Thursday, April 9, 2009

Cartoon: Blitz Wolf (1942, Tex Avery)

Blitz Wolf (1942)
USA, 10 min
Directed by: Tex Avery
Written by: Rich Hogan
Starring: Pinto Colvig (voice), Frank Graham (voice), Bill Thompson (voice)

We all love to make fun of Adolf Hitler. He's the sort of political figure who's tailor-made for caricature, as Charles Chaplin discovered with The Great Dictator (1940). But it also happens that he was a monster, one whose success spawned the most devastating conflict the human race has ever known. So it's with some uncertainty that comedy and propaganda combine in Tex Avery's Blitz Wolf (1942). That same year, Jack Kinney's Der Fuehrer's Face (1942) won an Oscar for showing Donald Duck's miserable life in "Nutzi" land, where he is continually battered into submission by the machinery of fascism, but Avery's cartoon is rather more open about its hatred towards Germany's leader. An opening title mocks convention by declaring that "the wolf in this photoplay is NOT fictitious. Any similarity between this Wolf and that (*!!*!) jerk Hitler is purely intentional!" Thus, the knives are sharpened, and Adolf Hitler's animated counterpart is about to receive his due.

Blitz Wolf is styled around the tale of the Three Little Pigs (particularly the 1933 Disney Silly Symphony) – certainly the most offbeat version of the story you'll ever see – with the Big Bad Wolf having attained a characteristic moustache and a distinctive German accent. The first two pigs, having misguidedly entered into a peace treaty with the Wolf, are surprised to have their homes destroyed by his armies (this Wolf is too weak and cowardly to blow down houses himself, and instead uses mechanical beasts to do his dirty work). The third pig, his home a veritable steel fortress (a sign announcing "No dogs/Japs allowed!"), urges his brothers to help fight their collective enemy, both in combat and by purchasing war bonds. Not surprisingly, the remainder of the film consists of the Hitler-Wolf being continually shot and blasted from all angles, until he eventually wakes to find himself in the fiery dungeons of Hell. It gets a little bit repetitive, but, of course, Hitler deserves to be exploded as many times as possible.

Whereas I found Der Fuehrer's Face to be a highly rewatchable cartoon, even nearly seventy years later, Avery's take on Nazism isn't quite so fresh. There are some excellent word gags, such as a title on the Wolf's tank reading "Der Fewer (Der Better)," but there are also some self-referential signs that may elicit a disbelieving groan: "Gone with the Wind" when the first pig's house is blown away (despite the animators' acknowledgement of its corniness) and "Long darn thing, isn't it?" when we can clearly already see that the pigs' weaponry is rather lengthy. For the adults, there's also plenty of mischievous sexual innuendo at play, particularly in the comparisons made between the length of each army's cannons. One gag, with a suddenly-limp American cannon being rejuvenated by a dosage of Vitamin B1, was certainly more forward than I'm used to from 1940s children's cartoons. Overall, Blitz Wolf is not the most intelligent of animated shorts, but it's an interesting historical document, and a bit of fun, too.

1 comment:

  1. "was certainly more forward than I'm used to from 1940s children's cartoons"

    That is because this cartoon was meant for adults, not children. When he made this he wasn't thinking "will some kid understand and get this joke"...He was going off what made him, as an adult laugh.


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