Tokio Jokio

Last updated
Tokio Jokio
Directed by Cpl. Norman McCabe
Story by Don Christensen
Produced by Leon Schlesinger
Starring Mel Blanc
Music by Carl W. Stalling
Animation by I. Ellis
Color process Black and white
Distributed by
Release date
May 15, 1943
Running time
7 minutes

Tokio Jokio is a 1943 Looney Tunes propaganda short directed by Norman McCabe. [1] The cartoon is notorious and controversial for its "racist depictions of Japanese people." This is also noted for being the final Norman McCabe cartoon. [2] [3]


The name of the cartoon is a pun on "Tokyo", the capital of Japan (Tokio is the old English romanization), and "joke". The cartoon is possibly also a pun on Tojo's name, with the first two syllables of each word spelling his name (Tokio Jokio).


Original black and white title cards and film frame Tokio Jokio clips.jpg
Original black and white title cards and film frame

The film pretends to be a newsreel from Japanese cinema that was captured by American troops during World War II. Each segment features a separate story supposedly praising Japanese life and the war effort. In reality, each segment contains often racist satirical content to depict the Japanese and their Axis allies as incompetent, pathetic, self-destructive failures. [4]

The cartoon opens with an unseen narrator announcing that footage of Japan has been released to the public. The footage starts with a rooster that is a parody of Pathé with the opening of the Defile March playing in the background. The "rooster" attempts to crow, but it is revealed that it is actually a vulture in a costume. The vulture has glasses and buck teeth, and is seen rubbing its wings together and saying "Oh, cock-a-doodle, prease", all stereotypical traits to show that the vulture is Japanese.

The first segment is "Civilian Defense", and the voiceover presents the Japanese air raid siren system. This "system" is two Japanese men who take turns poking each other's buttocks with a giant needle (a reference to the obscene Japanese gesture kancho) and screaming in pain. A listening post is also shown in the following scene, showing a small Japanese man walking around a pole covered in keyholes. There is also an "aircraft spotter", and another Japanese man is literally painting spots on a plane. The narrator turns to show the fire prevention headquarters, but it was already burned down.

"Incendiary Bombs" gives a lesson on bombs, with text stating that one should not approach them for the first five seconds. A small Japanese man with an umbrella walks onto the screen and reads the text, so he looks at his watch (the watch is covered with swastikas) and counts for six seconds before cooking a sausage over the bomb with his umbrella. The bomb explodes and the man is blasted into a hole in the ground. The man, however, survives and climbs out of the hole, then makes a comment about losing face – having literally lost his face, despite his glasses and hat remaining in place.

In "Kitchen Hints", Hideki Tojo is shown as a cook. He gives instructions for making a Japanese club sandwich out of ration cards. He then proceeds to eat the "sandwich" and hits himself in the head with an actual club. Tojo now has a large lump on his head, and he is playing with his lips.

The next segment is "Nippon-Nifties Style Show", and the narrator presents a "Japanese Victory Suit". The narrator states that the suit has no cuffs, no pleats, and no lapel. This actually means there is no suit, and a small, almost-naked Japanese man wearing a diaper is shivering in the snow and trying to warm himself with a small candle.

The scene switches to a sports announcer, a Japanese man named Red Toga-San (whose name is a pun on sports journalists Red Barber and Stan Thorgerson), talking out of a hole around a black background. As he is making an announcement, the hole closes on his lips, which then fall to the ground and are revealed to be false teeth with the label "Made in Japan". The Japanese "King of Swat" (a reference to Babe Ruth's nickname as the Sultan of Swat) is shown in the next scene, wearing a baseball outfit next to a trophy that is identical to his head in shape. A fly then appears onscreen, and the "King of Swat" attempts to swat it while spinning around. The fly grabs the flyswatter from the "King of Swat" and hits him with it, then flies away with the trophy.

