Mouse Goes to War: Nimbus Libéré (1944(?))

Studio: Les Films Robert Macé

Country of Origin: Vichy France

First Screened: Unclear, sometime in 1943/1944

Since starting this blog I’ve reviewed just north of 150 animated films. I’ve been an avid fan of animation from literally before I could talk. I have watched thousands upon thousands of hours of animation in my lifetime.

Nimbus Libéré (“Nimbus Released”) is the worst cartoon I’ve ever seen and it’s not even close.  If Foodfight! was a perfect 0, Nimbus Libéré is a minus googol. In every technical area, animation, sound, writing, it’s abysmal. In style, it is repellent. In intent, it is pure evil.

English language sources on the cartoon’s origins are thin on the ground and to be honest, I can’t even say for certain whether it was first screened in 1943 or 1944 (going by the subject matter, I’d guess early to mid ’44). Although credited to “Cal”, it was the work of Raymond Jeannin, a young French animator in his twenties whose two surviving works are Libéré and La Nuit Enchanté (“The Enchanted Night”).

La Nuit Enchanté is a fairly terrible mish-mash of awful animation and swiped character designs (Jeannin’s moderate talent in aping other people’s designs were probably what got him roped into doing Nimbus).  But it’s not fascist. I mean, there are some deeply uncomfortable racist stereotypes but, if I’m honest, nothing noticeably worse than what Warners was doing at the time and we don’t go around calling Tex Avery and Chuck Jones Nazis.

But Nimbus…my God in heaven.

Like I said, there’s not that much information to be gleaned on this unless you’re willing to venture onto Neo-Nazi messaging boards (spoiler; I ain’t). I did find one French language blog post about it that I was able to translate with future tech-magic that forcefully asserts that Jeannin was not a willing collaborator but was forced to make this thing by the Nazis under threat of death and that he remained deeply ashamed of it until the day he died. I have no evidence to the contrary, so I’ll assume that was the case. It certainly doesn’t seem like the work of someone who was putting their heart and soul into it so I’ll give Jeannin the benefit of the doubt.

At the time the cartoon was released, the Germans early successes had been reversed. The Americans had entered the war, Russia was kicking their teeth in on the Eastern front, the British were rolling them back in Africa. The war wasn’t over,  but Roy Moore had just lost Alabama if you catch my drift. The Germans knew that an Allied invasion to liberate occupied France was coming and that the average Frenchperson was quite happy about that. So they ordered Raymond Jeannin to create Nimbus Libéré to convince the French that they were totally better off under Nazi rule. That is what advertising execs call a “tough sell”.

Anyway, here it is. And look, I’m not normally one for trigger warning and the like but there’s some pretty awful Anti-Semitic shit in this so, y’know. Be warned.

The short begins with a Frenchman (Nimbus, I presume?) and his family sitting around the radio and listening to the BBC. The BBC presenter (a hideously stereotyped Jew) tells them that the allies are coming to liberate them. A squadron of American planes flown by the crappiest off-brand versions of American cartoon characters passes overhead.

Mickey is confused because he usually does his killing up close.

So Popeye, Donald Duck and Mickey exchange some “jokes” and then they release their payload. Back on the ground, Nimbus and his family are excited because they feel their liberation is at hand…and then they get blown to pieces and the Angel of Death perches on the smouldering ruins of their home and cackles. Get it? See, it’s called “Nimbus Released” because Nimbus thought he was going to be released from Nazi rule but instead he was released from life! ‘Cos he’s dead! GET IT?!

FUCK THIS CARTOON. IT IS THE MOST FUCKING REPREHENSIBLE THING I HAVE EVER SEEN.

I WISH IT WAS A PERSON WITH A SOUL SO THAT I COULD BE SURE IT WAS BURNING IN HELL.

Okay, that out of the way, let’s talk about how this utterly fails as propaganda. What is the goal here? What is the point? How is this supposed to work? See, all of the shorts we’ve covered thus far have dealt with “the enemy” in different ways to varying degrees of success.

The Ducktators, Der Fuehrer’s Face and Momotarō  tried to belittle and mock the enemy and render him harmless to the audience.

Fascist Jackboots and (to a far lesser extent) Jungle Drums, tried to dehumanise the enemy and make him hateful to the audience.

Reason and Emotion tried to explain the enemy and render him human to the audience.

But with Nimbus Libéré, the enemy and the audience are one and the same. Here the, Nazis are saying to their French victims “Yeah, we know you hate us. But those people you’re hoping will save you? Guess again. They’re just going to kill you. So keep the fuck in line.” Which is why, as already mentioned, I wish this cartoon was capable of suffering an eternity of fire in the infernal hereafter. But okay, how is this cartoon supposed to achieve that? If the goal is to make the audience terrified of the coming Allied liberation, surely the Allies should be depicted in a way that is actually, y’know, scary? Why depict the Allies as a bunch of harmless cartoon characters (and Mickey Mouse)?

