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Western Animation / Tokio Jokio

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"Tokio Jokio" is a 1943 War Time Cartoon made in the Looney Tunes series, directed by Norm McCabe, who also directed The Ducktators (1942), his final directing credit for the Looney Tunes series before drafted into the army, with Frank Tashlin finishing the cartoon midway in its production. It's basically an anti-Japanese propaganda vehicle, presented in the style of a Mockumentary and considered to be one of the most racist cartoons Warner Brothers ever made (though it is not a Censored Eleven cartoon. Just a Wartime Cartoon with heavy anti-Japanese sentiment). The majority of the jokes present the Japanese as ugly, stupid, weak and incompetent, while the rest are just incredibly lame puns.

Understandably, the cartoon has been banned from public broadcast and distribution in America, falling into Public Domain as a result. Nickelodeon actually did have this short in its library when it had the rights to air Warner Bros. cartoons as part of Looney Tunes on Nickelodeon and could have aired it, but decided not to. Meanwhile, Cartoon Network aired clips of this [with show announcer, Leslie Framm, explaining how cartoons like Tokio Jokio and others around this time were particularly cruel to the Japanese] as part of their ToonHeads special on World War II cartoonsnote .

Director Norm McCabe left Warners soon afterwards to sign up for military service (making this his final WB cartoon, and his most notorious due to how much of an Unintentional Period Piece it is, if online discussions about old cartoon shorts are anything to go by), but nevertheless decades later he saw all of his war time propaganda cartoons as a personal embarrassment.

"Tokio Jokio" provides examples of:

