Western Animation / Private Snafu


A Wartime Cartoon series made during the 1940s, starring the eponymous Private Snafunote  set during the struggle of World War II. Produced by Warner Bros. for the Army-Navy Screen Magazine, these cartoons showed Snafu's adventures in the Army. They usually ended with various Aesops concerning proper military behavior, via the confoundingly insipid acts of the brash but ignorant Snafu.

It could be considered a Spin-Off of the Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies series of cartoons, supported by a few cameos of Bugs Bunny and usage of Mel Blanc as the voice of the bumbling Snafu, though, unlike the Looney Tunes/Merrie Melodies cartoons, the Private Snafu shorts were more adult, allowing a lot of scenes and gags that wouldn't have been approved by The Hays Code (mostly, it was showing women in various states of undress, but there was also some mild Toilet Humor and swearing).

Private Snafu was largely sealed away after the end of the war and was not widely seen again until Cartoon Network aired some as part of two Toon Heads specials: one about lost and rare animated works and another about World War II cartoons. A few shorts appeared as extras in the Looney Tunes: Golden Collection DVDs. Some of them are available for viewing on the Internet Archive.

A complete chronological DVD release of the whole set of Private SNAFU cartoons newly remastered from the best extant film elements, was released by Thunderbean in December 2010.

Oh, and Thedore Geisel (better known as Dr. Seuss) wrote many of the early shorts in his characteristic rhyme. Think about that next time you read any of his children's books (The Cat in the Hat, How the Grinch Stole Christmas, One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish, Green Eggs and Ham, etc) to your son/daughter/younger sibling/younger relative/children at school.


  • Coming Snafu (Chuck Jones): 1943-06-XX
  • Gripes (Friz Freleng): 1943-07-XX
  • Spies (Chuck Jones): 1943-08-XX
  • The Goldbrick (Frank Tashlin): 1943-09-XX
  • The Infantry Blues (Chuck Jones): 1943-09-XX
  • Fighting Tools (Bob Clampett): 1943-10-XX
  • The Home Front (Frank Tashlin): 1943-11-XX
  • Rumors (Friz Freleng): 1943-12-XX
  • Booby Traps (Bob Clampett): 1944-01-XX
  • Snafuperman (Friz Freleng): 1944-03-XX
  • Private Snafu vs. Malaria Mike (Chuck Jones): 1944-03-XX
  • A Lecture on Camouflage (Chuck Jones): 1944-04-XX
  • Gas (Chuck Jones): 1944-05-XX
  • The Chow Hound (Frank Tashlin): 1944-06-XX
  • Censored (Frank Tashlin): 1944-07-XX
  • Outpost (Chuck Jones): 1944-08-XX
  • Pay Day (Friz Freleng): 1944-09-XX
  • Three Brothers (Friz Freleng): 1944-09-XX
  • Target Snafu (Friz Freleng): 1944-10-XX
  • In the Aleutians - Isles of Enchantment (Chuck Jones): 1945-02-XX
  • It's Murder She Says (Chuck Jones): 1945-02-XX
  • Hot Spot (Friz Freleng): 1945-07-XX
  • Operation Snafu (Friz Freleng): 1945-10-XX

Unreleased shorts

  • Going Home (Chuck Jones): Planned for 1945
  • No Buddy Atoll (Chuck Jones): Released in 1945
  • Seaman Tarfu in the Navy (Chuck Jones): Released in 1945
  • Secrets of the Caribbean (Chuck Jones): Completed in 1945
  • Mop Up (How To Get A Fat Jap Out Of A Cave) (Chuck Jones): Planned for 1946

UPA Snafu shorts:

  • Few Quick Facts about Fear (1945)
  • Few Quick Facts about Inflation (1945).
  • Few Quick Facts on Weapons of War (1945) (lost cartoon)

MGM Snafu shorts:

  • Few Quick Facts: Diarrhea and Dysentery (1945)
  • Few Quick Facts: Weapons/ USS Iowa (1945)

