One of the facts of life of going to the movies in the 30’s and 40’s was the cartoons. Yes, there were the double features, the newsreels, the trailers and shorts (a future post), but one staple of the experience: the cartoons.
In keeping with the fact that I’m an old coot and curmudgeon, I’m going to give a short rant about cartoons today.
Today’s cartoons are technical inferior; ‘toons for kids are mind-numbingly vapid; the characters are all either closet rock stars or closet superheroes. If there are cartoons aimed for adults, their only claim to humor is raunch, kind of like BBC comedies that get their humor from old ladies swearing, etc. There, rant over.
Growing up in the 50’s and 60’s, I got to see old cartoons on afternoon TV. If you’re my age, you can remember some local kids’ show, with its “peanut gallery”, hosted by a local personality. I can remember, in Portland, OR, that we had two of note: one station had Addie Bobkins (Bob Adkins) and another had Paul Bunyan, Jr., his his puppet sidekick, Babe, Jr. And there were the cartoons.
The cartoons of the Classic Era reached everyone; it’s safe to say that the Bugs Bunnys, Popeyes, Donald Ducks, Droopys, etc., of that era were entertaining for the kids in the audience. But they also reached and entertained on an adult level because they had many jokes and situations that actually went over the heads of the kids. For example, one well-known Tex Avery ‘toon had “The Big Bad Wolf” going to a nightclub and ogling a cabaret dancer, Red Ridinghood.
As well, the cartoons of the 40’s joined in the promotion of patriotism in both serious and humorous ways. Disney did a serious 10-minute cartoon entitled Education for Death, showing how a German child could be raised to be a Nazi supporter. It is pure propaganda, effective and chilling.
In a lighter vein, Disney did a Donald Duck cartoon that supported the American war effort, no less propagandizing than Education for Death, but with ‘toon buffoonery. Donald has a nightmare about being a worker in “Naziland” and features a popular song by the Spike Jones Orchestra. The cartoon shares the name of the song, Der Fuehrer’s Face. Yes, the cartoon contains imagery that, today, would be considered offensive, but, well, I don’t care. Here is Der Fuehrer’s Face: