Friday, January 16, 2009

Cartoon a Day: Japoteurs

Directed by Seymour Kneitel
Available on: The Complete Superman Cartoons

Today's wartime cartoon is a Fleischer Superman film, "Japoteurs." Now the title alone is enough to make you cringe, but really there isn't much in the way of offensive content here. Lois Lane does use the term "Japs" at one point and Superman refers to the chief Japanese bad guy as "little man," but that's about it. This is much like any of the other Superman shorts, only the bad guys are a team of Japanese agents trying to sabotage a giant new American plane.

Like many of the Superman shorts, "Japoteurs" is visually stunning. The scene of the giant plane, a sort of aircraft carrier for the sky, being rolled out of the hanger has a big 'Wow' effect. Though fictional, it's an impressive display of American military might. I'm sure it boosted morale for audiences to some degree.

The ending of the short is also very creatively animated and is classic Superman. The plane is crashing down toward the city so Superman catches it and lays it neatly down in the city street. Not all that different than a scene from the recent "Superman Returns," in which the boy in blue sets down a plane in the middle of a baseball field.

It's surprising that there weren't more Superman shorts that dealt directly with the war. What better way to boost spirits than with one who fights for "truth, justice, and the American way."

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