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‘Russian Rhapsody’: Gremlins from the Kremlin battle Hitler in this insane 1944 cartoon
05.30.2014
08:38 am

Topics:
Animation
History

Tags:
Hitler
Stalin
Merrie Melodies


 
Depictions of Russia in American propaganda had some wild vacillation before the Cold War. The first Red Scare followed the Russian Revolution, and anti-communist sentiment really found purchase around 1919. Leftists in the US (many of them immigrants) became a force to be reckoned with, and bitter labor conflicts (plus some radical terrorism) seemed to suggest a Bolshevik revolution was imminent in the Americas. There’s the period however, during World War II, before Truman decided to wave his nuclear dick at Stalin, when Russians were still our Nazi-fighting Allies, and 1944’s Merrie Melodies production “Russian Rhapsody” is a fascinating artifact of that ambivalence America had towards the Soviets.


 
Of course, the cartoon doesn’t quite portray Russians as “dignified.” Rather than some cartoon-friendly version of Red Army soldiers fighting Nazis in the snow, they’re literal “gremlins”—tiny things that are only really capable of sabotaging a plane. (The title was originally “Gremlins from the Kremlin,” but Disney was developing an animated version of Roald Dahl’s The Gremlins at the time and Roy Disney pressured Warner Brothers to change the name.) Regardless, the gremlins are clearly the good guys, whipping out a mask of Stalin to frighten Der Führer.


 
In addition to being a really beautiful (and profoundly weird) piece of animation, “Russian Rhapsody” has some great dog whistles. The cartoon starts out with Hitler delivering a speech that’s a direct reference to a scene from Leni Riefenstahl’s Triumph of the Will. As an inside joke, some of the gibberish German Hitler spouts is actually the names of animators and studio staff. The gremlin faces are actually based on caricatures of Warner Brothers legends like Chuck Jones, Robert Clampett, Friz Freleng, and Leon Schlesinger. The berserk musical score was provided by the great cartoon composer Carl Stalling.
 

Posted by Amber Frost | Leave a comment
Brilliantly animated Soviet history from a workers perspective—to the tune of Tetris

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Really creative stuff here. UK designer and video artist Chris Lince has put together a fantastic video for his fellow Brits in the group Pig With the Face of a Boy, which describes itself as “the world’s best neo-post-post music hall anti-folk band.”

The song, “A Complete History Of The Soviet Union Through The Eyes Of A Humble Worker, Arranged To The Melody Of Tetris” (that melody is actually the 19th-century Russian folk song “Korbeiniki”) is clever enough, packing a 70-year history into seven minutes. But the metaphor of the famously addictive video game truly comes alive in Lince’s atmospheric vid. He captures the grime, the grit, and the blocks beautifully. I’m not a gigantic fan of satirical musical comedy, but I think this is executed really well.
 

Posted by Ron Nachmann | Leave a comment