Tuesday, 3 July 2012

Nancy the American Patriot

Nothing swells one’s breast with nationalistic fervour than the effervescent adventures of that loveable cartoon icon, Nancy.

OK, I’ve never been a fan of Ernie Bushmiller’s inky progeny. But on the eve of Independence Day for those of you reading in the U.S., I would be remiss in not mentioning Nancy’s endeavour to further patriotic aims in the war propaganda cartoon “Doing Their Bit” (1942).

Paul Terry seems have been filled with nationalistic fervour himself when he produced this one. For one thing, the notorious cheapskate actually broke down and paid for the rights to use the character. And he’s given Phil Scheib the time to pen an original song. Scheib isn’t exactly Cole Porter, but his song works well within the context of John Foster’s story.

The short involves Nancy and Sluggo engaging in some fairly shady activities to raise money for the USO, which provided entertainment and recreation centres for soldiers during the war. Nancy’s “lemonade” consists of dipping a tired slice of lemon in water straight from an outdoor tap. And Nancy infests a home with mice (this is a Terrytoon after all) then sells the horrified lady of the house a cat. In real life, war profiteering corporations might have approved the less-than-above-board methods but we suspect the USO wouldn’t.

Surprisingly, this Terrytoon doesn’t feature the Terry Splash™ and Terry Brake Squeal™ so dearly loved by cartoon viewers through endless repetition. But like Terry cartoons dating back to the silent era, there are a bunch of characters marching at an angle toward the camera. And being a Terrytoon, Paul Terry keeps on budget by not having his artists drawing those little nubs of hair all over Nancy’s head, like in the comics. What are those things called anyway?

Director Connie Rasinski tries to vary the look of the cartoon a bit. Here’s a shot at an overhead angle as Nancy and her friends cheer over her plan to help the USO.

And there’s one scene where Rasinski simulates a lighting effect with shadows and silhouettes.

1940s New York urban development isn’t my forte, so I can’t say whether the background drawing below is close to representing accuracy.

And there’s a singing, dancing, flag-waving orgasm of patriotism at the end. That’s what war’s about, you know.

To his credit, Foster avoids ugly Japanese stereotypes in this cartoon. Instead, he has a Sluggo bark at a midway-like target range where people toss balls to break dishes that are “Made in Japan.” The scene would probably get cheers today from those who support trade protectionism.

Izzy Klein apparently got the on-screen animation credit on the pre-reissue version. I haven’t a clue who provided the voices; I suspect someone playing juveniles on radio shows out of New York at the time is doing Sluggo.


  1. I had never heard of this cartoon. My son posted your blog. Is there anywhere where I can see the actual cartoon?

  2. Guy, I don't know if it's available anywhere.

    Terry made two cartoons with Nancy and that was it. I don't know whether that was the extent of their rights deal.

    1. There's a story, of hazy origin, that a third Nancy short got at least to storyboard stage before it was scrapped. If true, I suppose we can be grateful.

    2. Yeah, seems I remember seeing a blurb about "Nancy's Circus" as the third proposed title..?

  3. Klein worked as an animator (and a storyman) upon returning to Paramount Cartoon Studios in the early 1960s. He had an unusual style for the budget-low Paramount cartoons with interesting mouth movements. Here's an example (1:48 - 2:05, 2:19 - 2:39, 4:00 - 4:32, 4:41 - 4:46): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NjHWPWRkTzk

  4. I remembered this cartoon as a kid in San Diego. Lots of panty shots, especially from Nancy herself.