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November 14, 2014

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POST-GAZETTE, NOVEM BER 14, 2014 Page 5 THOUGHTS BY DAN o A Frank De Pas( uale Venture o ABOUT THIS 8< THAT with Daniel A. DiCenso The History of Animation: Cartoons Go to War WWII affected Hollywood even before the United States became involved. Chaplin's The Great Dictator, the Three Stooges' You Nazty Spy! and l'll Never Heil Again hit theaters before Pearl Harbor. Walt Disney was wary of Hitler's rise but it's telling of Hollywood's oblivion in the '30s that Disney didn't publicly condemn the Chan- cellor until Hitler insulted his Mouse. It could be argued that the first point of impact the War had on the Ameri- can animation industry was when the Day of Infamy took the cover of TIME Magazine, push- ing out a planned fea- ture on Dumbo. From that point on, war themes took over the animation units at all the major studios. Dumbo itself was one of the first cartoons to refer- ence the war (before the U.S. got involved). In the finale, when the little elephant's big ears become a sensation, the United States Air Force takes notice and designs a war plane based on them. The United States govern- ment saw the Walt Disney Studio as the most influen- tial of the cartoon factories and pressured Disney stron- ger than the rest for propa- ganda shorts. Disney and his animators (still calming down after the bitter strike of 1941) set quickly to work producing shorts for various branches of the U.S. mili- tary, putting on hold other projects then in production ("Peter and the Wolf," which would later be an episode of the compilation film Make Mine Music, Peter Pan, and an elaborate version of Alice in Wonderland combining live- actors and cartoons that never came to be). Given the abruptness of this interrup- tion from the geopolitical world, the rush put on the production of these films, and the lack of commercial interest Disney undoubtedly saw in them, it's truly sur- prising how well produced they are and their wide ap- peal. Artistically they are as good as any short Disney produced during the Golden Age of Animation, adding an another layer to some of his biggest stars. Most of the cartoon cast got to do their part for the war effort includ- ing Goofy (Victory Vehicles and How to Be a Sailor) and Pluto (Private Pluto and The Army Mascot) but, without a ing with 1942's Donald Gets Drafted, The Vanishing Private and Sky Trooper, Fall Out Fall In and The Old Army Game the following year, and finally 1944's Commando Duck which sent our feath- ered friend to Japan on a secret mission where he becomes a hero by acciden- tally washing out an airfield. Donald proved so powerful an icon for the war effort that Disney used him as spokes- person for his Treasury Department shorts The New Spirit and its sequel The Spirit of '43. But the Duck's ulti- mate statement was the Academy Award winning cartoon of 1943, Der Fuehrer's Face, a surreal, funny, but also biting satire of the Third Reich in which Donald has a nightmare where he is a starved and abused citizen of a menacing Totalitarian state. Some of Disney's war shorts were far darker in spirit, however, starting with the somber Education for Death: The Making of the Nazi (a harrowing attack on the Hitler Youth) and Reason and Emotion. His ultimate ac- complishment, however, was a most unusual feature film titled Victory Through Air Power a light but fascinating semi-documentary about the history of aviation and the role it played in WWI and in the present war. After the war Disney saw no commer- cial value for the film and kept it off circulation for decades (save a few scenes spliced into his television show in the '50s) until it was finally released on DVD in 2004. Even outside of the propa- ganda films, Disney used the war for background themes in such shorts as Donald's Tire Trouble and Home Defense (also starring the Duck and his three neph- ews). The best thing Disney got out of participating in the war effort was a tour of Latin America as part of the Roosevelt Administration's Good Neighbor Policy. From this south of the border jour- ney came two innovative feature films, the episodic Saludos Amigos (1943) and The Three Caballeros a daz- zling and inventive travel- ogue of Latin America with Donald Duck as a tourist, enhanced by an unforgettable soundtrack with a Latin beat. ters proved revolutionary for 1945 and led to many other attempts beginning with the following