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Director: Émile Cohl
Release Date: 1907-1909
Rating:  ★★½
Review:

Japon de fantasie © Émile CohlSomewhere before or after his groundbreaking ‘Fantasmagorie’ Cohl explored the older animation technique of stop motion. ‘Japon de faintasie’ is an ultrashort venture into this technique, and the only reason of its existence seems to be the exploration of its possibilities.

Despite its short length of a mere one minute, the film consists of three clear sections: two Japanese figurines moving, a bee moving, and a face changing into a mask that sprouts mice. The film feels like a study, and is not as sophisticated as Cohl’s stop motion films from 1908, like ‘Le cerceau magique‘ or ‘Les frères Boutdebois‘, which points to an early production date.

Watch ‘Japon de fantaisie’ yourself and tell me what you think:

‘Japon de fantaisie’ is available on the DVDs ‘Émile Cohl – L’agitateur aux mille images’

Director: Seymour Kneitel
Release Date: September 18, 1942
Stars: Superman
Rating: ★★★
Review:

Japoteurs © ParamountNo sooner were the Fleischer brothers removed from their own studio, or their stars Superman and Popeye were fully put to the war effort.

No other American cartoon stars featured in as many propaganda shorts fighting the foe. Superman stars in five, of which ‘Japoteurs’ is the first.

In this entry three Japanese spies try to steal the world’s largest bomber on its test flight. Of course, Lois flies along, and both she and the plane have to be rescued by Superman.

‘Japoteurs’ is an unfortunate cartoon, which adds to the idea of a fifth column of Japanese within The United States, making every Japanese person suspicious. Indeed, due to this type of paranoia, during the war no less than 110,000 Japanese Americans, including women and children, were put into internment camps.

This is Superman film No. 10
To the previous Superman film: Terror on the Midway
To the next Superman film: Showdown

Director: Dan Gordon
Release Date: August 7, 1942
Stars: Popeye
Rating: ★★
Review:

You're A Sap, Mr. Jap © Paramount‘You’re a Sap, Mr. Jap’ is the first Popeye short by the Famous studio, after Paramount had taken over business from the Fleischer Brothers.

This film is immediately the most vicious propaganda film in Popeye’s career, and one of the most extreme cartoons of the entire World War II era. In it Popeye encounters some vicious caricatures of Japanese who doublecross him while suggesting to want to make peace. Their small boat turns out to be on top of a giant battleship which Popeye defeats singlehandedly. The cowardly admiral then commits suicide by drinking nitroglycerin and eating firecrackers, destroying the whole ship.

‘You’re a sap, Mr. Jap’ is as propagandistic as it is ferocious. In the Fleischer’s  ‘Fleets of Stren’th’ from five months earlier, the enemy was still rather abstract, but in ‘You’re a sap, Mr. Jap’ the Japanese people themselves are attacked. The film was the first, but not the only one to feature extreme caricatures of Japanese, which in this cartoon are killed by the dozen. Later, cartoons like ‘Bugs Bunny Nips the Nips’ and ‘Commando Donald’ (both 1944) would follow suit.

These cartoons mark a clear difference between the two enemies: the Germans and the Japanese. While the Nazis were always portrayed as silly, the German people were almost never seen in cartoons, and when shown, they were regarded as victims of their leaders, like in ‘Education for Death‘ (1943). The Japanese, on the other hand, with their less visible regime, were treated as one and the same, from the military top to the average soldier. No doubt, a sizable dose of racism accompanied this view. And it’s views like this that resulted in the arrest and internment of American Japanese, something that also happened to Germans living in the United States, but on a much smaller scale…

In ‘You’re a sap, Mr. Jap’ the anti-Japanese sentiment results in a remarkably unfunny cartoon, and the short is more famous for its lack of politic correctness than for its humor.

Watch ‘You’re a Sap, Mr. Jap’ yourself and tell me what you think:

This Popeye film No. 109
To the previous Popeye film: Baby Wants a Bottleship
To the next Popeye film: Alona on the Sarong Seas

Director: Dave Fleischer
Release Date: March 13, 1942
Stars: Popeye
Rating: ★★★
Review:

Fleets of Stren'th © Max Fleischer‘Fleets of Stren’th’ is the third in a series of cartoons in which Popeye has joined the American navy.

In this cartoon Popeye still is a lousy sailor, but when the battle cruiser is under attack, he once again shows what he’s able to do (see also ‘Blunder Below‘). This time the battle cruiser is attacked by a squad of Japanese dive bombers. It takes some time before Popeye is able to eat his spinach, but when he does, he turns into a plane himself, defeating the complete enemy fleet.

In this process we see only one pilot, the other planes are subtly dehumanized. In this way we’ll never think of the fate of the Japanese pilots, at all. This was a clever device used in many war propaganda films of the time.

Watch ‘Fleets of Stren’th’ yourself and tell me what you think:

This Popeye film No. 104
To the previous Popeye film: Blunder Below
To the next Popeye film: Pip-Eye, Pup-eye, Poop-eye and Peep-eye

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