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Editor's Notebook

Editor's Notebook October 1996: Politics & Propaganda

Harvey Deneroff

Politics & Propaganda

The issue of politics and propaganda is for many people a peripheral issue at best when it comes to animation. Yes, politicians and educators may complain about the violence of many cartoons, but real hard core politics and propaganda is something best left to the denizens of live-action filmmaking. Yet, there has been a long, if not necessarily prolific history of animation filmmakers using the medium for political purposes of one kind or another.

One only has to recall such classics as Winsor McCay's anti-German documentary, Sinking of the Lusitania (1918) and Hugh Harman's anti-war cartoon, Peace on Earth (1939), which earned him a Nobel Peace Prize nomination, as well as the feature films of Quirino Cristiani profiled by Giannalberto Bendazzi in the July issue. But one of the least heralded uses of animation for political purposes was by the Axis powers during World War II. It is an oversight that we hope to partially remedy by a trio of articles exploring what was going on in Germany, Holland and Japan.

William Moritz's "The Case of Hans Fischerkoesen" provides a profile of one of Germany's finest animation filmmakers of the prewar period, who was conscripted into making theatrical cartoons. In so doing, Fischerkoesen avoided the blatant propaganda efforts of some of his contemporaries and opted for a series of subversive masterpieces: Weather-beaten Melody, The Snowman, 1943 The Silly Goose.

On the other hand, in Holland, the local Nazi Party backed a big budget sequel to the popular tale of Reynard the Fox with rather obvious anti-Semitic purposes. The film, About Reynard the Fox, was never released and was long thought lost until a fragment surfaced a few years ago. Egbert Barten and Gerard Groeneveld, in "Reynard the Fox and the Jew Animal," examine the story behind the film's creation and speculate on its ultimate fate.

Our rundown of Axis films concludes with Fred Patten's "Momotaro's Gods-Blessed Sea Warriors: Japan's Unknown Wartime Feature," takes a look at a film released in the waning days of World War II in an attempt to rally the home front.

On a more contemporary note, Tom Sito, in his rather irreverent "Fight To The Death, But Don't Hurt Anybody! Memories of Political Correctness," recalls his experiences in dealing with network standards and practices departments, studio psychologists and public pressure to be politically correct.

Meanwhile, Jill McGreal's "The Politics of Protectionism: The Cartoon Forum" examines the reality of the efforts to create a European industrial bases for animation via grants and other soft moneys, and whether this is the right way to challenge the hegemonies of the United States and Japan.

On a more personal level, Linda Simensky's "Leaving Home" deals with the everyday problems of changing jobs in animation, an industry whose explosive growth has seen both artists and executive increasingly playing musical chairs.

Germany's Raimund Krumme, the award-winning independent animator, known for such films as Ropedancers and Crossroads, was recently hired to handle the animation on a live-action/animated feature version of Harold and the Purple Crayon. In "The View From Hollywood," Raimund takes a look at his new assignment and the nature of animation itself.

In our final feature article, Giannalberto Bendazzi takes a detailed look at "Icelandic Animation," past and present, profiling the three major filmmakers involved in producing animation in the sparsely populated Atlantic island nation.

In this month's "Desert Island" report, Frankie Kowalski asked a trio of animation types who have been politically involved inside and/or outside the animation industry. And finally, last but not least, is the latest installment of John R. Dilworth's epic adventures of "The Dirdy Birdy."

Harvey Editor-In-ChiefAnimation World Magazine