|From the Warner Bros. Cartoon Companion
(c) 1997, 1998 Eric O. Costello.
Character created by the WB studio for "The Army-Navy Screen Magazine", which was produced by Frank Capra during World War II. Snafu (which was a play on the soldiers acronym for Situation Normal All Fouled/F***ed Up) was a soldier who rarely, if ever, did anything right, and his mistakes were used to get across serious points in a humorous way. Some of the Snafu shorts had scripts written by Ted Geisel (a/k/a Dr. Seuss), and W. Munro Leaf, who was in the Army at that time, is known to have collaborated on at least one Snafu short with Geisel. Standards were a little looser for the Snafu shorts; given their target audience, more cheesecake shots (the pinup used to hatch pigeon eggs in Three Brothers or the sexy Nazi spy in Spies) and more risque humor and dialogue, including a few four letter words like damn and hell were used. Other than that, the cartoons had some similarities with WB shorts, to the extent of using the same artists, Carl Stalling's scores, and Mel Blanc (with Robert Bruce, as usual, doing the narration and a few of the voices, especially for Outpost and The Chow Hound ).
Not all of the Snafu shorts were made at WB, though most of them were. The forerunner of UPA produced a few shorts utilizing Snafu, and toward the end of the war, the Tex Avery unit at MGM was working on one short, “Mop Up” (a/k/a “How to Get a Fat Jap out of a Cave”), which was terminated by the end of hostilities.
Animation from one Snafu short, Target: Snafu was reused in a later Freleng short, Of Thee I Sting (1946). The gag using the misplaying of Those Endearing Young Charms, followed by the correct playing with disastrous consequences, was first used in Booby Traps (Clampett, 1944), years before Freleng would use it to great effect in Ballot Box Bunny and Show Biz Bugs (1951 and 1957, respectively).
Snafu had a naval counterpart, Hook, a few of whose films have recently been discovered. He made one appearance in a theatrical WB cartoon, as the soldier giving the horse a rubdown in The Draft Horse (Jones, 1942).
These cartoons were never really released for public consumption. They were intended solely for the military, and many of them would be considered very offensive by today's standards (along the lines of the legendary six Bugs Bunny shorts Cartoon Network won't run), featuring charicatures of the Japanese, Germans and Italians.
Ordinarily I'd write up the capsule myself, but I find myself hard pressed to do better than Mr. Costello.
During World War II, our boys overseas needed important safety lessons regarding the tools of their trade. They also needed healthy doses of entertainment. There wasn't always a Bob Hope tour around when you needed one. The call was answered by the Warner Bros. Cartoon Studio in the form of Private SNAFU.
If you manage to get your hands on these, watch 'em. If you've ever seen a cartoon in documentary footage of a US Army soldier who sort of resembles an early Elmer Fudd, that would be these. They are just as entertaining as the rest of the Looney Tunes family, and are an important part of history.
These cartoons were all made in the heyday of Warner's animation dept. They were black and white so they could be produced cheaper and quicker than the regular shorts. If you've ever noticed a number of jokes in Warner cartoons you didn't get, they'll be in these, too. Don't let that stop you. In fact, you should stop at Mr. Costello's website, as it explains many of the jokes that the younger set simply won't get (such as references to the Nash Motor Company).