Andrea/Duck Dodgers here. I friendly welcome every fan of animation at my blog. The goal is to support the love and rediscovery of Classic Theatrical Cartoons from the Golden Age of Animation, keeping meanwhile an eye on Golden Age "Funny Animals" Comics as well as on modern animated productions! Every SUPPRESSED ethnic caricature to be sometimes presented here is just for HISTORICAL and EDUCATIONAL purpose and NOT to offend anyone. Stay Tooned and Enjoy the place !

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Russian Rhapsody

Bob Clampett directed an astonishing group of cartoons at WB, during the short period between 1942 and 1946. Many of them rank among the greatest and most unique cartoons ever made, and this one called "Russian Rhapsody" (release date: 05/20/1944) is no exception. Sadly, it remains relatively unknown, and has the unfortunate status of "banned" cartoon, despite not being the part of the infamous Censored 11. With few rare exceptions, it's almost never shown on TV, and the only two official releases on home video formats are currently out of print.

This is one of the best WWII propaganda cartoons, and perhaps the only one that features Adolf Hitler as the main character. Of course, he had some extraordinary appearances in other WB cartoons of that era ("Daffy the Commando", "Herr Meets Hare", "Scrap Happy Daffy", etc.) and he was represented in the animal form in cartoons like "The Blitz Wolf" and "The Ducktators". As expected, the portrayal of Hitler in "Russian Rhapsody" is extremely unsympathetic one, and his caricature is at the same time hilarious and creepy. There's a certain disturbing quality about this cartoon that's hard to describe, and makes it quite unique and fascinating to watch.

This and many other WWII propaganda cartoons were made before the discovery of concentration camps and the full awareness of atrocities commited by Nazi regime. Very soon after the end of WWII, Hitler became the exceedingly grim subject for a comedy, and that's the reason why some people even today consider this and many other WWII cartoons as inappropriate to show in public. However, these cartoons absolutely deserve to be seen and appreciated, especially if presented with the correct historical perspective.

I will write more about this cartoon tomorrow. For now, here are few related links:

Almost all of the gremlins in "Russian Rhapsody" are caricatures of the Termite Terrace staff. Many of them have been identified, and you can find the list at Looney Tunes Hidden Gags web page

More screenshots from this cartoon at Brian Romero's blog

Also, you can watch the whole cartoon on YouTube

If you want to have a copy of "Russian Rhapsody", your best chance is to find the VHS tape "Bugs and Daffy, The Wartime Cartoons" or "The Golden Age of Looney Tunes vol.3" laserdisc box set.



































































15 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I saw it on Cartoon Network's Bob Clampett show a a few years ago. It's a great cartoon, but it is a little uncomfortable to watch. It kind of suck people don't take animaiton seriously enough that this kind of work doesn't get protected and preserved as a work of art.

6:12 am

 
Anonymous Nate Birch said...

Best cartoon version of Hitler ever! And suprisingly that covers a lot of ground.

6:59 am

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

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10:53 am

 
Anonymous Christopher said...

Yeah, that cartoon was kind of creepy and more "looney" than I thought. Then again, it was daring of them back then to have made something like this, before "Politic Correctness" came and spoilt everything for classic cartoons.

And I'll tell you what else; I bet this is one of these cartoons that inspired John. K for his own wacky style. Just look at the extreme close up and detail on Hitler's face!

11:07 am

 
Anonymous J Lee said...

Clampett's take-no-prisoners style in 1944, that had his various cartoon antagoists showing no sympathy whatsoever for their victims, works best here, as long as the audience has a sense of history and realizes what kind of monster Hitler was -- if not, you could actually feel sorry for the 'Dolpher here, due to the pounding, zapping, crushing, etc. he takes in the final 2 1/2 minutes. (In contrast, Bugs showing similar contempt for his 1944 adversaries in Clampett's cartoons comes across as wrong for the character, since he dishes out more than they deserve. Hitler doesn't earn that same kind of free pass).

10:19 pm

 
Blogger Hammerson said...

Does anybody know who animated Hitler's speech at the beginning of this cartoon? Rod Scribner is often mentioned as an animator for this scene, but to me it looks somehow different from Scribner's usual style. Maybe it was done by Robert McKimson or even Manny Gould (some details remind me of him in particular). Any idea?

3:32 pm

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I just recieved a dvd from deepdiscountdvd called cartoons for victory,(I think thats what it's called), I am at school right now and I don't have it with me, but, anyway, there is a very interesting cartoon that was made in England called "Bury the Axis" made with claymation and puppets. Very Very Very Coool. Run it on your blog if you can find it.