year's Song of the South. Aside from these two features, the trip inspired several shorts including Pluto and the Armadillo, Clown of the Jungle, The Pelican and the Snipe as well as two new popular characters, Jose Carioco, a Brazilian parrot and Panchito the Mexican charro rooster. Elsewhere animation stu- dios were also doing their part for our fighting men. Warner Bros. probably pro- duced the most of them, many with all new charac- ters or caricatures of politi- cal figures including Russian Rhapsody in which gremlins sabotage Hitler's aircraft and The Ducktators where the despots of the war were caricatured as ducks. Of course, Warner's main stars did plenty. Bugs Bunny, curiously did only two direct mocker- ies of our enemies abroad. One is the very funny Herr Meets Hare and the other is the now rarely seen Bugs Bunny Nips the Nips. But Bugs did appear in a musical morale booster (Any Bonds Today?) and references to the war appeared in many of his cartoons such as The Unruly Hare and his own match with a gremlin in Falling Hare. As in Disney, however, it was the duck star that appeared in most of the war shorts. Like Donald Duck's, Daffy Duck's war cartoons are some of his best, especially Scrap Happy Daffy and Daffy the Commando. The most original of them was Plane Daffy where he takes the role of a messenger pigeon and outwits a seductive Nazi spy. Disney and Warner were, of course, the biggest players but every studio did their part. Paramount sent Popeye on The Mighty Navy and then in Fleets of Stren'ttr The most successful was Tex Avery, now finding a new beginning at M-G-M cartoon studio after his bitter depar- ture from Warner Bros. His 1942 effort for his new home, The Blitz Wolf (a parody of The Three Little Pigs and a gag on Hitler) was nominated for an Academy Award. WWII changed the course of animation along with history and the world. But, animation, like all art, triumphs even during our darkest hours and when we needed them most these geniuses of animated draw- ing gave us laughter and hope. Quattro Grille, Rosticceria & Pizzeria OOO 266 Hanover St. 617.720.0444 Mar6 Seafood & Oyster Bar OOO 135 Richmond St. 617.723.MARE Bricco Boutique Italian Cuisine OOO 241 Hanover St, * 617.248.6800 Trattoria II Panino Boston's 1st Original Trattoria OOO 11 Parmenter St. 617.720.1336 Umbria Prime 5 Story S}eakhouse Oyster Bar & Night Club 000 295 Franklin St, 617,338. 1000 Bricco Panefferia Homemade Artisan Breads OOO Bricco Place 241 Hanover St, 617.248,9859 Bricco Salumeria & Pasta shoppe Over 50 Varieties 000 Bricca Place 241 Hanover St. * 617.248.9629 (next to Bricco Panetteria) Lounge & Night Club Coming Soon OOO 150 Kneeland St, Gelateria & Cannoli Factory Homemade Gelato & Cannolis OOO 272 Hanover St. 64 Cross St. 617.720.4243 Named "Legislator of the Year" by the Massachusetts Police Association L-R: MPA President Daniel Chviruk, MPA Executive Director James Machado, MPA "Legislator of the Year" Senator Sal Di Domenico and Revere Police Captain James Guido. Senator Sal DiDomenico was recently honored by the Massachusetts Police Asso- ciation as their "Legislator of the Year" at their annual meeting in Plymouth. Sena- tor DiDomenico was recog- nlzed for his unwavering sup- port of public safety officials during his time in the State Senate. James Camacho, Executive Director of the Massachusetts Police Asso- ciation stated, *Senator DiDomenico has stood strong for police officers throughout the Commonwealth and has taken some very tough votes for us and our families." Camacho continued, "We ap- preciate all that he has done for police officers and we are proud to recognize his work by giving him this distin- guished award." The Massa- chusetts Police Association, which was founded over 114 years ago, is one of the larg- est public safety organiza- tions in New England, and it includes thousands of State Troopers and Municipal Police Officers from through- out the Commonwealth. ALBANO F. PONTE, CEP Financial and Estate Planning Email Phone 617-320-0022 f MICHAEL F. NOBILE, CPCU mnobile @ nobileinsu BOSTON MEDFORD doubt, Donald Duck was The Three Caballeros proved 30 Prince Street 39 Salem Street Disr~ey's ~biggest. weapon in ,something of a milestone for Boston, MA 02113 Mediord, MA 02155 .... helping ithe Al)ieck Dls ney ev n !i ter, .... i: (617) 523-6 66 ' (781j' ks,42"o0 !:! : : The :Artiiy ,short are 8 6hie :as its 'combination of iive Fax (617) Fak, (781) 391-8493 1 of the Duck's funniest. Start- actors with cartoon charac-