THUNDERBEAN THURSDAY
September 2, 2021 posted by Steve Stanchfield

Thoughts on WWII Animated Films – What We Have and Haven’t Found

The weeks leading up to the school year into the first week of school are some of the busiest here. As I sit and write, I honestly can’t wait to get back to doing the things I want to rather than all the things I have to. I’m helping a little with a non-Thunderbean project that will be done soon, then it’s back to getting the long-in-progress Flip the Frog set all finished. I’m going to hid tomorrow morning and just try to bury myself in sending things back to people, burning special discs for some friends, and generally try to steal a little time catching up with dropped balls over these past weeks.

The biggest goal for the summer here was to organize and to set a path to finish as many of the started projects as possible. I’m very happy with how this is going, since there’s so many things we’ve been able to scan that I didn’t think we’d *ever* have the ability to do. Other projects have been going quite well throughout the summer despite restrictions. While I’m happy with this particular period, I can’t wait until we’re through most of the things on the plate so we can further pursue *other* things I’ve been hoping to do for a while. Those I can’t mention since I’m not properly dressed for the occasion.

Looking for the oddball and forgotten films has been a pursuit here for some time. I was lent a few things recently that are really fun and along those particular lines, and seeing their strangeness was a reminder of how its worth trying to look in those off places for these sorts of things. We’ve been able to scan and release some of the holy grails on my list of oddballs, and I’ve continued searching for others, sometimes for many years- and have found many of them and have been quietly amassing a list of where certain things are and what we’d like to do with them given the opportunity.

Some of those things have been hiding in plain sight for many years, and the reason they are sometimes hard to find is that no one has actually pursued them enough to actually get around to scanning them. The films that have been made for and by the US Government are on that list.

The US National Archives (NARA) have been especially fun to search since there are so many things that had rarely been seen since World War II – and a bunch of things made after the war that are fascinating. While there isn’t a *complete* list of everything that the First Motion Picture Unit made, for example, there *is* a fairly complete list of what was produced for the Army. In fact, the thing you recognize pretty quickly if you’re looking for the films they made or had made for the government is that there’s things you know exist that are suspiciously missing from the ‘official’ lists — and in further research, they’re almost all produced for the Navy.

One of my favorite things that ever happened at NARA was being able to go back into the actual stacks / film archive at NARA. One of the archivists there understood my plight of trying to find the best element during the SNAFU project. When you request materials, they “tell you” what element you’ll be getting. What I quickly figured out was that there were multiple elements there of many of the titles, and if I requested something while the copy I was scanning wasn’t there, I’d get another element — and sometimes that one would actually be better. The archivist let me come back and go through up to the elements on some of the SNAFU negs and master positives, making it so much easier to figure out what reel to scan. This was unusual and I assume I’ll never get a chance to again.

That same archivist pointed out that the Navy material that was at NARA was, generally, in direct coordination with the Army, and that the Navy would decide what they would send in to NARA when not working with the Army, while the Army basically gave NARA everything, and continues to, even in modern times. The Navy’s material, on the other hand, is in its internal library, but who knows what happened to all the nitrate that was produced only for the Navy.

I’d like to get to the point where every animated film made for the government during World War II is accessible. We’re way closer than we were a handful of years back, but there’s still more to research and figure out.

After producing the DVD More Cartoons for Victory I haven’t really gone back to further research animation produced for the Government too much. I’m really interested in seeing what was produced into the 50s and 60s that we *haven’t* seen or heard of at all. There’s some things I especially want to track down (the Hook and Sgt. Pettybone Cartoons, for example) but I also want to see what just happens to exist there from some of the studios we all know well. There are a ton of films made for both internal and public use during the space race of the 60s, and I’m always wondering what other really cool thing might be there that we just didn’t ever know about.

There are still several films that are on my WWII holy grail list. One is Mop Up, a Snafu cartoon that never was finished. Records show it was in animation when cancelled. Another is the Disney short about VD produced for soldiers – this one has magically gone entirely missing. So…

What’s unusual on your ‘Holy Grail” list?

Since there’s all this talk about WWII this week, I thought I’d reshare one of the SNAFUs we posted here a while back. Here’s It’s Murder She Says. Lovely character animation in this one (and all of them honestly!). Make sure to watch in HD.

Have a good week all and more stuff soon!

9 Comments

  • IMDB credits the voice of Annie to Marjorie Rambeau., who apparently made a celebrated career out of similar personas. A wonderful, inspired read, with such a reminder of the flavor of Sophie Tucker, I used to think it was the latter providing the voice. I particularly love that off-color remark about “every damned -ologist”.

  • Recently I’ve discovered the “Commandments for Health” cartoons that the Navy commissioned from Hugh Harman Productions in 1945, starring Marine Private McGillicuddy as a negative example in the mold of Private Snafu. They’re not as well made as the Snafu cartoons, but they also feature voice work by Mel Blanc and music by Carl Stalling. The National Library of Medicine in Bethesda, Maryland, has prints of five of them, and another two are known to exist, but the title of the series suggests that there may have been ten in total. None of the surviving McGillicuddy cartoons deals with malaria, and it’s inconceivable that a series of films designed to educate military personnel in the Pacific theatre about health issues would have ignored the subject altogether — especially when Private Snafu tackled it twice for the Army!

  • Great article. I hope you can do Blu-ray upgrades of your Cartoons For Victory DVDs (which I still haven’t picked up in hopes of just such a happening) plus any more goodies you manage to unearth! So that Disney VD short was left off their (absolutely essential) Cartoons Go To War DVD set? Damn. It’s been a while since I dusted that off. I’m surprised as hell Disney put that set out but I’m reeeeaaaalllly glad they did!

  • “Secrets of the Caribbean”, the lost Chuck Jones Snafu cartoon, is on my list.

  • Great cartoon. I really enjoyed your Rainbow Parade Blu Ray product. Especially the Eshbaugh cartoons.

  • Mop Up is the one for me.

    Might be just internet disinformation, but I’ve read a couple times that this one was a mid-40s collaboration among Avery, Hanna and Barbera. Even if it was down to a pencil test, this would be one for the ages.

  • I’m wondering if the missing 4 minutes of HE CAN’T MAKE IT STICK exists.

  • When searching on UCLA’s online catalog a little while back, I ran into this listing for some apparently-unfinished WWII “Sabotalk” cartoon with “drawings by Sid Marcus”:

    https://cinema.library.ucla.edu/vwebv/holdingsInfo?bibId=111359

    At least *I* would like to be able to see it someday.

  • Those were great army shorts, its amazing so many of them got preserved to this day. Thanks!

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