Earlier this week I was kinda stunned to learn I’d been selected to compete in the heats for Irish Comedian of the Year and I did my set on Tuesday. Didn’t make it to the semi-finals, unfortunately, but I had a great time and I’ll definitely be entering again next year. I’ve embedded the video below, and I hope you enjoy.
Studio: Walt Disney Productions
Country of Origin: United States
First Screened: August 27, 1943
After the ugliness and race-baiting of the Ducktators, what say we finish our look at American propaganda shorts with something with a little bit of class, by God! Reason and Emotion is a personal favourite of mine, not just because it’s a gorgeous cartoon (although it is) but because it’s that rarest of things, a piece of propaganda that actually appeals to your better nature. Propaganda shorts of this era came in many flavours. Some just plonked existing characters into war-specific settings with little commentary and had them do their thing. Some mocked and belittled the Axis powers to boost morale. And some were designed with an educational thrust to inform the public about a specific topic. In fact, even after the war had ended Disney continued making educational shorts on all kinds of subjects.
Reason and Emotion is, ironically enough, a propaganda short warning of the dangers of propaganda. It effectively and engagingly illustrates how propaganda works on the mind and how demagogues use emotion to suppress reason. For this reason, I almost hesitate to call it propaganda. “Anti-propaganda” might be a better term. The short was released in 1943 to great acclaim and was even nominated for an Academy Award, although it lost to the Tom and Jerry short Yankee Doodle Mouse, the first and last time the Academy ever got something wrong.
I know, I know.
“What’s the point of this Mouse?” I hear you cry. Your feelings about this are probably the same as mine towards the Beauty and the Beast reboot; All questions of quality aside, who asked for this and why does it need to exist? Why do another review of Snow White when there are so many fantastic/terrible movies I haven’t had a chance to savour/suffer for your amusement/amusement? Well, a couple of reasons. Firstly, a confession.
When I initially reviewed Snow White back in 2012, I hadn’t seen it in literally years and I based my review on memories as faded and unreliable as an old VHS tape. I’m sorry, I was young, I was reckless. Mea Culpa. Second, oh my God, FUCK 2012 Mouse.
That guy was an asshole. So I thought that the fifth anniversary of the blog was a good opportunity to go back and revisit my first review and show that hack who’s boss. And lastly, because when I finally got Snow White on DVD I noticed something really enticing.
Yeah. You all thought that when I talked about Walt Disney being an immortal warlock it was just a bit. So how come there’s a DVD commentary by him when he SUPPOSEDLY DIED BEFORE DVDS WERE INVENTED?! HMM? HMMMMMMM??
Alright let’s do this. Snow White versus Mouse 2. Place your bets.
Hey guys, sorry for the missed update. Still up to my furry little armpits in other writing at the moment so I’m afraid the Snow White review is gonna have to be pushed back until next Thursday. By recompense, here is the next of the WW2 propaganda short reviews. Enjoy!
Studio: Warner Bros
Country of Origin: United States
First Screened: August 1, 1942
As I mentioned in my last series of short reviews, you can break down the history of the Looney Tunes/Merrie Melodies shorts into four eras roughly corresponding to the nineteen thirties, forties, fifties and sixties. Call them the Poor Man’s Disney, Wiseass Disney, Apex and Nadir eras, respectively. WW2 broke out in the middle of the Wiseass Disney era, where the studio had successfully reinvented itself as the sarcastic, irreverent joker to those squares in Burbank with their high falutin’ ideals of animation being art. While Disney were getting Deems Taylor to introduce abstract animation to the strains of Bach, Warner Bros were slouched in the corner smokin’ ceegars and yellin’ “Ah, yer muddah wears lederhosen!”. The Warner Bros shorts of this era are acclaimed by many fans as the greatest of the series but, with respect, those fans are liars and fools and once grown, their children shall change their names out of shame.
Okay, that’s harsh. There are many fantastic cartoons from this era but, honestly, the shorts from the fifties (including but not limited to What’s Opera Doc, One Froggy Evening and the Hunter Trilogy) leave them in the dirt.
The shorts of the forties had a lot going for them, namely some of the finest animators, directors and voice talent to ever work in the medium, but compared to the later fifties shorts they’re sorely lacking in one thing.
To be blunt, there’s a nastiness to a lot of the Warner Bros shorts of this era, and not just because of the racism (although, jeez louise, it’s like they thought there was an Olympics for racism and they had their heart set on winning gold for their country). Propaganda is dirty business, but some cartoon studios came out a lot cleaner than others, if you catch my drift.
Of all the major American cartoon studios, Warners seemed to succumb to their worst instincts the easiest. Disney, Fleischer et al certainly produced cartoons in this era that make for uncomfortable viewing but Warner’s took it to another level. For a good example, let’s take a look at the Ducktators.
It’s not what you do, it’s how you do it. Execution is more important than concept.
Consider Disney’s The Hunchback of Notre Dame.
