Monday, March 8, 2021

Private SNAFU: Booby Traps

Situation Normal, All Fouled Up

Private SNAFU Booby Traps
Drug use was an issue during World War II just as it is today.
Educating soldiers during World War II was a massive undertaking. There were literally millions of new recruits straight off of farms and out of pool halls, many of whom didn't even have a high school education. The US Army had to find a way to reach them in a way they could easily understand.

The US Army Signal Corps, largely staffed by Hollywood pros who had been drafted or volunteered for service, created a lot of propaganda during World War II. The big Hollywood studios 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.
Private SNAFU Booby Traps
Nobody ever accused the US Army of being subtle!
While many people associate animation with Disney, Warner Brothers Animation Studios led the effort in several animation areas. One of these was the "Private SNAFU" series of patriotic shorts. SNAFU stands for "Situation Normal, All Fouled Up," a common phrase in the military where things always didn't seem 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 SNAFU Booby Traps
Private SNAFU finds out that not following the Army's instructions can lead to dire consequences.
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 SNAFU Booby Traps
As usual, Private SNAFU gets distracted by non-military attractions, something the Army definitely frowned upon.
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 SNAFU Booby Traps
An unexpected but oddly familiar visitor rings a bell to get Private SNAFU's attention in "Booby Traps."
Voice legend Mel Blanc provides most of the voices in this short directed by Bob Clampett, with music by Carl Stalling, and written by Warren Foster. Does that voice sound like Bug Bunny? It does to me! Mel Blanc voiced them both, beginning with "A Wild Hare" in 1940.

Other Private SNAFU shorts:


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