12:32 am

 
Blogger Jorge Garrido said...

hammerson, I think it is Manny Gould. Look at the way he wildly waves his arms at the camera. It's also less mushy than Scribner's animation which tends to fly all over the place (in a godo way, of course).

This is probably the best of the WW11 era anti-Nazi cartoons and should be available on DVD for all to see. Clampett was king. What, we're not allowed to mkae fun of HITLER now, but we're allowed to make fun of the disabled and the poor on Drawn Together? What the hell?

2:32 pm

 
Blogger Kent B said...

I agree this is one of Clampett's best. I wonder if the "censorship" has more to do with Stalin, who was an ally when the cartoon was made, but was the a "villain" during the Cold War? I think I heard somewhere that McKimson animated the Hitler speech - it certainly has the solid drawing McKimson was known for - and all in a trick-to-draw "upshot" perspective.

Thanks for stopping by my blog - I just put some early Milton Stein stuff up there. I've seen the Stein stuff at Cartoon Retro - so I made sure not to duplicate what Shane has up there.

4:03 am

 
Anonymous Russell H said...

I've always enjoyed this cartoon, but I think one reason why it causes some uneasiness today is its depiction of Hitler as a "comical" villain, especially the Lew Lehr-impersonation ending. At the time this cartoon came out, the full scope of Nazi genocide was not well-known, so it was still possible to think of (and depict) Hitler as a "loony" character, a rug-chewing histrionic buffoon, based on images from newsreel footage of his speeches and rallies.

Post-1945, with near-universal knowledge of the millions dead because of Hitler's policies , it can be jarring to look at Hitler being treated as a figure of fun.

3:09 pm

 
Anonymous J. Bennie said...

I don't think the cartoons treats him as "a figure of fun." It ridicules him - just what the audience of the day wanted (other than to see him meet a painful end).

They didn't need to know "the full scope" of anything. They knew he was responsible for the air attacks on Britain which left innocent civilians dead, and all kinds of unsavoury things the previous 11 years. If one wasn't alive then, all they have to do is read contemporary newspapers, even prior to World War Two. Opinions about him haven't changed since then. The cartoon's no less suitable now than it was in 1944.

12:14 pm

 
Blogger Jorge Garrido said...

> I think I heard somewhere that McKimson animated the Hitler speech - it certainly has the solid drawing McKimson was known for - and all in a trick-to-draw "upshot" perspective.

Actually, I think you're right, Kent. He's doing the McKimson symmetrical arm wave.

>Post-1945, with near-universal knowledge of the millions dead because of Hitler's policies , it can be jarring to look at Hitler being treated as a figure of fun.

I disagree. Osama Bin Laden killed thousands of innocent people, everyone knew it, and South Park did the SAME thing to him, with the Lew Lehr impersonation in their tribtue to post-9/11 tribute to Looney Tunes. No controversy there.

Terrorist is the craaaaaaaziest peoples! *teeth fall out to the tune of America The Beautiful*

11:19 pm

 
Blogger Hammerson said...

>> He's doing the McKimson symmetrical arm wave. <<

I thought that symmetrical arm waving is the trademark of Manny Gould, not McKimson. However, the figure has solidity and good construction so it might have been really McKimson's work.

>> I just recieved a dvd from deepdiscountdvd called cartoons for victory <<

That's an excellent collection. I haven't got it yet, but I plan to buy it soon.

>> I wonder if the "censorship" has more to do with Stalin, <<

That's a very interesting theory. In fact, if this cartoon was already banned on TV during the 50s and 60s, that could have been the main reason.
And Kent, thanks for posting those old Milt Stein's comics. I recommend everybody to visit your blog.

Thanks to all for the interesting comments and discussion. I wonder, has anybody ever seen a print of "Russian Rhapsody" that's more complete than one currently available? There's an abrupt cut after the scene where the Gremlins hit Adolf in the head with the mallet. It is obvious that some footage is missing, and I don't know whether it was removed before cartoon's premiere, or later.

2:23 pm

 
Blogger David Germain said...

Post-1945, with near-universal knowledge of the millions dead because of Hitler's policies , it can be jarring to look at Hitler being treated as a figure of fun.

Flash forward to 1965. An actor named Robert Clary has been chosen to portray Corporal Le Beau on Hogan's Heroes inwhich his character is being held prisoner by Nazis. In real life, he had been a Jew sent to a concentration camp. His entirely family had been killed except for him. You can bet HE enjoyed making Nazis an "object of fun".

1:07 pm

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

i think this cartoon is a excellent though odd and creepy portrayal of hitler and should not be banned

3:14 pm

 

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