Contains examples of

  • An Aesop: Usually pertaining to the need for military discipline and protocols as well as the home war effort.
  • All Just a Dream: Several of the cartoons end with Snafu about to face the consequences of his actions (usually his imminent demise) only to wake up. He is then shown mending his ways.
  • Animal Gender-Bender/Insect Gender-Bender: Averted with the bloodsucking mosquitoes in "It's Murder She Says" as they are female as in real life, but played straight with the titular male bloodsucking mosquito in "Target Snafu," and "Private Snafu vs Malaria Mike" as male mosquitoes only feed on fruit and nectar off plants.
  • Armed Farces
  • The Bad Guy Wins: Some episodes end with the enemy forces successfully killing off Snafu as a result of his incompetence.
  • Bad Samaritan: Goldy the Goldbrick, who is really a Japanese spy hoping to convince enough soldiers to slack off and enable Japan to win the war.
  • Bankruptcy Barrel: In "Payday", Snafu winds up wearing nothing but a cardboard box after he loses all of his money playing craps.
  • Big Eater: Snafu in "Chow Hound".
  • Black Comedy: Multiple shorts end with the enemy forces succeeding and killing off Snafu. Still using Looney Tunes slapstick of course.
  • Blowing Smoke Rings: In "A Lecture on Camouflage", Snafu blows smoke rings while resting. The camouflaged Nazi stalking him blows smoke swastikas.
  • Booby Trap: Has an entire cartoon on the subject, including one very literal example.
  • Bowdlerise: Two shorts have aired on Cartoon Network edited:
    • "Spies": When the short aired on the ToonHeads special about lost and rare WB shorts, the scenes of the Japanese spies were edited and the scene of Snafu drinking booze and the booze rotting his brain lock was sped up so that way no time was spent on the alcohol in his body.
    • "Censored": When this short aired once on a late-night showing of Bugs and Daffy, the scene of Snafu's girlfriend decoding his letter home was edited, as Snafu's girlfriend was topless (it was implied, but still, it sent the censors on edge and had to be removed).
  • The Cameo: Bugs Bunny cameos in the shorts "Gas" and "Three Brothers". Plus, Private Snafu himself makes an appearance in the Animaniacs short "Boot Camping".
  • Cigar Chomper: The Technical Fairy First Class is never seen without a cigar clenched in his teeth.
  • Civilized Animal/Partially Civilized Animal: The bull and his cow girlfriend/wife in "Chow Hound"
    • Also, the mosquitoes in "Target Snafu," and "Private Snafu vs Malaria Mike" are this.
  • Cue the Flying Pigs: In "Going Home", Snafu hears from the radio that his old regiment was attacked because someone leaked information. Snafu wishes that the one responsible (not knowing that it was him) would get run over by a streetcar. And at that moment, a streetcar goes through his living room and runs him over for the Iris Out.
  • Custom Uniform: In "Gripes", Snafu is given command of the army and does away with all regulation. One of the soldiers starts wearing a uniform patterned after a zoot suit.
  • Deranged Animation: The climax of "Rumors", which features the bologna (meant to represent the gossip growing out of control) becoming sentient creatures and reaching the point where the rumor from earlier turns into "We've lost the war". These nightmarish creatures in question look like something ripped out of a Dr. Seuss book—no surprise, since he worked on these shorts.
  • Digital Destruction: The print of "The Goldbrick" on the fourth Looney Tunes Golden Collection DVD set has the video and audio very slow and warped.
  • Distracted by the Sexy: At least one short warned of the dangers of accidentally revealing sensitive information to beautiful women who might turn out to be spies. Also parodied in "Booby Traps", where it makes it seem like he's distracted by a harem of girls—only to reveal that it was a piano that caught his attention!
  • Downer Ending: It's of the Played for Laughs sort, but often Snafu bought the farm. Sometimes subverted and he wises up and survives, such as the gas-mask episode.
  • Early-Bird Cameo: Prior to these shorts, Snafu first appeared in the 1942 Chuck Jones short "The Draft Horse".
  • Evil Counterpart: Goldie the Goldbrick is this to Snafu's Technical Fairy, First Class.
