Western Animation: Russian Rhapsody

Russian Rhapsody is a Looney Tunes Wartime Cartoon directed by Bob Clampett, released May 20th, 1944.

When the German Luftwaffe faces difficulties in reaching Russia, and reports of Gremlins being responsible start popping up, Adolf Hitler takes it upon himself to bomb Moscow. While enroute, his plane is steadily beset by and slowly disassembled by a group of Russian "Gremlins from the Kremlin" (mostly caricatures of the animators), singing a merry tune while at work. When the Fuhrer finally discovers them, the Gremlins outwit him and succeed in bringing down both him and the plane.

It was placed at #78 in The 100 Greatest Looney Tunes.

This short includes examples of:

  • Adolf Hitlarious: Hitler's speech is intercut with a sign saying "Silly, isn't he?" The Fuhrer also decides to bomb Russia himself and flies there by plane while the gremlins beat and punch him up throughout the entire cartoon.
  • Alliterative Title: "Russian Rhapsody". One of the newspaper headlines reads "Fuhrer Furious".
  • Artistic License Engineering: Even after many vital parts of the plane have been dismantled the thing still keeps flying.
  • Artistic License Physics: Hitler manages to run away from the crashing plane while hanging in the air. When he reaches the ground he runs away from beneath the object that is about to fall on top of him, but the plane just moves a few inches to where he is standing and crashes down on him anyway.
  • As Long as It Sounds Foreign: Hitler's opening speech, which includes bizarre references to Friz Freleng, Heinrich (German version of Henry) Binder (Henry Binder was one of the associate producers of WB cartoons when Leon Schlesinger was there), "What's Cooking, Doc?", someone named "Tim O'Shenko"note , ordering saurkraut from a delicatessen, and the chattanooga choo-choo (a shout out to the classic big band tune from the 40's).
  • Authority Equals Ass Kicking: Played for Laughs. Hitler has decided to personally fly the next mission to bomb the Soviet Union, where he proceeds to spend the rest of the film as The Chew Toy.
  • Back from the Dead: Hitler climbs out of his grave, impersonates comedian Lew Lehr's "Monkey's is the cwaziest people!" catch phrase, and is promptly beaten back into the ground by a Soviet gremlin.
  • Disney Villain Death: For Hitler, of course.
  • Does This Remind You of Anything? and Getting Crap Past the Radar: One of the gremlins who has a large nose suddenly pops up between the legs of a moustached gremlin, which makes it look as if the moustached one has a Raging Stiffie.
  • Gag Nose: Hitler's nose gets hit a lot.
  • Girly Scream: When Hitler comes face to face with the gremlins wearing a mask of Josef Stalin.
  • Griping About Gremlins: The gremlins were a popular Urban Legend during World War II and supposedly sabotaged army airplanes.
  • Gross-Up Close-Up: Hitler's grotesquely detailed face gets much screen presence in the short.
  • Harmless Electrocution: Hitlers nose gets put into an electric socket, causing him to take the shape of swastika, a skunk and a donkey, but it doesn't kill him.
  • Heavy Meta: Hitler mentions the names of several Warners' animated staff people in his rant, including the earlier short Whats Cookin Doc.
  • Hitler Cam: Camera shot used during the scene where Hitler is speeching, making this a literal example.
  • Hurricane of Puns: The building behind Hitler is called "New Odor", in reference the "New Order".
  • Lemony Narrator: At the start of the cartoon a narrator talks in a comedic voice, "Once upon a time way back in 1941" after which an explosion follows and he's never heard again.
  • National Stereotypes:
    • Hitler mentions several German dishes during his rant: hamburger, Frankfurter, sauerkraut, liverwurst and hassenpfeffer, while "Oh du Lieber Augustin" plays in the background.
    • Several of the Russian gremlins wear traditional Russian costumes.
  • No Celebrities Were Harmed: The gremlins are caricatures of the the animators' staff at Warners: Chuck Jones, Bob Clampett, Friz Freleng, Melvin Millar, Michael Sasanoff, Leon Schlesinger, Michael Maltese, Carl Stalling, Henry Binder and Ray Katz. Binder and Katz are also namedropped during Hitler's rant in the beginning. Adolf Hitler naturally is the Butt Monkey of the entire cartoon. At one point he is scared off by one gremlin holding up a mask of Josef Stalin, whose Russian forces were already reconquering Eastern Europe and heading for Berlin at the time this cartoon was made.
  • Non Sequitur Thud: After the gremlins sabotage Hitler's plane and drop it on top of him, he pops up out of the ground laughing and says in a goofy voice "Nazies is the cwaziest peoples".
  • Propaganda Machine: This is a US wartime propaganda cartoon.
  • Public Domain Soundtrack: Features the Russian folk songs Ochi Chyornye (Dark Eyes) and Eh, uchnem (Song of the Volga Boatmen), with custom lyrics added to tfhem. When Hitler is speeching the song "Oh du Lieber Augustin" is playing in the background.
  • Real Life Writes the Plot: The cartoon refers to Hitler's failed invasion of the Soviet Union in 1941. The Gremlins mention that Napoleon never managed to conquer Russia either. At the time this cartoon was made Josef Stalin's troops had already reconquered most of Eastern Europe and were heading for Berlin, explaining why Hitler is so scared when seeing the Stalin mask.
  • Shout-Out:
    • One of the gibberish things Hitler rants about during his speech is "Chattanooga Choo-Choo", which was a popular song at the time.
    • The gremlin who says: "I'm only three and a half years old!" is a reference to the character Martha (played by Billy Gray) on Abbott and Costello's radio show.
    • The line "How do you do?" references Bert Gordon's radio character "The Mad Russian".
    • When Hitler's plane has crashed, he pops up looking completely goofy and says: "Nazis is the craziest peoples!" This is a reference to then popular comedian Lew Lehr, whose had a film series where he talked over footage of animals in the zoo and when monkeys came in view he would say: "Monkey's is the cwaziest peoples!".
    • The ending of this cartoon was referenced in the South Park episode Osama Bin Laden Has Farty Pants, where Bin Laden is also defeated and puts on a goofy expression, while saying: "Terrorists are the craziest peoples!"
    • In Looney Tunes: Back in Action a gremlin from this cartoon is shown hanging as a picture on the restaurant wall.
  • Spiritual Successor: The first Warner Bros. cartoon to star gremlins is Falling Hare.
  • Standard Snippet:
    • When Hitler is speeching "Oh du Lieber Augustin" plays in the background, a melody often used whenever Germans are depicted in old cartoons.
    • The song "We Are Gremlins From The Kremlin" is sang to the tunes of the Russian songs "Ochi Chyornye" ("Dark Yes") and "Eh, Uchnem" ("Song of the Volga Boatmen"), the most typical tunes used to evoke a Russian atmosphere.
  • Those Wacky Nazis: Actually only one of them is targeted, Hitler himself.
  • Time Marches On: It goes without saying that the cartoon is obviously dated.
  • Villain Protagonist: Adolf Hitler.
  • Wartime Cartoon: One of the most well known Looney Tunes war time cartoons.