Doing Victor Hugo’s classic melodrama as an animated Disney musical is an objectively terrible idea. Awful. Comedically bad. You would have to really sit down and think to come up with a classic novel less suited to the genre. Dracula has more potential as a Renaissance Disney movie than Hunchback (Magical villain with a cape and animal sidekicks, heroine who yearns for more than her safe, stale existence, funny comedy relief foreigner and a happy ending, what more do you want?).
But the thing about Hunchback is that, despite the inherent cruddiness of the core concept, everything else is JUST SO GOOD. That animation! The character designs! The backgrounds! The acting! The direction! The singing! The music! YE GODS THE MUSIC!
So what if the final product resembles Hugo’s work so loosely that Disney might as well have claimed it was original IP and called it the “The Adventures of Maurice the Not-So-Pretty Bell Man”? Gorgeous movie is gorgeous.
But what if…what if all that was taken away?
What if you took away the animation, the character designs, the backgrounds, the acting, the direction, the singing, the music ye gods the music?
What if all you had left was that initial terrible, terrible idea?
Probably something like The Hunchback of Notre Dame 2, produced in 2000 but only released in 2002, presumably out of shame. This movie is why we have words like “nadir”.
Let me be clear. It’s not simply terrible compared to the original. It’s not simply terrible as a movie in its own right. It is terrible compared to other Disney Sequels.
By God, you should be.
We did it.
We have succeeded in raising €1000 to get Mauricio out of Venezuela. Mauricio can now begin getting the necessary paperwork, and, all going well, he should be safely in Colombia in a month or two. I will of course keep you posted.
I know I promised another World War 2 short review when we were fully funded but I have to come clean; I didn’t expect us to be funded so quickly so I haven’t got anything written yet.
Plus, what with what’s currently going on in the States the cartoon I was going to review…
Yeah. It just…doesn’t feel like the right time. Or maybe it’s too right a time.
I dunno. I will continue with this series but when I’m in the kind of head space that I can actually be funny.
In the meantime, enjoy the Hunchback 2 review.
Y’all did good.
If you ever visit Ireland and you are even slightly interested in sport, you need to see a hurling match played in Croke Park. The fastest field game in the world, whose origins stretch thousands of years, played in front of over 70,000 screaming fans. You will never experience anything else like it.
Hurling and Gaelic football are the glue that hold this country together. Every county, from tiny Louth to mighty Dublin have their teams and the Gaelic Athletic Association (GAA) has a presence in every village and town in the country. It’s something we all do together. We have players whose families have been in Ireland since the Ice Age, and players who just got off the boat from Nigeria or China or Poland. It’s a beautiful thing, and I say this as someone who doesn’t even sport. But if you were to see a game played in Croke Park and you were able to tear your eyes away from the field and scan the crowd, you might notice something a little weird.
So, a controversy that has been quietly bubbling in Ireland for the last few decades is the…tradition…of some County Cork fans to fly the Confederate Battle Flag during their matches. Why do they do this? Well…it’s sort of a…joke.
So here’s the background. County Cork is the largest county in Ireland by area and has the second largest city in the republic, Cork City. And it’s a lovely place. Gorgeous scenery, tons of history and the people are really, really lovely despite having an accent that could shatter glass. Now Cork has always had a bit of a rivalry with Dublin because we’re deadly and it’s not unusual for Corkonians to refer to their city as “The Real Capital”. Cork is also known as “The Rebel County” because, during the Civil War (the Irish Civil War, I mean) they were a centre of Anti-Treaty resistance whereas Dublin was the seat of the Pro-Treaty government. And also, the Cork county colours are Red and White.
Red and White. Rebel County.
Like I said, it’s a gag. Not a very funny one. But it’s not like Cork fans who fly the flag are advocating slavery or white supremacy, they’re just implying that Cork is going to rise up and overthrow Dublin (as if, we would crush the rebellious dogs). But, as many people both inside and outside of Cork have gained a greater understanding over the years as to just what that flag represents, the rising chorus of “NOT FUNNY!” has started to become deafening.
And I have a solution. I’m not here to lecture anyone. I’m not here to soapbox. I would just like to point out that there is a perfect alternative to the Confederate Flag for Cork fans to use.
Hi guys! We are now halfway there to getting Mauricio safely out of Venzuela and, as promised, here is the second of the war era animated short reviews. Because you’re all superheroes, and because I thought it might be particularly cathartic right now to watch some Nazis get punched in the face, today we’re looking at one of the Superman shorts from the 1940s. Enjoy, and please consider donating if you haven’t already.
Studio: Famous Studios
Country of Origin: United States
First Screened: March 26, 1943
Recently, the internet came down with a case of the vapours when it was announced by the BBC that the next Doctor would be played by Jodie Whittaker, who has lady bits.
Jolly good, quite right, good idea, quite right, jolly good and not before time. Now, when it comes to Who I haven’t really had skin in the game since Ecclestone left but I’m sure she’ll kill in the part. There have been bad Who writers, bad Who directors and even bad Who seasons but they have never cast a bad actor in the lead role (no, not even him) and I doubt very much they’ve started here. But Whittaker’s casting does raise some interesting questions. How will people in the past react to a character whose main defining trait is showing up out of nowhere and bossing everyone around when it’s a woman doing the bossing? How will, say, the Puritans react to this trouser wearing lady with a mysterious blue box and what can only be described as a magic wand? Will every episode of Doctor Who consist of angry peasants trying to ascertain if Jodie Whitaker weighs as much as a duck? It’ll be interesting to see how they handle it.
