Technical Fairy, First Class, transforms Private Snafu into Snafuperman
|Directed by||Friz Freleng|
|Produced by||Leon Schlesinger|
|Music by||Carl Stalling|
|Animation by||Ken Champin|
|Color process||Black & white|
|Distributed by||Warner Bros.|
Snafuperman is a 1944 animated short comedy produced by Warner Bros. and directed by Friz Freleng. It is one of a series of black and white "Private Snafu" cartoons created for the Army-Navy Screen Magazine and shown only to American soldiers. The "Private Snafu" cartoons were not released commercially, until December 2010. The cartoon's title is a play on "Superman" and parodies the popular Superman cartoons of the 1940s.
Snafu annoys his fellow soldiers by listening to loud swing music and banging pots and pans in rhythm. The other soldiers at the barracks are busy studying maps, field manuals, and air recognition charts. Snafu dismisses their interest in studying, and claims he is not going to clunk the enemy over the head with books. In response, Technical Fairy, First Class—a miniature, shirtless, gravel-voiced G.I. with wings, who appears in nine of the shorts—grants Private Snafu the powers of Superman in order to fight the Nazis. But Snafu is still Snafu.
His first task is to transport a bomb to Berlin and bomb it. He refuses to read a map and ends up in Washington, D.C.. He drops the bomb over the United States Capitol. The Fairy stops the bomb and informs Snafu that the Americans are on their side, and Snafu melts into a puddle in the air in embarrassment over his almost blunder. His next task involves stopping a "lumbering Japanese tank". He has actually misidentified an American tank and angers its commander, an American general. He nervously salutes the officer.
He next spots "a mess of Messerschmitts" about to bomb an American port. He successfully intercepts their aerial bombs and piles them up on a pier. As he proudly sits upon the pile, while claiming that their harmless as a burned out match, he fails to recognize the delay-action bombs among them. They explode beneath him. As a result of his own ignorance, Snafu ends up hospitalized. The Fairy visits him, asking if there is anything he could do. Snafu angrily demands a field manual. The film ends.
The short is one of several satirical takes on Superman produced during World War II. The purpose of the short was to entertain and educate low-literacy enlisted men. Snafu ends up doing the wrong thing because of his refusal to read his field manual.
The short uses a segment of the Sammy Timberg's Superman theme song, which was previously heard in the Superman shorts by Fleischer Studios and Famous Studios. A possible reason is that since it was a private short for the U.S. army at the time, the short didn’t had a copyright. So Stalling can use the song without any legal issues.
The "Private Snafu" cartoons have fallen into the public domain and are widely available in free downloads and on unofficial VHS and DVD releases. Many have also been released officially. Snafuperman is a bonus feature on Warner Home Video's Looney Tunes Golden Collection: Volume 3 and Superman Ultimate Collector's Edition. (Coincidentally, Warner Bros. and Superman's publishers, DC Comics, merged in 1969, which made the cartoon's inclusion in the latter set possible.)
- Shull, Michael S.; Wilt, David E. (2004), "Private Snafu Cartoons", Doing Their Bit: Wartime American Animated Short Films, 1939-1945, McFarland & Company, ISBN 978-0786481699
- Weldon, Glen (2013), "...and the American way (1942-1945)", Superman: The Unauthorized Biography, John Wiley & Sons, ISBN 978-1118483787
- Shull, Wilt (2004), p. 192
- Weldon (2013), p. 68-69
Leonard Maltin, Of Mice and Magic: A History of American Animated Cartoons, NY, 1987, p. 254