"Headline Poisonalities" shows some personalities that made the headline that week. Isoroku Yamamoto is seen standing behind a desk and introduces himself as he walks on stilts to look taller. He states that he "will dictate peace terms in the White House". An editor's note covers the screen, telling the audience that the room in the next scene is reserved for Yamamoto. When the card is removed, there is an opened door and inside the room is an electric chair, and Chopin's Marche funèbre is quoted.

The scene fades and the narrator explains how General Homma demonstrates "Japanese coolness and calmness during air raid attacks". However, this statement is ironic since Homma is shown running around in a forest and bumping into trees. Homma then panics and runs inside a hollow log. Homma sticks his head out of the log, panting. A skunk also comes out of the log and sniffs Homma in disgust, so it ducks back into the log and reappears with a gas mask.

"Flashes from the Axis" shows news from outside Japan. From Berlin, a caricature of Lord Haw-Haw appears as a donkey named "Lord Hee Haw" ('Chief Wind-Bag'). He brays loudly before reading from his papers, saying that "the Führer has just received a postcard from a friend vacationing abroad". Next a hand is seen holding a post-card, and the song O du lieber Augustin (due to the association with Germany) plays. It is flipped over, the other side has an image of Rudolf Hess in a concentration camp. The next scene shows that the other hand is that of Adolf Hitler who then twitches his mustache in confusion (in a similar manner to Charlie Chaplin).

From Rome, the "celebrated" Roman ruins are shown as Largo al factotum is quoted (hence the association with Italy). Each of the ruins are numbered with signs. Benito Mussolini is sitting on the pillar labelled as "Ruin #1" as he plays with a yo-yo with a sad expression on his face.

The next segment focuses on the "Japanese Navy... all at sea" and focuses on the achievements. A submarine appears, and the narrator says that it had launched three weeks ahead of schedule. However, this was apparently done prior to its completion, as workers are still building it as it moves underwater. A small Japanese man runs onscreen and tries to stop the submarine, but it crashes and he stops running and takes his hat off as "Taps" plays in the background. He then shrugs and walks in the opposite direction. A group of Japanese sailors are then seen using what the narrator calls "intricate and technical machinery", but are actually various arcade machines. The song that briefly plays in the background is Nagasaki .

The narrator then introduces a "happy gentleman" riding inside a human torpedo. The narrator then asks him if he has anything to say, and he responds with "No uh, nothing, except...RET ME OUTTA HERE!", apparently stuck inside the torpedo.

The final segment shows literal interpretations of boats and planes. A plane is shot in the air with what is stated to be a "super-duper cataproat device" but is in fact just a giant slingshot, or "catapult". Another plane has tricycle landing gear, made up of a tricycle with a small Japanese man riding on it. The aircraft carrier Skinomaru passes by, haphazardly carrying the wrecks of crashed airplanes. Finally, a navy minesweeper with arms floats by, and is literally sweeping away mines with a broom. The ship explodes, and after the smoke clears a buoy emerges out of the water with the note "Regrettable incident please".


Tokio Jokio is one of the 122 Warner Bros. animated shorts identified as having not had its copyright renewed in 1971 and is thus in the public domain in the United States. [5]

Related Research Articles

<i>Duck Amuck</i> 1953 film

Duck Amuck is an American animated surreal comedy short film directed by Chuck Jones and written by Michael Maltese. The short was released on January 17, 1953, as part of the Merrie Melodies series, and stars Daffy Duck.

<i>Martian Through Georgia</i> 1962 film

Martian Through Georgia is a 1962 Warner Bros. Looney Tunes cartoon, directed by Chuck Jones, Maurice Noble, and Abe Levitow. The short was released on December 29, 1962.

<i>Bugs Bunny Nips the Nips</i> 1944 film by Friz Freleng

Bugs Bunny Nips the Nips is a 1944 Merrie Melodies cartoon directed by Friz Freleng. The cartoon, released on April 22, 1944, features Bugs Bunny. The film depicts Bugs fighting against the Imperial Japanese Army in the Pacific War. The film is considered controversial for caricaturing the Japanese enemy, and expressing anti-Japanese sentiment.

