Hitch in Time Hitch in Time

“A Hitch in Time” By Chuck Jones

A Hitch in Time is a new one for me: a 1955 propaganda short directed by Chuck Jones that encouraged U. S. Air Force personnel to re-enlist. The cartoon appeared last year on the first volume of the Looney Tunes Platinum Collection.

What impresses most about this short are the production values. Layout artist Ernie Nordli and background painter Philip De Guard give a masterclass in composition and color.

There is absolutely no reason a didactic re-enlistment film like this needs to look so good except that the artists who made it didn’t know how to do it anyway else. They were craftsmen at the top of their game, and they managed to turn the most mundane material into something entertaining and beautiful.

Chuck Jones is at his peak as an artist, and his character layouts of the two main characters are lots of fun. The animation is equally expert. Although the movement plays second fiddle to Jones’s overpowering poses, it’s no mean feat to give life to designs as organic and complex as these.

The film is no classic, but it’s a must-see for any fan of Chuck Jones and Golden Age Hollywood animation.

(via Cartoon Retro)

  • Even with a cigar smoking, five o’clock shadow wearing, pixie in his underwear it was still pretty.

    • the Gee

      The gremlin appeared in at least one other one.

      It may have been a SNAFU short or the ones featuring the character in the Navy–which I think was more likely.

  • Mac

    They should run this in front of The Master

  • Adam

    Wow, Chuck Jones own interperetation of a more subtle and less naive Private Snafu. Would have been interesting if Snafu had become one of the regular looney tunes characters at the time. Come to think of it I’m kind of suprised he wasn’t brought back during the Vietnam era.

    • Chris Sobieniak

      Of course by then, animation was already downgraded to the Saturday morning kiddie farm.

    • dbenson

      Now I’m curious. Was the Technical Gremlin just an inside Warner joke, or was he known to postwar soldiers? The cartoon seems to assume we know his usual gig is to teach a lesson rather than be an actual troublemaking gremlin.

      I can imagine some of less WWII-specific Snafus — the one about the malaria mosquito army, for example — lingering on like old classroom films. Or perhaps the character had a second life on posters and printed materials, with or without Snafu.


  • Madman Mike

    Well, it worked on me. Now I want to enlist in… Warner Bros. Animation.

  • Another link in the long-standing mystery of the word “Tralfaz”…

  • Vik

    Fun cartoon that was beautifully-done! Thanks for sharing the link!

  • Mike Kozlowski

    …As a retired Air Force NCO, all I can say is…priceless.

  • Here’s another obscure Chuck Jones short from archive.org…

    From Wicked Peenia:
    “Hell-Bent For Election was a 1944 two-reel (thirteen minute) animated cartoon short subject now in the public domain. The short was one of the first major films from United Productions of America. As UPA did not have a full staff or a studio location until the late-1940s, this film was made in animator Zack Schwartz’s apartment with the help of moonlighters from various local Hollywood animation studios. Among the moonlighters was Chuck Jones, who directed the film.”

  • ShouldBeWorkin’

    Thanks for discovering and sharing. I guess “Technical Fairy” had other connotations by the 60s so a gremlin he became.
    Makes a great bookend to that one with the grown-up Ralph Phillips in the army.

  • Toonio

    Forget the potential fact of being blown to smithereens while on duty (or other stuff that I just want to skip) and I’m sold. Nothing like good appealing animation and composition to sell ANYTHING.

    Guess on the patriotic shorts Warner gave Disney a run for it’s money.

    And with all due credit to Jones, Nordli and Guard mind also Ken Harris (he got no respect like Dangerfield ;) )

  • Paul M

    You forgot to mention voicework by the great Mel Blanc, in fine form conversing with himself, as usual.

    While this one may not be a ‘classic’, it definitely belongs in a platinum collection of classics.

    Thanks for the head’s up.

  • rnigma

    Much better than those Alfred Sloan Foundation -funded shorts Friz Freleng directed, with the economics lectures shoehorned in.

  • Kevin Martinez

    This is why the Golden Age artists are so darn admirable; they didn’t discriminate between “lesser” projects and more worthy ones. They gave their all no matter what it was for.

    It’s quite inspiring to us up-and-comers.

    • the Gee

      I think it was a lot more complicated than that.

      Maybe not for all studios but for some animators I think there were circumstances which led to them doing work you might consider “lesser” productions.

      I don’t think it was as cut and dry as choosing between pro bono work and a fat budget for a wide release.

  • James Madison

    LMBO @ Madman Mike’s comment.

    Good post, Amid.

  • Gray64

    I know one of the Golden Collections has a thematically similar short, about re-enlisting in the Army, also directed by Chuck Jones. I think it starred, of all things, a grown-up Ralph Phillips…

    From what I understand, pretty much everyone who worked on the old Looney Tunes shorts loved what they were doing, from the directors to the writers to the animators to the sound people. It shows!

  • I rarely watch Looney Tunes these days, so every time I watch one I’m completely blown away. Such beautiful stuff to look at. Even when it’s something like this.

  • Stéphane Dumas

    Thanks for sharing this hidden treasure. :-)

    Also, Chuck Jones directed another similar toon named “Drafty Isn it?” made in 1957 http://youtu.be/ySpwBpCZ-EM

    It could be interesting to compare it with an other educationnal cartoon named “Make Mine Freedom” made earlier, in 1948 who’s archived on Archive.org and there also copies of it floating on Youtube.

  • “Jones’s overpowering poses”… Well that certainly sums up my view, Amid.

    For my money, this is one of the earliest examples of what went wrong with the cartoons of Chuck Jones. It was of course economical and completely sensible to let Jones’s poses (and the background layout artists) carry the picture in this instance. It was just another propaganda film the studio had to pump out. Only deep into the late fifties were the theatrical shorts affected, when Jones’s character layouts become truly confining. Up until he left to do the Bell Science special, the individuality of the animators was still very much discernible and a pleasanter balance resulted. No doubt it stroked Jones’s ego and they’re still the most handsomely designed cartoons of a bleak era, but the sacrifice of that interplay between Harris, Washam, Levitow, etc. was a price too high.

    But they were all masterfully skilled, and it’s a pretty cartoon regardless. If Cartoon Network clogged it’s schedule with gorgeous eye candy like this I might actually watch the channel.

  • ooo, sweet JESUS!! Only HERE can one find such a giant gem. Thank YOO! Wow!