In order to achieve it’s presumed goal, Nimbus Libéré, would need to be a horror. And it’s not. It’s a (hideously unfunny) comedy where the death of the audience is the punchline. If I was a Frenchman watching this in 1944? I’d be seething and counting every second until the Americans and British arrived so I could go frickin’ Aldo Raine on Les Collaborateurs.

Maybe, secretly, that was Jeannin’s aim. I hope so.

***

How’s the animation?: Ugly to the core of its miserable being.

Art or Propaganda?:  Utterly inept counter-productive propaganda.

How does this rate on the Jingo-Meter?: This is the least jingoistic short so far. Nazi Germany isn’t even mentioned, it’s just trying to make the Allies and the French look as bad as possible. 0 Weeping Frenchmen as the Nazis pass under L’Arc de Triomphe out of 5.

What’s going on with the War?: Like I said, I can’t even be sure what year, let alone month we’re talking about. What was going on with the war between 1943 and 1944? The war. The war was going on with the war.

Dude, is this racist?:

Uh…just a tad?

Should I buy bonds?: Every bond you buy keeps our cartoons flying high!

30 comments

      1. Also, Mouse, I didn’t quite know how to say this on the last post but I just want to tell you Thank You for all that you’ve done over the years. Your work has brought me so much joy in the nearly FIVE YEARS since I started reading this blog. You’ve given me new ways to think about films that I love dearly and even introduced me to a couple new films that I don’t think I would have seen without your reviews of them (such as Darby O’Gill and the Little People). I even watched Gravity Falls, which is now one of my all time favorite shows right up there with Avatar, because of a comment you left on a post years ago where someone had asked if you’d seen it and you said it was incredible. So, yeah, you’re the best Mouse and don’t ever let anyone (including yourself) tell you otherwise.

  1. The optimist in me wants to believe that Jeannin WAS doing this entirely against his will, and that’s why it’s such garbage. That the ineptitude is intentional. Maybe, if you really squint, you could even spot a faint patina of satire.

    But that could just be wishful thinking. And even if it isn’t, that doesn’t make it any more fun to watch.

  2. Yeesh. Thank goodness it’s so short — although if they could’ve cut another 90 seconds from it, it would’ve been better.

    I too prefer to think Jeannin was forced to do this waste of ink and paper. But now I’m wondering just what poor slobs got roped into doing the voices.

  3. When I first saw the title, I (foolishly, foolishly) thought this was going to be something from the Free French. But in retrospect, those guys probably didn’t have the time/money for proper *food*, let alone cartoons.

    I’m guessin’ the next entry will be direct from Der Fatherland?

  4. What is it with the American cartoon characters in these? It’s not like you need them for the audience to know which country you’re talking about and it robs you of the opportunity to creatively monsterize the enemy. I suppose this one is at least short.

  5. That was… yeah that was inept. There wasn’t really even a plot it was just an event. Also racist and uncomfortable, not to downplay that, but that just seemed to lack any basic tenet of visual storytelling.

  6. Aside from all of what you said, Popeye poses the burning question, if French spinach is better than other spinach, and it never gets answered.

    Jokey jokes aside, what a terrible stupid short.

    1. They don’t even get Popeye right, if Popeye’s going to f**k someone up, it’s going to be with his own two fists and not with any sissy bombs, anyway.

      Although oddly, Goofy and Felix the Cat looked absolutely miserable going over to bombard people. Popeye was just treating it as a job and Donald was just venting his anger out as usual (to be fair, let’s remember at this point the character wasn’t above trying to murder his own nephews with a pichfork over a petty fit), Mickey was pretty much the only one being all giddy about it.

  7. “a bunch of harmless cartoon characters (and Mickey Mouse)”

    Good one! I like how you still find room for jokes when talking about horrible subjects and yet manage to do it in a tasteful way that doesn’t seem disrespectful to the victims of the awful thing (like the French people in this case, obviously). I could imagine myself having some trouble with that.

  8. This, by the way, is the exact same tactic the Venezuelan government uses on its followers, or the scare campaign Castro ran in Cuba over decades.

    We’re told, again and again, how USA will f**k us up under the promises of, you know, luxuries like food and comfort instead of being happily naked and hungry but loyally following Chavez’s example as he would have wanted (one of Chavez’s most famous phrases was about how it doesn’t matter if we’re hungry and naked as long as we’re following his brand of socialism. Of course, him and his circle of successors have never been naked and hungry themselves, with Maduro currently reminding one of Homer Simpson and Wally Walrus’ secret lovechild more than anything else).

    That we should be happy over being told what to do and think as long as it’s not a gringo doing it, that they’ll just come in and kill us, so why aren’t you just supporting us, standing in line most of the day for some food, and voting us again, you ingrates? What, do you want to be bombarded just because you want a social change, we hear? How disgusting, you make your homeland ashamed, you malinche, you.

    Um, by the way, thoughts on the whole FOX buyout, anyway?

  9. If you ever feel like doing non-wartime propaganda cartoons, you could review Squirrel and Hedgehog. Most popular propaganda to ever come out of North Korea!

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