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Western Animation / Hell Bent For Election

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”We’re gonna win the war!”
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Hell Bent for Election is a 1944 FDR-approved campaign film commissioned by United Auto Workers, inspiring viewers to register and vote for Franklin D. Roosevelt, who was the democratic candidate at the time of the 1944 presidential elections. The film was UPA’s (which at the time was Industrial Film and Poster Service) first ever animated movie. The director was none other than Chuck Jones, moonlighting from his regular job at Warner Bros.

The plot revolves around two trains headed to Washington, both are nearing “Track 44” (metaphor for 1944), and only one train can cross it. A stationmaster named “Sam” tells “Joe” that he needs to sidetrack the “Defeatist Limited”. The Defeatist Limited represents Roosevelt’s opponent, Dewey Thomas. The train’s lackey, “Horace Moneybags”, who resembles Dewey Thomas but as a gnome and large-toothed tries to get Joe to not switch the track by whacking his head and making him smoke until he passes out. Joe then has a dream about Dewey passing the “Win-The-War Special”, he eventually snaps out of his dream, switches the tracks, and the Defeatist Limited crashes, letting Roosevelt head to Washington.

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Hell Bent for Election includes examples of:

  • Berserk Button: When Horace hears the mention of “winning the war”, he goes insane and morphs into Hitler’s face for a split-second.
  • Foreshadowing: Sam mentions the switch that Joe has to pull, and later in the film he succeeds in pulling it.
  • Human Doorstop: In the end, Joe uses Horace as a lever to pull the switch.
  • Limited Animation: This short offers a glimpse of the revolutionary style that UPA would develop in the following decade. While the treatment of the characters is conventional, the settings are sparse and abstract. The dream sequence has Joe as a white outline against a dark blue background.
  • Metaphoric Metamorphosis: Horace briefly turns into Hitler while ranting against "Roosevelt's war."
  • Propaganda Piece: Produced by a labor union in favor of Roosevelt, with the Republicans depicted as shady villains, or at least misguided and clueless.
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  • Railroad Tracks of Doom: Dewey Thomas’ track when it was switched to Roosevelt’s line.
  • Runaway Train: The Defeatist Limited tries to stop but he’s a barreling runaway once the track is switched.
  • Running Gag: The Defeatist Limited tries everything in his power to overtake Roosevelt in cutaway scenes.
  • Sentient Vehicle: The 1944 presidential candidates are depicted as trains: Roosevelt is the sleek, modern Win the War Special; while Dewey is a ramshackle steam engine, the Defeatist Limited.
  • Wartime Cartoon: Made to encourage the reelection of FDR in the hopes that he would win the war.

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