The Complete Uncensored Private Snafu
Image Entertainment Catalog ID5533BKDVD
Released: April 20, 1999
Running Time: 130 minutes
Sound: Dolby Digital Mono
No region coding
There is no better explanation of the history of these cartoons than the one which appears at the beginning of this collection: "In 1942, Col. Frank Capra was put in charge of the Armed Forces Motion Picture Unit. He was told to come up with an idea for informational entertainment films to be shown to all branches of the Armed Services. Ted Geisel (Dr. Seuss), was placed in charge of the animation branch. Capra created the idea of a character called "Private Snafu" (Situation Normal All F----d Up). This was to be used as a character in his "Army-Navy Screen Magazine", a bi-weekly newsreel made just for the armed services. To have the best quality animation for these films, they took bids from the Hollywood studios. Disney had first crack at this, but Leon Schlesinger's [producer of WB's Looney Tunes & Merrie Melodies] bid came in at about a third of Disney's. Disney also wanted exclusive ownership of the character, and exclusive merchandising rights. Snafu was based on a character model sheet by Art Heineman, and developed by Mr. Chuck Jones. The cartoons were directed by the regular Warner Bros. staff of Chuck Jones, Friz Freleng, Frank Tashlin, and Bob Clampett. MGM got into the act by occasionally using Snafu in a series called "A Few Quick Facts". When problems arose with Schlesinger over his padded bills, Hugh Harman Productions was enlisted to make a Snafu cartoon. Hanna-Barbera was also making one with Tex Avery's unit at MG<. The war ended just as the animation was completed. All projects were immediately canceled, and this one was never filmed."
The Snafu cartoons are B&W and average about 5 minutes each. Since they were made for an audience of servicemen, there is much more sex and foul language than in a regular cartoon of this time (though nothing worse than "hell" or "damn" is spoken). These cartoons are not only interesting historically, but they're also very funny. Each WB director was in top-form when they worked on this series. There is no shortage of Japanese and German stereotypes, since making fun of our enemies is an American tradition to this day (i.e. Saddam Hussein in the "South Park" Movie). People who are sensitive to such stereotypes had best not watch. Though this collection is called "complete", there is one WB Snafu cartoon -- "Secrets of the Caribbean" -- which was completed but never released and is not included on this disc.
Since this is a collection of public domain prints and prints from collectors, the video and audio quality of these cartoons vary. None are so bad that they're unwatchable, but don't expect a great picture from films that nobody ever bothered to preserve. Each cartoon is window-boxed (a black border surrounds the picture to allow you to see more of the edges), but it's benefits are greatly reduced because of bad framing in the film-to-video process. Curiously, the window-box border for the first half of the disc is gray, while the border for the second half is black. Also, the video master used for this DVD is not completely pristine; an occasional video dropout or ripple can be found if you look very closely. None of these problems really adversely effect the enjoyment of these cartoons, but there are two that do: First is that the director's name is super-imposed at the beginning of each cartoon, and second is that the Bosko Video logo appears in the corner at some point during each cartoon for a few seconds. I despise any types of logos or other things which cover up even the smallest part of the original picture, and because of this I cannot give this DVD a 5-star rating.
This DVD is actually made up of two collections that were available on VHS: The Complete Uncensored Private Snafu Vols. 1 & 2. I bought those tapes years ago for a total of $60. This DVD cost me less than $20. For value, historical importance, and just plain laughs, I think that this DVD should definitely be part of any serious WB fan's collection.