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.
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.
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!