Of course, the status of women in society has swung wildly upwards and downwards over the millennia depending on the era and society in question. Progress is not a hill, but a rollercoaster. Consider Lois Lane, who, as the perennial love interest of one of the most famous pop-culture icons of the last century has had an unbroken presence in various media for almost eight decades now, and so represents a useful yardstick for the portrayal and status of women in American culture. In the Silver Age, this was Lois Lane.
The fifties saw Lois’ role as a daring and accomplished journalist minimised to almost nothing so that she could engage in an unending spiteful love rivalry with Lana Lang over who could dupe Superman into marrying her first. It was a terrible time to be a woman in America, and it was a terrible time to be Lois Lane.
Contrast this with a decade earlier, where we find Lois Lane wasting bitches with an uzi.
World War 2 brought huge advances both for women and minorities because America had to either make the most use of every available person regardless of race or gender or risk total defeat to the forces of fascism and America was all “Ugh, fine.” You see this in the Fleischer (later Famous) studios Superman shorts with their depiction of Lois Lane, still one of the finest interpretations of the character three quarters of a century later. And possibly the character’s finest hour is today’s short, Jungle Drums.
We’re two days into our fundraiser to get Mauricio the fruck out of Veneuzuela and we’re already one third funded! So, to say thanks, I’m publishing the first of the War Era Short reviews which I was originally going to put up in September. I’ll publish another when we get to €500 and a third when we’re fully funded. And if you haven’t contributed already, please consider doing so. And if money’s tight, please help spread the word by sharing the GoFundMe page. Actually, do that anyway.
Both Mauricio and I could not be more grateful,
Studio: Walt Disney Productions
Country of Origin: United States
First Screened: January 1st, 1943
Ugh. Ugh! A review of World War 2 shorts that includes Der Fuehrer’s Face. How obvious. How predictable. How vulgar. How basic.
But there’s really no way you can’t talk about this, one of the most controversial of all American animated shorts made during the war years (and hoo boy is that up against some stiff competition!). So let’s state three things straight up front.
1) Yes, this is the cartoon where Donald Duck yells “Heil Hitler!” 33 times (also known as “a full Bannon”.)
2) Notwithstanding that, it’s a really, really good short.
3) Actually, in context, it’s probably less offensive than pretty much any other short we’ll be reviewing as part of this series.
When I announced this series, I posted this image of a saber wielding Donald leading a battalion of cartoon critters into battle against the forces of the Third Reich.
Some of you very astutely spotted something rather weird with this picture: How prominent Donald is, how de-emphasised Mickey is (he is driving a tank waaaaaaaaay in the background in case you missed him) and how “not there” Goofy is.
It suddenly struck me that I’d never seen a Disney short from the war years that featured either Mickey or Goofy, while I’d seen plenty that featured Donald as well as Huey, Dewey and Louie. So why were the ducks so heavily featured? I resolved to find the answer and embarked on an epic quest across the internet. I consulted Wikipedia. I consulted Quora. God help me and forgive me my sins, I consulted Reddit. And after all that research, do you want to know what I found?
Frustrating and unsatisfying as it might be, from what I can gather the answer to the question “Why did Disney use Donald Duck so heavily in their propaganda and not Mickey and Goofy” the answer appears to be “’Cos they…just…did.” I can offer a few theories, though. At this point in history Donald Duck was cresting in popularity whereas Mickey was already yesterday’s news so his reduced role could simply be a reflection of the fact that he just wasn’t drawing the crowds any more. Goofy was still very much a star, though, which makes his absence quite baffling. The only clue as to why this might be is that Pinto Colvig, Goofy’s voice actor, and Walt had fallen out by this point. Goofy had thus been transitioned into the “How to…” series of cartoons where Goofy doesn’t speak and instead follows the instructions of a suave narrator. These cartoons were very popular so Disney may have simply decided to use the ducks for their propaganda shorts rather than tampering with a formula that was working by sending Goofy into the army.
Since President Nicholas Maduro assumed control of Venezuela in 2013, the nation has been in political, economic and social freefall. While the government pushes a constitutional amendment that will give Maduro dictatorial powers, 75% of the population have lost an average of 19 pounds due to food shortages. The healthcare system has broken down and violence is rising as people fight for ever scarcer food and medication. Venezuela’s 30 million citizens are facing nothing less than an existential threat.
And one of them is our friend Mauricio.
If you’ve read this blog for any length of time you probably know Mauricio. He did the video review a few years . He’s been a regular commenter here almost from the very beginning. He’s a pal, and he’s in real danger.
That’s why we need to get him out now.
I’ve set up a GoFundme page for Mauricio. The goal is to raise a thousand dollars, which should be enough to get him safely to Colombia, rent an apartment and pay for food until he finds work. Please donate whatever you can, big or small. If we all work together we can get him out of there safely.