  • Fanservice: Being made specifically for the enlisted men, these were more risque than the regular Looney Tunes series. In particular, "Censored", which features Sally Lou in just 1940s-era panties, garters, and stockings. There's no actual nudity, but pretty close.
    • The mermaids in "A Lecture on Camouflage" are fully nude.
    • Likewise nude is Snafus pin-up pic from his grab-bag in "No Buddy Island".
  • Faux to Guide
  • Felony Misdemeanor: The cartoons were commissioned by the military during wartime, so they were highly classified, to the point that artists who worked on them had to paint individual frames out of order so they would not know the secret contents. The irony of course is that if they had fallen into the wrong hands, the enemy would have learned completely innocuous facts such as not to spread rumors and always use mosquito netting.
  • Fire and Brimstone Hell: Snafu went there at the end of "Spies". Incidentally, the devil wore a lapel pin with a swastika on it. Also, we get a glimpse of Hell again in "Hot Spot".
  • Friend or Foe: In Snafuperman, Snafu accidentally air-raids the White House because he thought it was Berlin, and attack an American tank (and piss off General Patton) because he thought it was a Japanese tank. The moral is "study the field manual and maps."
  • Genius Bruiser: The Nazi soldier in Fighting Tools, who's not only five times bigger than Snafu, but far better at taking care of his weapons.
  • Getting Crap Past the Radar: Since these cartoons weren't meant to be shown to the public and only to soldiers, they were allowed to get away with swears (though minor ones such as "hell" and "damn," which, at the time, were very taboo) and more risque sexual humor with no Hays Code to bother them.
    • Hotter and Sexier: Compared with the general release Looney Tunes cartoons (which do get a little risque at times, but are pretty much bound by The Hays Code not to go too far), these cartoons featured a lot more female nudity, swearing (mostly "hell" and "damn," which back then, were considered taboo), and more "adult" jokes, since their audience were young, male, semi-educated soldiers who needed the morale boost when fighting overseas and enjoyed lowbrow humor and the scantily-clad women. If Looney Tunes was The Simpsons of the 1930s and '40s, then this series was in South Park territory.
  • Good Angel, Bad Angel: Technical Fairy First Class plays the Good Angel in "Pay Day", but this being Snafu, he has no chance in hell against his evil counterpart.
  • Gossip Evolution: Military style! "Rumors" begins with Snafu being informed that it looks like a good day for a bombing, taking this to mean that they're about to get bombed, and spreading to others who in turn spread it until it becomes a rumor that they're about to lose the war. (In a nice touch of visual metaphor, the passage of the rumors is represented by baloney flying out of people's mouths.)
  • Gossipy Hens: This is what Snafu imagines his mother and her bridge partners to be (literally seeing them transform into hens) in "The Home Front".
  • Grass Is Greener: "The Infantry Blues" has Snafu griping about how difficult being in the infantry is and wishes he was in the Tank Corps, Navy, or Air Force where they have it easier. Technical Fairy First Class shows up to show Snafu that the other branches are just as difficult and everyone needs to work hard to achieve victory.
    • In "The Home Front," Snafu envies his family and girlfriend back stateside, and how they have their usual, comfortable lives while he has to suffer in deployment. He soon sees that every one of them (including the grandfather) are also very hard at work to support the war effort, through construction, keeping a war garden, and joining the WAC.
  • Hammerspace: Loads, e.g. Tarfus sailor wardrobe in "Seaman Tarfu in the Navy".
  • Humanoid Female Animal/Petting Zoo People: The female mosquitoes in "It's Murder She Says."
  • Incredibly Conspicuous Drag: Snafu in "Operation Snafu". In defense of the poor short-sighted Japanese gentleman it must be said that Snafu passed the Eek, a (Mechanical) Mouse!! test.
    • Actually, the Japanese officer knew it was Snafu, and soon after getting close to him, reaches down his dress in search of the intelligence he had stolen. Snafu slaps him, of course.
