of Poland, September 1.

‘The Thrifty Pig’ is the first of Disney’s four propaganda films commissioned by the Canadian government to persuade their citizens to buy war bonds to invest in the war effort. The other three being ‘7 Wise Dwarfs‘ (1941), ‘Donald’s Decision‘ (1942) and ‘All Together‘ (1942). It’s also Disney’s first propaganda cartoon.

‘The Thrifty pig’ consists of two parts, The first part cleverly reuses animation from Walt Disney’s most famous short, ‘Three Little Pigs‘ (1933), but in this shortened version the wolf wears a Nazi costume, the bricks are made of war bonds and the union jack is waving at the wise pig’s house. The only new animation is when the wolf’s blows reveal war bonds beneath the plaster and when the wise pig says “these bricks not only stop his blowing, they will also get him going”.

The second part is more overtly propagandistic and uses limited animation of war machines and slogans to persuade the public to buy “more and more war certificates”. The end shot, where a plane shoots the words ‘Invest in Victory’ on the screen’ is the most powerful image of the complete film.

This two part formula would be reused in all succeeding propaganda films that had to persuade the public to invest in the governmental war industry. Apart from the Canadian commissions, we see this structure in ‘The New Spirit‘ (1942) and ‘The Spirit of ’43‘ (1943), which had to persuade American citizens to pay their income taxes in time.

Watch ‘The Thrifty Pig’ yourself and tell me what you think:

Director: Clyde Geronimi
Release Date: March 28, 1941
Stars: Mickey Mouse, Pluto
Rating: ★★★★
Review:

A Gentleman's Gentleman © Walt DisneyPluto serves Mickey breakfast on bed, then Mickey gives him a dime to get the morning paper.

Pluto loses the coin almost immediately down into a sewer, but he cleverly retrieves it using chewing gum. When Pluto gets the newspaper, he reads the funnies (a comic strip about… Pluto! – a rare cross reference to a Disney spin-off outside the cinema), before the wind starts to play with it, blowing the paper into the mud, leading to a blackface gag, which is a copy from the Pluto comic he has just read.

‘A Gentleman’s Gentleman’ is officially a Mickey Mouse cartoon, but most of the time is devoted to Pluto. In this cartoon his supreme silent character comedy is simply delightful, making ‘A Gentleman’s Gentleman’ one of the classic Pluto shorts.

Watch ‘A Gentleman’s Gentleman’ yourself and tell me what you think:

This is Mickey Mouse cartoon No. 110
To the previous Mickey Mouse cartoon: The Little Whirlwind
To the next Mickey Mouse cartoon: Canine Caddy

Director: Panteleimon Sasonov
Release Date: 1941
Rating: ★★½
Review:

The Vultures © Soyuzmultfilm‘The Vultures’, like ‘4 newsreels‘ and ‘Fascist Boots on our Homeland‘ is a so-called political poster. Like the other two films from 1941 it is soviet propaganda at its most aggressive.

‘The Vultures’ is the least interesting of the set. Its opening shot is its best part: opening with two eyes in the dark, just like ‘The Skeleton Dance‘ (1929). These eyes appear to belong to a fascist vulture. he and the other fascist vultures (battle planes) are chased away and destroyed by the Soviet airfleet in a rather silly and playful-looking air battle, accompanied by heroic march music.

About the director of ‘The Vultures’, Panteleimon Sasonov (1895-1950), little can be found. Giannalberto Bendazzi tells us in his excellent book ‘Cartoons – one hundred years of cinema animation’ that he made an animation film called ‘The Tale of the Pope and Baldo his Servant’ in 1939.

Watch ‘The Vultures’ yourself and tell me what you think:

‘The Vultures’ is available on the DVD box set ‘Animated Soviet Propaganda’

Directors: Aleksandr Ivanov & I. Vano
Release Date: 1941
Rating: ★★★½
Review:

Fascist Boots on our Homeland © SoyuzmultfilmLike ‘4 Newsreels‘, ‘Fascist Boots on our Homeland’ is a so-called ‘political poster’, a short propaganda film that knows no competition in its vicious imagery.

In ‘Fascist Boots on our Homeland’ a horrific fascist pig marches on, trembling several European countries until he gets beaten by the Red Army. The film also contains a very patriotic song and rather associative imagery, including that of Russian soldiers riding horseback, a heroic image from the Russian civil war (1917-1923).

It’s interesting to compare the Soviet images of Nazis with that of American propaganda films from the same era. Whereas in American propaganda, like ‘Der Fuehrer’s Face‘ fascist leaders were caricatured and ridiculed, in the Soviet Union they were depicted as monsters and swines. The whole difference may be that the Soviet Union was invaded, while the United States were not.

Indeed, the US were less kind to the Japanese, who did stain American soil: they were all portrayed as silly, but treacherous Untermenschen, whom one could easily kill without remorse (e.g. in ‘Bugs Bunny nips the Nips’  from 1944 and the Popeye film ‘You’re a sap,  Mr. Jap‘ from 1942).

Watch ‘Fascist Boots on our Homeland’ yourself and tell me what you think:

‘Fascist Boots on our Homeland’ is available on the DVD box set ‘Animated Soviet Propaganda’

Directors: Valentina Brumberg, Zinaida Brumberg, Aleksandr Ivanov, Olga Khodataeva and Ivan Ivanov-Vano
Release Date: 1941
Rating: ★★★
Review:

4 Newsreels © SoyuzmultfilmThe Soviet propaganda film ‘4 Newsreels’ consists of four so-called ‘political posters’, which are as blatant as propaganda can get.

The first, ‘What Hitler wants’, shows us an extremely ugly and vicious caricature of Hitler marching towards the Soviet Union until he is pierced by the Soviet bayonet.

In the second, ‘Beat the fascist pirates’, sea serpent-like German submarines are defeated by the Soviet fleet.

The third, ‘Strike the Enemy on the front and at home’, is typical for the paranoid society Stalinist Russia was, warning against treacherous fascist spies, foreign agents and saboteurs: “Be vigilant! Remember, our enemy is cunning!”.

The fourth, ‘A mighty handshake’, tells us about the union between England and the Soviet Union against Nazi Germany, showing two mighty giant soldiers shaking hands and crushing a tiny rat-like Hitler in doing so.

Obviously, Germany’s invasion of the Soviet Union left no room for subtleties.

‘4 Newsreels’ was directed by five veterans of animated Soviet propaganda. All had made animated films since the 1920s. Of the five, Ivan Ivanov-Vano (1900-1987) would become the most successful, directing animated films up to the 1970s. Luckily, he and Olga Khodataeva would be able to show a gentler side in numerous animated fairy tale films for children.

Watch ‘4 Newsreels’ yourself and tell me what you think:

‘4 Newsreels’ is available on the DVD box set ‘Animated Soviet Propaganda’

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