Great collection of WWII cartoon film rarities
D. Walker | 04/20/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"One of the most fascinating areas of the classic animation genre lies within the short films which were produced during the World War II era. This was made plainly obvious with the huge success of Disney's "On The Frontlines" DVD release of 2004. Extensive as this wonderful set was, the scope was somewhat limited, highlighting only the Disney studios productions of the era. Many other animation venues were utilized for the war efforts as well, and producer Steve Stanchfield of Thunderbean Animation has now produced a new DVD sampling, providing a wider range of war era films for us to explore. Specifically," Cartoons For Victory" is a single disc compendium of animation offering a more global overview, even including rare materials offering the perspective of the Axis powers. Films produced in Britain, Czechoslovakia, Nazi Germany, Occupied France, and of course the USA , can be found here, and it makes for a most intriguing and interesting mix!
The cartoons are grouped in two separate categories, with a third devoted to the Bonus Features. The first grouping includes entertainment/propaganda films that are pretty effective at vilifying the enemy. Of particular note is "Bury The Axis" a first class stop motion piece that is not only comical, but very clever in the musical department as well. It's very similar in appearance to the George Pal Puppetoons. For an Axis perspective there is the diabolical "Nimbus Libéré" which shows viewers how Mickey, Donald, Goofy, Felix and Popeye, are happily bombing French civilians in order to "Liberate" them. This has to be seen to be believed! Another wonderful film is "The Springman and the SS" a film produced in Czechoslovakia, that is a masterpiece of lampoon. The film is an excellent satire of the perceived extremisms of the Nazi Reich, and centers on the almost clownish antics of a Nazi leader who seems certain every home is a haven for Allied sympathizers. A chimney sweep decides enough is too much and dons sofa springs upon his feet, and a mask made of a sock, with a hole from the heel serving, as his eye portal. Suited up, he bounds to the roof top of the ministry, and catches the SS corps attention by giving out a long yodel and then blows his nose with their flag! He then leads them on a chase that exploits their single mindedness to the point of their own destruction. A very clever film! There are four other equally fascinating films to be explored here as well.
The second and larger grouping consists of educational/training films. Most notable are the "Private Snafu" and "Mr. Hook" cartoons. The infamous "Private Snafu" series was produced by Warner Brothers for the Army-Navy Screen Magazine presentations and were directed by legends such as Robert Clampett and Frank Tashlin. These films have developed an almost cult following, and for good reason. Because of the military's willingness to allow a little more creativity along adult lines, the subject matter focused more on young enlisted men's attitudes and interests, and censorship was relaxed accordingly. Two of titles which appear here, "Booby Traps" and "Censored", are notorious for their "pinup girl" stylings. For instance in "Censored", Snafu's gal Sally Lou is portrayed in a sexy topless vignette, albeit demurely covered by an arm, while chatting on the telephone.
The Mr. Hook cartoon series is extremely rare to find, being produced for the United States Navy. Only four films are known to exist, and all are included here! The uniting theme within these cartoons was to encourage sailors to save their money for after the war, preferably in war bonds. Hook himself was more of an average Joe than Snafu, but soon exhibited all of the guile and resilience expected of an American soldier when challenged by an enemy. The character was actually created by Hank Ketchum, who is more widely known as the creator of the "Dennis the Menace" cartoon strip. The debut cartoon in the series was produced at the Walter Lantz studios, in Technicolor no less!, Titled Take Heed Mr. Tojo (1943) the film was, until this DVD release, obtainable only through "grapevine" trading ventures, and those almost always being of very marginal quality. Here we have the benefit of a gorgeous pristine print source, looking like it was made yesterday!
Another menu selection offers a grouping of films that concentrate on more generic approaches to instructional training for the armed forces. These are surprisingly entertaining, considering how dry the subject material is. In particular "Camouflage" demonstrates the why and how of the subject in an easily understood, but attention keeping manner. Filmed in Technicolor by the First Motion Picture Unit of the US Army Air Corps, it was directed by Disney veteran Frank Thomas, and boasts excellent production values. The instructional aspects of the film are explained by "Jehudi" a chameleon that is well versed in the applications of camouflage. (naturally!) Blending equal measures of humor and seriousness, this is another first rate inclusion in this DVD release.
This may well be the finest collection of films Thunderbean has put together since the "Popeye The Sailor-Original Classics" DVD release. Producer Steve Stanchfield has blended together an excellent variety of rare war-era cartoon films. To be honest the visual quality is a bit lower than usual, but it is more than made up for by the comparative rarity of the films found within. Most of this material has never seen the spotlight of a home video production, so there is a newness here that is rarely experienced in a classic animation genre DVD. And these films are still highly entertaining! I guess the best compliment I can pay this release is to say it belongs right along side my "On The Frontlines" set, and it wouldn't surprise me at all if I viewed it more often than the Disney set!
A remarkable "Schneemann"
Eugene Schiller | Honolulu, Hi United States | 07/20/2006
(3 out of 5 stars)
"This collection of wartime propaganda dates from animation's golden period - Chuck Jones and Bob Clampett among others, make vital contributions, but given the economics of wartime production, these inevitably lack the richness of their best work. There are also selections from Trnka, Cal and Bunin (a clever spoof called "Bury the Axis"), and training films, including the 20 minute "Camouflage" - but the transfer quality is only fair, and somehow, I feel this is not a disc you'll be returning to often.
"Der Schneemann" (1943) is another story. Fischerkoesen's classic about a snowman determined to enjoy a few fleeting moments of spring, is one of the unheralded gems of animation. The opening scene (and a few others, alas!) have faded to red, but otherwise, it's a nice clean print, contrast is good, depth and detail, excellent, the painstakingly crafted 3-D settings, extraordinary. The icy blues of winter are adequately conveyed, and enough of the original agfacolor remains for a gloriously hued spring. This, as they say, is worth the price of admission."
This excelent collection belongs in every collection,as a pi
John D. Page | usa | 06/20/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"thank you to the people who put this amazing collection of war time cartoons together! these "living history" cartoons are all from the war years and have cartoons from all over the world(includeing some german cartoons of the time that must be seen to be belived). this is really one collection that i hope they put out a part 2 and more of. the transfers look great and as history these are a great collection of cartoons!!!!! a must have!!!!!!!!!!"