  • Achievements in Ignorance: The Japanese submarine being built underwater, as mentioned below under Artistic License – Physics.
  • Adolf Hitlarious: Hitler shows up, wiggling his nose in confusion a la Charlie Chaplin's "Charlot" (or "Little Tramp") character when he receives Hess' postcard.
  • Alliterative Title: The title card is called "NippoNews of the Week" and "Nippon Nifties Fashion". This was Truth in Television (at least for the first); the official Japanese newsreel during the war was called "Nippon News" (日本ニュース — Nihon Niyusu). See here for an example
  • America Won World War II: The cartoon was one of many produced at the time to boost up the morale of the US audience.
  • Artistic License – History: The caricatures of Admiral Yamamoto, general Masaharu Homma, and even Rudolph Hess don't resemble them at all. The Japanese are also depicted as so weak and pathetic that, had this cartoon been realistic, it would beggar belief that they could be a threat to any other country.
  • Artistic License – Physics: The Japanese are all building a submarine while the boat is at the bottom of the ocean. None of them seem to have any problem working on this object while being underwater. They don't even use breathing apparatus. Which makes you wonder why they would need a submarine in the first place?
  • Asian and Nerdy: All Japanese are pathetic wimps.
  • Asian Buck Teeth: All Japanese have buck teeth in this cartoon. The sports announcer even loses his pair of fake teeth when the cartoon iris closes around them.
  • Asian Speekee Engrish: The letter "l" and "r" are replaced all the time.
  • Breaking the Fourth Wall: Most characters look straight into the camera at various points. Of course, it is supposed to be an in-universe news broadcast.
  • Circling Vultures: The rooster who appears in the opening shot is revealed to be a Japanese vulture in disguise, grinning in an evil and kooky manner.
  • Dated History:
    • Japanese admiral Isoroku Yamamoto is depicted as a villain in this cartoon. He was certainly responsible in planning the attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941, but later historical research has proven that he felt rather reluctant to attack the USA — not out of moral convictions, but in the belief that picking a fight with the US was just going to result in a Japanese defeat sooner or later. Of course, the makers of this cartoon couldn't have known this.
    • Mixed with Beam Me Up, Scotty!: Admiral Yamamoto did talk of dictating peace terms in the White House, but it was far from the Badass Boast depicted in this short. The actual context of the quote was him trying to impress upon his superiors the true enormity of the task they had set themselves in attacking Pearl Harbor — Yamamoto wasn't promising to dictate peace terms in the White House, he was saying that the only way for Japan to definitively win against the United States was to invade, fight across the breadth of the American continent and do just that. In short he was telling his superiors "you're asking the impossible. They're not going to roll over and die with one bloody nose."
  • Deliberately Monochrome: The cartoon is in black-and-white, just like contemporary newsreels and all of Norm McCabe's animated shorts in the brief time he was a Warner Bros. director. It happens to be one of the last wide-release WB shorts to be so.note 
  • Hurricane of Puns:
    • The cartoon is announced as "Japanazi propaganda".
    • A literal listening post, aircraft spotter, catapult device, tricycle landing gear, and mine sweeper are shown.
    • Hideki Tojo presents "Kitchen Hints" and demonstrates how to make a "club sandwich". It involves him making a sandwich out of a rationing card, then hitting himself over the head with a club.
    • The Japanese sports journalist Red Togo-San is a pun on "Red" Barber and Ed Thorgerson.
    • The "Japanese King of Swat" is a baseball player who literally uses a fly swatter.
    • The segment "Headline Poisonalities", instead of "personalities".
    • Radio propagandist Lord Haw-Haw is depicted as a donkey called "Lord Hee-Haw".
  • Japan Takes Over the World: This cartoon was made at a time when this country's army was a veritable threat.
  • Japanese Ranguage: A lot of the Japanese in this cartoon is standard English where "l" and "r" are replaced with one another.
  • Japanese Politeness: The Japanese keep saying: "Oh, sorry, me so sorry, regrettable incident please" and variations thereof.
  • Mockumentary: The cartoon is announced and presented as a news reel captured from the enemy.
  • Mister Big: Yamamoto is presented as a small, pathetic guy walking on stilts.
  • National Stereotypes: The Japanese all have big glasses, Asian Buck Teeth, an imbecilic grin, express Japanese Politeness, speak Asian Speekee Engrish, rub their hands constantly and are short in stature. The Japanese "rising sun" flag frequently pops up. Carl Stalling's music also mimicks traditional Japanese music.
  • No Animals Were Harmed: The "King of Swat" misses the fly and gets swatted himself by the insect.
  • No Celebrities Were Harmed: Hideki Tojo, admiral Yamamoto, general Masaharu Homma, Nazi radio propagandist Lord Haw-Haw, Rudolph Hess, Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini all make cameo appearances.
  • No Fourth Wall: When Yamamoto talks about the chair reserved for him in the White House a title card explains that the following scene will show the actual chair reserved for him: the electric chair.Fun Fact 
  • Propaganda Machine: "Tokio Jokio" is an anti-Japanese propaganda cartoon, specifically aimed to ridicule the Japanese army who were the enemy of the Allied Forces back then. But, some jokes don't even have anything to do with their military. The "Kitchen Hints", "Fashion" and "Sports" segment take potshots at the Japanese for no other reason than to ridicule them in these fields too.
  • Public Domain Animation: The cartoon has fallen into public domain, likely because Warner Bros. was so ashamed of it that they didn't renew the copyright.
  • Pun-Based Title: "Tokio Jokio" is a pun both on "Tokio" (an older spelling of Tokyo) and "Tojo".
  • Racial Face Blindness: Enforced. All Japanese people in this cartoon look alike: big glasses, buck teeth, imbecilic grin and small stature.
  • Real Life Writes the Plot:
    • The Japanese sports journalist Red Toga-San is a pun on US sports journalist Red Torgerson.
    • The donkey radio presenter Lord Hee-Haw is a reference to William Joyce, aka Lord Haw Haw, an American Anglophile who worked for the Nazis and presented anti-American radio propaganda during the war. In 1945 he was arrested and hanged in 1946 for high treason.
    • The joke where Hitler receives a post-card from "a friend abroad", who is revealed to be Rudolph Hess in a prison, with the line "Wish you were here", refers to Hess's surprise landing in the UK in 1941, where he tried, without Hitler knowing about it, to make peace with the British. Instead he was made a prisoner immediately. When Hitler heard about this he was furious.
    • Mussolini sitting as "Ruin No. 1" amidst Roman ruins referred to the fact that he had already been ousted out of power in 1943. Still, the Nazis put him back in power as head of a small puppet state called the Sàlo Republic.
    • It may surprise a lot of modern audiences that the "human torpedo" referenced in this cartoon was an actual device used by the Japanese, as part of their many suicide missions to attack the enemy. See also here...
  • Shout-Out:
    • A Japanese baseballer is called "the King of Swat"; this was a play on the nickname of Babe Ruth, the "Sultan of Swat".
    • During the electric chair scene the soundtrack quotes from Fryderyk Chopin's "Funeral March".
    • When Hitler is shown "Oh du Lieber Augustin" is played.
    • When Mussolini is shown the "Figaro" aria from The Barber of Seville from is quoted.
    • When the submarine crashes "Taps" is played, as the Japanese soldier takes off his hat.
  • The Show Must Go Wrong: Every demonstration the Japanese give to their audience goes spectacularly wrong.
  • Standard Snippet: "Oh du Lieber Augustin" and "Figaro" were used a lot in cartoons from that era whenever Germans or Italians were depicted.
  • Stuff Blowing Up: A Japanese man sees an incendiary bomb, waits five seconds before approaching it, but gets blown up anyway.
  • Those Wacky Nazis: Hitler and Hess are ridiculed.
  • Time Marches On: It's obviously a product of its time. However, one scene was dated even when this cartoon first came out. Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto is targeted, but by the time this cartoon was released he had already been killed.
  • Tombstone Teeth: As part of the racist caricature, Japanese people are depicted as conniving and possessing large rectangular teeth.
  • Wartime Cartoon: One of the more infamous examples.
  • Yellow Peril: Somewhat granted, seeing it was made during wartime.