Saturday, August 21, 2010
Private SNAFU : The Home Front (1943)
Most of the Private Snafu shorts are educational, and although the War Department had to approve the storyboards, the Warner directors were allowed great latitude in order to keep the cartoons entertaining. Through his irresponsible behavior, Snafu demonstrates to soldiers what not to do while at war. In Malaria Mike, for example, Snafu neglects to take his malaria medications or to use his repellant, allowing a suave mosquito to get him in the end—literally. In Spies, Snafu leaks classified information a little at a time until the Germans and Japanese piece it together, ambush his transport ship, and literally blow him to hell. Six of Snafu's shorts actually end with him being killed due to his stupidity: Spies (blown up by enemy submarine torpedoes), Booby Traps (blown up by a bomb hidden inside a piano), The Goldbrick (run over by an enemy tank), A Lecture on Camouflage (large enemy bomb lands on him), Private Snafu vs. Malaria Mike (malaria), and Going Home (run over by a street car). Later in the war, however, Snafu's antics became more like those of fellow Warner alum Bugs Bunny, a savvy hero facing the enemy head-on. The cartoons were intended for an audience of soldiers (as part of the bi-weekly Army-Navy Screen Magazine newsreel), and so are quite risqué by 1940's standards, with minor cursing, bare-bottomed GIs, and plenty of scantily clad (and even semi-nude) women. The depictions of Japanese and Germans are quite stereotypical by today's standards, but were par for the course in wartime U.S. Nine of the Snafu shorts feature a character named Technical Fairy, First Class. The Technical Fairy is a crass, shirtless, miniature G.I. whose fairy wings bear the insignia of a Technical Sergeant. He would appear and grant Snafu's wishes, most of which involve skipping protocol or trying to do things the quick and sloppy way. The results typically end tragically, with the Technical Fairy teaching Snafu a valuable lesson about proper military procedure. In the 1944 Snafuperman, the Technical Fairy transforms Private Snafu into the superhero Snafuperman, who takes bungling to a super-powered level through his carelessness. The Snafu shorts are notable because they were produced during the Golden Age of Warner Bros. animation. Directors such as Chuck Jones, Friz Freleng, Bob Clampett, and Frank Tashlin worked on them, and their characteristic styles are in top form. P. D. Eastman was a writer and storyboard artist for the Snafu shorts. Voice characterizations were provided by the celebrated Mel Blanc (Private Snafu's voice was similar to Blanc's Bugs Bunny characterization, and Bugs himself actually made a cameo in the Snafu episode Gas). Toward the end of the war, other studios began producing Snafu shorts as well (the Army accused Schlesinger of padding his bills), though some of these never made it to celluloid before the war ended. The Snafu films are also partly responsible for keeping the animation studios open during the war—by producing such training films, the studios were declared an essential industry. After the war, the Snafu cartoons went largely forgotten. Prints eventually wound up in the hands of collectors, and these form the basis for The Complete, Uncensored Private Snafu, a VHS and DVD collection from Bosko Video. Bosko's collection is currently the only one available, but it has been criticized[by whom?] for the poor quality of its transfer. Because they are now in the public domain, various Private Snafu shorts are available on YouTube, and more than a dozen are catalogued in the Internet Archive.
PRIVATE SNAFU - THE HOME FRONT
WARNER BROS (1943)
DOWNLOAD / MPEG 2 / 229.4 MB