Director: Tex Avery
Story: Rich Hogan
Music: Scott Bradley
Cast: The Three Little Pig and Adolph Wolf
Date of release: August 22, 1942
This Academy Award nominated animation was Tex Avery‘s first cartoon for MGM after his split from Warner Bros. Blitz Wolf is considered to be on of the earliest World War II propaganda cartoons. The cartton is essentially a re-telling of the Three Little Pigs story, in which the pigs are cast as soldiers fighting the invading Adolph Wolf (apparently featuring the uncredited vocal talents of Droopy himself Bill Thompson).
It could be argued that the pigs actually represent the attitudes of the American public before Japan bombed Pearl Harbour in 1941. The ‘Practical Pig’ (voiced by Goofy himself Pinto Colvig) is ridiculed by his lack-a-daisical brothers for over-zealous preparations for the coming conflict, which they believe will never arrive.
The ‘Practical Pig’ is laughed at and a peace treaty is waved in front of his face.
“Why this isn’t worth the paper it’s written on…”
These days this cartoon, is rarely broadcast; certainly not in its original form. Many of the jokes are too strong for modern audiences, especially the cartoon’s many racial slurs against Germans and the Japanese.
The cartoon itself is stuffed full of typical Tex Avery gags. Virtually everything in the short is anthropomorphic: bombs, tanks, bullets, war machines and even the central cast. There are also a lot of signposts. It seems as if typographic conventions used in traditional newspaper cartoons are very much alive in this new medium.
Writers during this period would think nothing of having a character produce a sign from behind their back or from their inside breast pocket to impart some witty remark using plain old fashioned type. When the invading Wolf blows down the house of straw with the magnificent “Der Mechanized Huffer und Puffer” a signpost is revealed that reads “Gone With The Wind” quickly followed by another pointing out “Corny gag isn’t it?” Personally I find these textual jokes quite charming, but I wonder how often we see text used in this way in animations today?
One of the censored scenes is the payoff of delicious gag which follows the Three Little Pigs standing on each others shoulders in order to aim and fire an enormous cannon. The camera pans up the length of the barrel for a whopping thirty seconds; through clouds and past the ubiquitous signpost reading “Darn long thing – Isn’t it?” before firing its shell at the Pagoda strewn, Red-sun-bathed, Japan.
When broadcast on Cartoon Network recently this scene was re-edited so that the target was replaced by the Wolf. I roll my eyes with despair. The Second World War happened! Although I have heard that producer Fred Quimby cautioned Tex Avery to be careful during production, “After all, we don’t know who’s going to win the war.”
Following the detonation of the Pigs’ secret weapon “Defence Bonds” we follow the vanquished Adolph Wolf down an impossibly deep crater to hell. “Where am I? Have I been blown to…” he asks, whereupon he is interrupted by a troop of trident-wielding demons who reply “Errr, it’s a possibility!” The catchphrase of a popular comedian on the day, Jerry Colonna.
A great example of Tex Avery at work. The lush (oddly World War I) backgrounds are wonderful, the ‘karkee’ colour grading gives the cartoon a fittingly unhealthy hue and the inventive animation mark it as a classic, albeit a controversial one.