  • Jerkass: It's understandable since it's a military instructional cartoon, but Snafu is an arrogant and rather nasty, singleminded solider who brings his own fates on himself due to his incompetence.
  • Kavorka Man: Despite Snafu being homely, short, dumb, witless and rude, he seems to have no problem getting the affections of extremely beautiful and curvy young women.
  • Last-Second Word Swap: The narration of the very first cartoon explains the derivation of the name Snafu. As the letters SNAFU are displayed on screen, the narrator says: "Snafu. Situation Normal, All ..." (the narrator pauses as the letter "F" on screen vibrates) "... All Fouled Up."
  • Leitmotif: Snafu's "Theme" consists of a classic five note snippet called "You're A Horse's Ass", which fits the bumbling soldiers inept personality.
  • Let's Meet the Meat: "The Chow Hound." Not only does the steer want people to eat him, but after seeing all the brave men volunteering to serve, he leaves his blushing bride on the wedding night in order to volunteer as food for allied soldiers.
    • Since the episode is a warning to soldiers not to waste food, the end of the episode features the ghost of the steer eagerly watching as Snafu eats a plate of him, and actually becoming dismayed and angry when Snafu leaves half his meal unfinished.
  • Loose Lips: The essential Aesop to the short, Spies, in which Snafu inadvertently blabs bit by bit all the spies around him need to know about his ship's departure time. It results in the Axis literally blowing him to hell.
    • Also the point of "Going Home". After his discharge, Snafu continues to discuss military matters out in public, leading to his platoon being wiped out.
  • Male Gaze: A lot of the featured nubile women have the camera emphasize on their boobs, butts and legs. Not surprising when you remember these were shorts created with soldiers in mind.
  • Mime and Music-Only Cartoon: "Pay Day", by Friz Freleng, is pretty much dialog free, relying on music and timing to accentuate the visual gags. The only dialog is at the very end.
  • Musical Episode: "Fighting Tools", where almost all the dialogue is sung to the tune of "The Gay Caballero"
  • Naked People Are Funny: The ending of "Fighting Tools".
  • Negative Continuity: Hence how Snafu is able to come back after being killed 6 times.
  • No Celebrities Were Harmed: "That's the conditions that prevail!" (Jimmy Durante as walrus in "In the Aleutians - Isles of Enchantment")
  • No Dialogue Episode: "Pay Day" and "Operation Snafu" contain very little dialogue, in the former the only spoken dialogue is provided by a mouse and in the later we only have the gibberish spoken by the Japanese officers.
  • Non-Mammal Mammaries: In "Outpost", lonesome Snafu dreams of a woman...and so does his trusty avian sidekick.
    • And the female mosquitoes in "It's Murder She Says", of course. See below.
  • Not Distracted by the Sexy: Played for laughs in "Booby Traps."
  • Not-So-Harmless Villain: Though the Nazi forces tend to be given the same silly front as standard Looney Tunes examples (right down to Mel Blanc's goofiest German accent), they are treated as much more lethal and resilient, and sometimes even successfully bump off Snafu in the end. Justified as these shorts were for the purpose of military viewing and showing soldiers to take their jobs seriously.
  • Out of Focus: "Hot Spot" and "The Chow Hound" focus considerably less on Snafu himself.
  • Painted Tunnel, Real Train: Extremely rare non-chase-related example in "Hot Spot".
  • Peeling Potatoes: Snafu is stuck on KP in "Gripes"; peeling potatoes with with his feet while scrubbing pots with his hands and sweeping the floor with his butt.
  • Public Domain Animation: As the films were made for army training and sanctioned by the government, all Private Snafu cartoons are in the public domain.
  • Reassigned to Antarctica: "The Outpost" is intended to explain why being assigned to remote and/or unpleasant stations is important work in its own way.
  • Read the Freaking Manual: The Aesop to the short, "Snafuperman" about the consequences of not reading your field manuals.
