Welcome to the second edition of our new weekly feature, Thunderbean Thursday. Today, another wonderful discovery by Steve Stanchfield of Thunderbean Animation, from his 2012 DVD compilation More Cartoons for Victory. Weapon of War features a remarkable early use of limited graphics (the kind more associated with UPA or Saul Bass) in an animated short.
The short was storyboarded at the FMPU (the Army Corps’ First Motion Picture Unit), with production duties completed by the MGM animation studio. Even though it was intended as one of the ‘Few Quick Facts’ series, it appears to never have been released with that title on it. It was released both independently and as part of the Army/Navy Screen Magazine. The short is strikingly designed and executed, unafraid to sidestep ideas that are often presented in propaganda films in a more subtle way. These graphic ideas, more in common with posters from the era than the animation, prove that the MGM staff was more than capable of tackling this style beautifully.
The DVD, which I highly recommend, contains a comparison between the finished film with the original storyboards for this short. And yes, that’s Mel Blanc doing various incidental voices (the tonic salesman and various racists). I can’t quite place the main narrator (Keith?). Here’s a real unheralded classic, with a message that is still valid today, Weapon of War: