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Thursday, November 10, 2016

WALT DISNEY: ON THE FRONT LINES (1941-45)

Fascinating & unique, this 2-disc set of WWII Disney animated shorts, plus the feature film VICTORY THROUGH AIR POWER/’43, entertains and grabs you by the era. The shorts come divided into war-themed theatrical releases with popular Disney characters (Donald Duck, Pluto, Goofy, Chip & Dale), along with more straightforward instructional fare, some aimed North to Canada, others looking to the Southern Americas. The remastering is exceptional, everything pops off the screen, with seemingly bland topics (hygiene, food, taxes) given spoonfuls of sugar to make them didactic fun. A final section has some truly remarkable shorts including EDUCATION FOR DEATH (about Nazi-indoctrinated schoolkids) and REASON AND EMOTION, a near test run for the recent INSIDE OUT/’15. The feature film (VICTORY) is more artifact of its day, but hardly without historical & graphic interest. An imaginatively rendered lecture/proposal from author Alexander P. De Seversky (with boldly stylized animated examples to make the argument), fronted by a more cartoony prologue (History of Aviation). His theory?; switch the war from a ground to a passing game (a football analogy the artists surprisingly don’t pick up on); and a plea to unify Army & Navy Air Forces into their own separate unit. Like everything in here, it’s both entertaining & informative. And those animated shorts seem less directly aimed at kids then would soon become Disney norm as the cultural Zeitgeist began shifting from Disney’s pioneering art to the antiauthoritarian cast of characters led by Bugs Bunny @ Warners.

DOUBLE-BILL: With AIR POWER dedicated to military aviation pioneer Billy Mitchell, try Gary Cooper in Otto Preminger’s reasonably effective THE COURT-MARSHALL OF BILLY MITCHELL/’55.

SCREWY THOUGHT OF THE DAY: Note the short shrift given to Charles Lindbergh (newly controversial/unpopular as a war-time isolationist) in the animated history of aviation segment.

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