  • Right Way/Wrong Way Pair: Snafu plays both roles in the pair — he does it wrong, and then goes back and does it right (most of the time. You have shorts like "Spies" where he doesn't know what he did wrong until it was too late).
  • Running Gag: The sailor following the hot babe in "Seaman Tarfu in the Navy". Completely with The Stinger after the end credits:
    Snafu (taking the girl away from the sailor): "What do you expect, the army made this picture!"
  • Safe Driving Aesop: This trope was Played for Laughs in one episode that had Snafu driving a jeep, but getting distracted by a poster of a woman in lingerie and crashing. Explosions ensued, but being a cartoon, Snafu was perfectly okay. Since the shorts were entertaining, soldiers paid attention and they still got the message across.
  • Satan: Appears in "Spies" and "Hot Spot".
  • Scenery Censor: Sally Lou's breasts are (barely) covered by Snafu's letter in "Censored".
  • Shoot the Shaggy Dog: "The Chow Hound", where a bull sacrifices his body to become meat which would be served as food to Snafu—only for Snafu to eat so much beforehand that he throws out said meat made from the bull, much to his ghost's chagrin.
  • Shout-Out: Carl Stalling makes one to his early Disney work by reusing a musical score he composed for the Silly Symphonies short "Hell's Bells" in the opening of "Hot Spot".
  • Spin-Off: Of the Looney Tunes shorts.
  • Stealth Pun: The short Hot Spot has the Devil watching the army travel through a desert. Throughout the short, we see him breaking down in the heat as he strips out of his business suit and uses any liquids to keep himself cool. The joke, of course, is that it's hotter than Hell out there!
  • Swallow the Key: The Japanese soldier in "Operation Snafu". (And the war secret too, later on. In a strange lapse of competence, Snafu kidnaps the soldier along with the secret and rows back to America.)
  • Swiss Army Weapon: Snafu wields a pretty useless one in "No Buddy Atoll". (Until he accidentally pulls out an umbrella which promptly knocks out the foe.)
  • They Killed Kenny Again: Private Snafu is killed in 6 shorts.
  • Those Wacky Nazis: Adolf Hitler and the Nazis that show up.
    • Defied in a way, as many Nazis —and even the Japanese— though somewhat comical, are shown as far more competent than their bumbling counterparts seen in civilian propaganda. Several of Snafu's screwups result in Nazi victories (Weapons of War, where a Nazi captures Snafu since the latter had taken poor care of his equipment and Spies, where Nazi spies send information straight to Hitler, who sends his U-boat fleet after the Ship Snafu is on). The reason for this is that civilian propaganda's aim was to allay fears at home by depicting the Axis powers as a joke, while the goal of military propaganda was to demonstrate the opposite, telling soldiers that their enemies were a real, very dangerous threat and had to be taken seriously.
  • Tokyo Rose: When Tokyo Rose begins spewing her anti-American propaganda over the airwaves in "Tokyo Woes", Seaman Hook is inspired to fight back, using War Bonds as literal weapons against her.
  • Too Dumb to Live: Private Snafu. Of course, since it's a primarily an instructional series, the entire point is to show how not to act. That said, it's a wonder he wasn't rejected 4F due to mental incompetence.
  • Took a Level in Badass: Snafu becomes...shockingly competent in the last two shorts, which drop the instructional aspect in favor of basic cartoon shenanigans. Hot Spot has him showing near-inhuman determination in helping transport supplies in the blazing Iran desert up to Russia (with his only major 'screwup' happening because Cartoon Physics decided out of the blue not to work for him), and Operation Snafu has him play Bugs Bunny and steal top-secret war plans from the Japanese. Guess the Army won't let you be a screwup forever...
  • Toplessness from the Back: Snafu's girlfriend Sally Lou in "Censored".
  • Villain Song: The Goldbrick
  • Wartime Cartoon
  • Weapons Understudies: At least one cartoon was pulled from theaters before exhibition owing to serious similarities to the Manhattan Project, which at the time was a top-secret undertaking.
  • Xylophone Gag: Originated in the cartoon Booby Traps.
  • Yellow Peril: The Japanese caricatures.