World War II in Pictures: Private SNAFU in "Censored"

Tuesday, March 9, 2021

Private SNAFU in "Censored"

Loose Lips Sink Ships!

Private SNAFU in Censored worldwartwo.filminspector.com
Private SNAFU's girlfriend Sally Lou has a prominent supporting role in "Censored."
Some rules of the military are eternal. Of top priority among them is the need for proper security. Educating soldiers during World War II was a massive undertaking. There were new recruits pouring in straight off of farms and out of pool halls, many of whom had a grade school education - if that. The US Army had to find a way to reach these young, unfettered minds in a way they would keep their attention. So, mundane training films were spiced up a bit just to keep the boys from nodding off.

The US Army Signal Corps, staffed by well-known Hollywood pros who had been drafted or volunteered for service, created a lot of propaganda during World War II. Hollywood studios big and small donated their assets for wartime productions, so these efforts were of top quality using processes and actors that would have been used for typical shorts released by the studios during peacetime. Top director Frank Capra ("It's a Wonderful Life") came up with the title character of Private SNAFU, while animation legend Chuck Jones and other top animators saw to it that everything was executed properly. 
Private SNAFU in Censored worldwartwo.filminspector.com
Private SNAFU gets busy underneath his blankets... writing letters home. There were obvious double entendres going on in all of these shorts.
While many people associate animation with Disney, Warner Brothers Animation Studios led the effort in several animation areas (producer Leon Schlesinger at WB actually underbid Walt Disney, who could have used the business after several financial setbacks, by two-thirds). One of these animation projects was the "Private SNAFU" series of patriotic shorts.

SNAFU stands for "Situation Normal, All Fouled Up," a common phrase in the military where things never seemed to go according to plan (use your imagination as to what common four-letter word was usually substituted for "Fouled"). There were 26 black-and-white Private SNAFU shorts in all, produced between 1943 and 1945. The shorts were created to instruct service personnel in an entertaining fashion about security issues, proper sanitation habits, booby traps, and other military subjects. A major aim was to improve troop morale, but they also covered many other topics that could mean life or death to an unwary soldier.
Private SNAF in Censored worldwartwo.filminspector.com
Back home, Private SNAFU's girlfriend quickly gets on the phone to tell her mother about the "big surprise" of where he is being sent.
The Private SNAFU shorts were intended for a military audience (the name of the series itself indicates that), so, by definition, they were not aimed at children. Thus, many of the Private SNAFU shorts, like this one, contain numerous elements that were considered too risque for general audiences of that time. But this was okay, because everyone to whom these shorts were being shown was assumed to be at least age 18. Making the shorts a bit salacious also made them relevant to tired GIs who probably had little patience for yet another boring instructional film.
Private SNAF in Censored worldwartwo.filminspector.com
"Censored" has the usual stereotypes of the era.
As an example, "Booby Traps" was aimed squarely at making sure that soldiers understood there were hidden dangers everywhere despite their innocuous surroundings. Attractive-looking things could be deadly, and there were people out there who did not have the GI's best interests at heart. As the cartoon proceeds, Private SNAFU comes to realize too late that just because something is fun and readily available doesn't mean that he should partake of its pleasures. That includes, among other things, attractive women, musical instruments, and food and drink. Oh, and a little fellow wearing a Hitler mustache.

Private SNAF in Censored worldwartwo.filminspector.com
Private SNAFU has a nightmare about what might happen if he tells Sally Lou all of his military security and finally wakes up to the danger.
Voice legend Mel Blanc provides most of the voices in this short directed by Frank Tashlin with music by Carl Stalling, and written by Warren Foster. Does that voice sound like Tweaky from "Buck Rogers in the 25th Century"? It does to me!


Other Private SNAFU shorts:


2021

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