Friday, September 27, 2013

Little Johnny Jet (1953)

1 Nomination, 0 Wins

Nomination: Best Short Subject, Cartoons - Fred Quimby

"Little Johnny Jet" is an animated short made by the dream team of producer Fred Quimby, director Tex Allen, and screenwriter Heck Allen that made countless great shorts for MGM.  With Daws Butler - the voice of Yogi Bear, Huckleberry Hound, and scores of other characters - providing the voice of Father Jet, this short had all the right parts to make for a classic.  There's nothing so creative or unexpected or hysterically funny about this film that should have earned it an Oscar nomination, but it's a clever and enjoyable short nonetheless, and is an interesting historic relic of the years immediately following the widespread adoption of the jet aircraft.

The U.S. introduced its first jet bomber, the B-45 Tornado, in 1948, just five years before this film was released, and the first commercial jet service was offered by BOAC in 1952.  This was all part of the widespread adoption of new technologies that came in the decade after World War II.  Commenting on the fears that many felt upon the dismissal of outdated technologies, "Little Johnny Jet" tells the story of Father Jet (Butler), an old-fashioned bomber plane who has lost his job due to the arrival of jets.  After learning he will soon have a child, he tries to reenlist in the military, but is turned away because his technology is outmoded.  With no options left to him, Father Jet enters a race against jets to prove his worth, but just after the race begins he quickly falls into a tailspin, hurtling toward his demise, only to be saved by his son, who saves him and helps him win the race.  The government orders more planes like Little Johnny Jet, and we see Father Jet worry as Mother Jet lets him know that more planes are on the way.

The plot is a straightforward one, and the humor is uncharacteristically minimal for a Tex Avery film.  What makes this film interesting is the subtext, with Father Jet representing the older generation who were being forced to move aside for the new generation of young men returning home from the war.  This older generation is depicted in the film as not having a chance, and it can only compete when saved by the younger generation.  Even when the older generation is victorious, the only job of the old generation is to enable the new generation.  Avery and Allen were both in their early 40's at the time of this film's release, straddling the two generations, though they seem to be joining the camp of the young in "Little Johnny Jet."  60 years later, in a time of great economic uncertainty where we are once again in a cycle of generational shift, "Little Johnny Jet" is remarkably more relevant than many of the funnier but less thematic offerings released by the dream team of MGM animation.

Remaining: 3126 films, 857 Oscars, 5349 nominations

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