When enough times goes by, history can seem more like mythology, with the artifacts left behind being the only things left to ‘prove’ things really happened. Time takes with it the first hand experiences and memories. With those first hand experiences now becoming extinct for the golden era of animation, the artifacts, interviews and memories of stories told to the next generation serve as the closest associations to history.
I always found the topical references in old cartoons to be interesting, and always wanted to find out more about these references to the past. My grandparents made great comments when I would show them cartoons from World War 2 especially, leaving me excited to find out more.
The Great Depression is this week brief topic – here’s a few things to put things in persecutive a little, and some ‘New Deal’ related cartoons.
FDR offers a New Deal:
..and FDR’s first Fireside Chat. Roosevelt had the idea of talking semi- informally directly to the American people each week through a radio program. This first fireside chat gives you a pretty good idea of the tone he set in these weekly chats. I’m sure the newer generations never understood the reference in ‘Dumbo’ : “I heard a fireside ‘chat’!”
Here’s a great film clip with FDR giving a fireside chat about unemployment, shown as part of a Universal newsreel:
Hollywood was asked to help out in the recovery effort as part of the National Recovery Administration’s effort to inspire confidence in the American public. Jimmy Durante presents the message with gusto in this little short:
This brings us to cartoons of course. My favorite ‘New Deal’ cartoon is Marching Along (1933). Here it is from Thunderbean’s Little King cartoon set. It was a silent print, with the soundtrack from a not as good picture quality
sound print. I’ve recently discovered where the original negative is of this film, and hope to transfer it soon!
Perhaps the most famous of the ‘New Deal’ related cartoons is the Oswald short Confidence (1933). It’s one of the few post-Disney Oswalds that has been ‘officially’ released on DVD (available on Woody Woodpecker and Friends, volume 1, from Universal DVD)
..and here’s a short clip from the recently released A Conversation with Walter and Gracie Lantz DVD
Chris Buchman asks Walter about Roosevelt walking:
While it wasn’t a complete secret that the Roosevelt was disabled, it became rare to see photographs of the president wheelchair-bound. Here is an interesting article from Time about this subject.
….and to wrap things up, here’s Let’s Go (1937), a Columbia Color Rhapsody, another favorite of mine. It seems that all it takes is some magic honey to cure everything. The real question is, if they are so prosperous and well meaning and it is so easy to fix things, why didn’t the bees help out sooner??! There is more that just a simple message of helping those in need here; they seem to be declaring all out war on poverty, bombing the city. The Sunshine Makers seems to have a similar idea, though they don’t want it in that cartoon…