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Dr. Seuss As You've Never Seen Him

By Steven Pate in Arts & Entertainment on Aug 13, 2010 5:20PM

2010_08_seuss.jpg Have you ever seen the Dr. Seuss cartoons featuring Snafu? Maybe the one where he fights off a swarm of mosquitos? Or how about the one where he is seduced by a sexy foreign spy and spills the beans about troop movement? Wait ... what?

Before The Cat in the Hat, Green Eggs and Ham, How the Grinch Stole Christmas! and dozens of his other beloved children's books sold hundreds of millions of copies around the world, the whimsical imagination of Theodor Seuss Geisel (Dr. Suess) was trained on more adult matters: making WWII propaganda films for the Air Force.

The aforementioned Snafu is a "hapless, clumsy and easily misled recruit" who was featured in a series of training films for young servicemen, usually directed by the best Warner Bros. animation directors of the day (Chuck Junes, Friz Frelong, Frank Tashlin) or even bigger guns like Frank Capra.

Film archivist Dennis Nyback has compiled a program of these shorts, and brings them to The Nightengale's Cinema Borealis this weekend. These shorts were racy for their day, and like most propaganda, have not aged in a flattering way. Here's Nyback's description of Your Job in Germany: "The greatest and most horrific propaganda film ever made in the land of the free. Your Job In Germany was shown to the soldiers who would occupy Germany after the war, It strove to impress upon them that the German people were inherently evil and could not be trusted. Especially not the children! Horrifying film footage was used: mass hangings in Russia, emaciated survivors of concentration camps, mass graves, towns reduced to rubble, American soldiers being put into body bags. It is twenty minutes of viciousness hidden under the cloak of education."

Yikes! And we thought there was nothing more disturbing than Mike Meyers' Cat in the Hat portrayal. Catch the full program this weekend, when Nyback will be in attendance. Check out a sample of one of the Snafu films after the jump.

Saturday, August 14 at Cinema Borealis, 1550 N. Milwaukee, 8:30 pm, $10