Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Animator - #80. Mickey Mouse in Ethiopia

May 26, 1944 Newsletter offers a "State of the Union" Executive Board report.

It begins:

Our last three issues were devoted exclusively to the reprinting of the documents which define or government and the American Way. It is hoped that the members will keep them accessible for reference. For the current political scene leaves little doubt that they will be in constant misuse by the opponents of labor.

Page one contains some statistics:

current membership: 895
members in the armed forces: 243
members in allied war industries: 100

Employment of returning veteran members is marked as the priority for the guild.

It goes on to ask a series of questions.

Where is the animation industry going in the future?
What are its possibilities (educational, advertising, amusement)?
Is it being used to the best advantage (by the producer, by the Union members, by the purchaser)?
Is the medium and its possible uses known?
Is the medium and its possible uses being publicized?
Will new advances in procedure affect it? (color/black and white? New cameras? Television?)

It suggests the union members ask these questions of themselves:

What is our importance to the Industry?
What are our qualifications?
What will be required of us?
What is our backgroud? (experience in years/experience in jobs/education/special training/previous experience)

What of our future?

Midway through page two, the editors launch a defense of the Union's political activity.

Here they differentiate between politics and law. No interest in politics, they claim, only interested in the law and it's administration.

There may be a page missing here. It picks up mid-sentence and I haven't found the connection (proof: always number your pages! Shouldn't animators know this?)

This next page is a Declaration of Principles, mostly on the "treatment of minorites".

Interesting that cartoonists are being asked to amongst other things "Never characterize a member of any race according to the myth that the race as a whole is inherently shiftless, happy, miserly, superstitious, inscrutable, subservient, anti-democratic, etc. The use of racial cliches and caricatures for comedy purposes is a particularly vicious form of this distortion.

And more. Very interesting page (click to read the whole thing)

This page includes a letter from the front:

While in Italian Eritrea [Ethiopia], five officers and myself were driving quite a good distance from camp looking for a good meal without the taint of tin. Descending a mountainous bumpy road we spied a low rambling building with a huge Mickey Mouse painted on a sign board, eating spaghetti. The Mickey looked as though laboriously painted by some demented Ethiopian witch doctor, but we recognized it by the ears.

We stopped out of curiosity to see what the interior of this "African Roadhouse" would be like. There was a long wooden bar, fortunately stacked with a good selection of Italian wines and little tables with brightly colored table cloths. On the doors and mirrors, in fact almost everyplace but the walls, were drawn characters of the cartoon industry.

The proprietor, a rolly polly Italian, was bowing and making explosive Italian sounds, indicating his wine stock with may Shakespearean flourishes. We obliged.

I draw a Mickey and a Duck for him on some scrap paper which immediately started an Italian uproar. From his gesticulations and rather hair pulling pleadings I gathered he wanted a Mickey drawn on the choice spot of the wall. While the rest of the gluttonous officers were attacking antipasto, spaghetti, raviola and some real honest to God charcoal broiled steaks, I was sketching Mickey on the wall. After having our fill of food, sparkling burgundy and various other wines, we asked for the bill which was violently refused. Here was this little fat Italian leaning against the wall with his hands clasped, practically purring, his eyes on the sketch and refusing to let us pay a cent....

Capt. Robert G. Leffingwell

These pages may be out of sequence, but that story is timeless.

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