Monday, 25 April 2011

Blitz Wolf

Three little pigs, a big bad wolf, and a non-aggression pact, in Tex Avery‘s 1942 cartoon, Blitz Wolf, his first release for MGM after several years at Warner Brothers.

Blitz Wolf was nominated for an Academy Award, but lost to Disney’s Der Fuehrer’s Face, below. Both cartoons apply established style and content to the task, the Donald Duck short obviously drawing on Chaplin’s Modern Times as well as Disney’s own Dumbo, but I think Avery’s well practiced irreverence comes out best here.

In Blitz Wolf, the censored word in the background painting at 4:10 is “Japs”, visible in some lower quality YouTube uploads. There is of course no shortage of racist material in other cartoons of the period, from  Tex Avery, from other directors, from other studios, in war cartoons and other cartoons.

The Disney cartoon too is unworried by the device of colouring its caricature of Hirohito bright yellow, (or is it meant to be Prime Minister Tojo?) and you can find examples of dumb racist caricature in Disney animation as late as The Aristocats.

It’s interesting to compare the Disney caricature of Axis leaders with one by Arthur Szyk. The 1943 Szyk image, a cover painting for Collier’s is if anything more brutal, but without resorting to crude skin colour cliché. More on Szyk and the Emperor of Japan.

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