The History of Frank Tashlin and His Works in WWII

Frank Tashin is a popular American screen writer, film director and animator. He is especially famous for series of animated works devoted to the theme of World War II. Beginning from 1938 Tashin worked for the Disney’s studio, while in 1941 he got a job as a production manager at Columbia Pictures’ Screen Gems. In 1943 he started cooperationg with the Warner directors and during the war he continued working for this studio producing animated movies. “All Termite Terrace animators used clean lines; bold, solid colours; topical references; caricature; and all made full use of Carl Stalling’s remarkable Raymond Scott-based scores. Tashlin’s films were no more “feature-like” than Freleng’s or Clampett’s” (Dave, 186). The most popular among his animated moveis are the Private Shafu collection and Scrap happy Daffy cartoon. Tashin’s impact with the help of his animated cartoons on the war effort is undisputable and it can be proved on the example of his cartoons.

Scrap Happy Daffy, which was released in 1943, is one of that animated cartoons which had a great impart on the war interpretation at that time. The crazy duck represents a character who is fighting against the Nazis. This cartoon can be called a propaganda-cartoon. The first scene is the imitation of Hitler, Tojo and Mussolini’s characters who are probably singing a song about their possible victory. On the Hitler’s hat we can see swastika which resembles more a German Eagle and the whole scene makes the situation comic. World conquerors are rather miserable and stupid than powerful and clever.

The image of Hitler is present throughout the cartoon but this image is hidden. In one of the episodes we see how horse’s back transforms into Hitler head. The tune which can be identified as “Who’s A Horse’s Ass” is playing at that very time. Frank Tashin chooses an unusual but rather effective way of propaganda. He creates bright symbolic images, puts them into uncommon surrounding, adds some comic traits and presents the situation in a comic and even sarcastic way. The image of the duck who is fighting against the Nazis is very successful because, on the one hand, this is an ordinary duck, however, on the other hand, in one of the episodes this duck appears to be a superman.

Hitler starts chasing this crazy duck giving a special order to catch him. Hitler even sends a goat to follow this duck. It goes without saying that the duck is not afraid of the goat and even more he attacks this goat ”“ this is one of the funniest episodes in the cartoon. Another important theme in the cartoon is the collecting of scrap metal. There can be made a parallel between these actions and the government’s claims to minimize the usage of resources during the war. As it was mentioned above, Tashin’s cartoons may seem primitive and even silly at first but they deliver important messages to the audience and touches topics which were especially burning in the course of the war.

Tashin’s animated shots were both criticized and glorified at the same time. His cartoons on the themes of World War II can be interpreted as too rough and primitive. Nevertheless, they always have an important and meaningful message. “Regarding his sense of humour, Tashlin’s jokes tended more toward the ribald than to the “sophisticated”; there is a way in which he is more closely related to Russ Meyer than to Billy Wilder. Sexual humour can be found throughout Tashlin’s oeuvre, and he was constantly in battle with the Production Code Administration. Tashlin tapped into deeply American comic roots by filling his films with heaving bosoms, double entendres and thinly veiled commentary about sexual activities” (Sugrue, 15). These sexual scenes caused the most heated debates among critics and the audience especially in relation to the animated shots devoted to the war theme. Such scenes were considered as vulgar and absolutely inappropriate in this context (cited in Surgue).

Private Snafu presents a series of animated shorts which were created between 1943 and 1945 and were black-and-white. They are directly or indirectly devoted to the theme of World War II. They all propagate important principles for the war in a humorous and entertaining manner. The character of Snafu was proposed by Frank Capra. Private Snafu consists of 28 animated cartoons which were directed by such prominent animation directors as Frank Tashin, chuck Jones, Bob Clampett and Friz Freleng. Frank himself shot such cartoons: “The Goldbrick”, “The Home Front”, “The Chow Hound” and “Censored”. These cartoons are associated with the most successful period in the history of Warner Bros. animation ”“ the so-called “Golden Age”. Due to the animated cartoons the studio continued working during the whole war because these cartoons were considered an important industry because that time as they entertained soldiers and encouraged their spirit to participate in the war. “The Snafu films are also partly responsible for keeping the animation studios open during the war – by producing such training films, the studios were declared an essential industry” (Garcia, 34).Just after the war these cartoons were almost forgotten because they had already fulfilled their purpose during the war and lost their significance in the post-war period. From that time Private Snafu has been sold only as a bonus material to DVDs.

The Private Snafu cartoons were released for the narrow audience ”“ American soldiers who participated in the war. The target audience can explain peculiarities of these animated movies: “These films were made expressly for the armed forces and, as such, contained humour slightly more risqué than was to be found in the theatrical releases” (Bogdanovich, 93).The main theme of these cartoons is the message to the soldiers which advises what not to do during the war. The cartoons are also a bit vulgar and rough, however, they are really funny.

The Japanese and the Nazis are depicted in a very sarcastic ways and nowadays these images can be interpreted as racist, however, at that time these images were part of the war propaganda and that is why were appropriate. “The depictions of Japanese and Germans are quite racist by today’s standards, but were par for the course in wartime U.S” (Garcia, 15). The cartoons are rich in pictures with nude women in different poses, rude words and “bare-bottomed GIs”. These things are inappropriate for the modern audience but the audience at that time was soldiers and these were they on whom these cartoons were oriented.

Tashin was from the very beginning remarkable for his own unique way of creating animating movies. “Tashlin’s taste for the language of feature films was evident from the very beginning in his first stint as an animation director at Warners in 1936. Tashlin’s first Warners cartoon, Porky’s Poultry Plant (1936), contains delirious high and low angled shots (and rapid-fire editing) of a daredevil aerial dogfight with a marauding buzzard” (Ford, 79). Actively participating in the war propaganda together with the Warner studio he creates a number of animated shots devoted to this theme, among which are the Private Snafu cartoons and  Scrap Happy Daffy. The target audience for these cartoons was the soldiers who participated in World War II. These animated shots fulfilled a very important function during the war ”“ they learned soldiers to take everything with a sense of humor and not to be afraid of horrors. However, soon after the war Tashin lost his popularity and was almost forgotten. There can be different explanations to this fact.  “Partly, perhaps, the sexual humour is dated, though a recent Tashlin retrospective in Madison, Wisconsin, showed that his naughty jokes still summon belly-laughs. Largely, it’s through some quirk of time and fate that Tashin is not better-remembered; his films hold up very well, and they’ve influenced everyone from Jerry Lewis himself to Joe Dante (an admitted acolyte) to Jean-Luc Godard” (Bogdanovich, 87). Nevertheless, despite all critics and negative attitude of some people Tashin has played a great part in creating animated movies during the war. Due to united efforts of great animation directors together with Tashin film industry did not disappear at the wartime but was an essential industry.

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