Posting has been somewhat irregular this week, what with life’s many interruptions (in my case, this includes babysitting four children, five cats, and five dogs, in addition to everything else on my overflowing plate). Hopefully, next week we’ll be getting back in the swing of things.
For today’s Saturday Morning Cartoons entry, we’re once again interrupting our weekly examination of the Disney catalog (I promise, Mulan will be posted next weekend!). Earlier this week, while watching an old Bugs Bunny cartoon from 1943 called Falling Hare, I found myself giving an impromptu history lesson to the children under my watch, and I thought I’d share it here.
In case you don’t remember this particular short, you may want to watch it first. In it, Bugs comes up against a mischievous gremlin determined to sabotage the planes at a U.S. Air Force base—and, in a reversal of Bugs’ typical superiority over his foes, the gremlin winds up getting the best of the “screwy wabbit.”
The cartoon, directed by Bob Clampett, was released in the midst of America’s involvement in World War II and includes several references to 1940s culture that tend to fly right over the heads of today’s youth. In particular, the denouement of the cartoon can be a little confusing for those unfamiliar with U.S. domestic policy during the war (yeah, because that’s such common knowledge for people of any age, right?). At the end of this short, as the plane plummets toward the earth, it suddenly sputters and comes to a complete halt, inches from the ground. We then cut to the gremlin and Bugs, companionably chewing on (respectively) a banana and a carrot, their earlier conflict seemingly forgotten.
Gremlin: “Sorry, folks. We ran out of gas.”
Bugs: “Eh. You know how it is with these ‘A’ cards.”
As the cartoon faded out, one of my charges looked over at me and said, “I don’t get it.”
I laughed. “It might make more sense if we were living in the 1940s.”
She frowned. “I still don’t get it.”
So I explained: during World War II, things like gasoline, tires, silk, coffee, and certain foods were rationed because of severe shortages and the needs of the soldiers on the front lines. Gasoline in particular was very strictly rationed and anyone who wanted to be able to drive anywhere had to prove they had a serious need to do so. The “A card” was the strictest designation of gasoline allowance, only permitting the bearer to use less than five gallons of gas per week. So by saying that the cartoon could not be completed because of the plane’s “A card” designation, the animators were making a tongue-in-cheek criticism of the rationing system.
Her response: ” … Oh. I guess that makes it funny.”
See, when I babysit, kids don’t just get fun and sugary treats. They get a frakkin’ history lesson.