<i>The Bugs Bunny Show</i> Animated television anthology series

The Bugs Bunny Show is a long-running American animated anthology television series hosted by Bugs Bunny that was mainly composed of theatrical Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies cartoons released by Warner Bros. between 1948 and 1969. The show originally debuted as a primetime half-hour program on ABC in 1960, featuring three theatrical Looney Tunes cartoons with new linking sequences produced by the Warner Bros. Cartoons staff.

<i>Hare-um Scare-um</i> 1939 Bugs Bunny cartoon

Hare-um Scare-um is a 1939 Warner Bros. Merrie Melodies cartoon directed by Ben Hardaway and Cal Dalton. The short was released on August 12, 1939, and is the third short to feature the rabbit that would evolve into Bugs Bunny.

<i>She Was an Acrobats Daughter</i> 1937 film

She Was an Acrobat's Daughter is an animated short in the Merrie Melodies series, produced by Vitaphone Productions and released by Warner Bros. Pictures, Inc. on April 10, 1937. This animated short was directed by I. Freleng and produced by Leon Schlesinger.

Aviation Vacation is a 1941 Warner Bros. Merrie Melodies theatrical short directed by Tex Avery, with story by Dave Monahan and musical direction by Carl Stalling. The cartoon was released on August 2, 1941.

Robert Cameron Bruce Jr. was an American voice actor and the son of Robert Cameron Bruce (1887–1948) who was a cinematographer and documentary producer. He was the narrator for a number of Warner Bros. cartoons in the 1930s and 1940s. The Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies series' had occasional entries which were driven not by one of their stable of stars such as Bugs Bunny or Daffy Duck, but by individual short sketches, usually filled with sight gags and word-play. Later he was a writer and producer of industrial motion pictures based in Minnesota.

<i>Sahara Hare</i> 1955 film by Friz Freleng

Sahara Hare is a 1955 Warner Bros. Looney Tunes theatrical cartoon short directed by Friz Freleng. The short was released on March 26, 1955, and stars Bugs Bunny and Yosemite Sam.

<i>Japoteurs</i> 1942 film

Japoteurs (1942) is the tenth of seventeen animated Technicolor short films based upon the DC Comics character of Superman, originally created by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster. The first Superman cartoon produced by Famous Studios, Japoteurs covers Superman's adventures stopping Japanese spies from hijacking a bomber plane and bringing it to Tokyo. This cartoon does not bear the Famous Studios name because that company had not yet been fully organized after Max Fleischer was removed by Paramount Pictures from the studio which bore his name. The cartoon was originally released to theaters by Paramount Pictures on September 18, 1942. Japoteurs was the first Famous Studios cartoon filmed in color.

<i>The Ducktators</i> 1942 American film

The Ducktators is a 1942 Warner Bros. Looney Tunes short directed by Norman McCabe. The short was released on August 1, 1942, and satirizes events of World War II. The title is a pun on dictator.

<i>Injun Trouble</i> (1969 film) 1969 film

Injun Trouble is a 1969 Merrie Melodies cartoon, directed by Robert McKimson. The cartoon was released on September 20, 1969, and features Cool Cat. It is noted for being the last cartoon in the original Merrie Melodies series, ending a run that had continued since 1931, as well as the whole original Looney Tunes/Merrie Melodies series from 1930-1969. Additionally, this was the 1,000th cartoon short released by Warner Bros.

<i>The Weakly Reporter</i> 1944 film

The Weakly Reporter is a Warner Bros. cartoon released on March 25, 1944. Directed by Chuck Jones, written by Michael Maltese, and with music directed by Carl Stalling, this cartoon is a spoof of sacrifices made by those on the homefront during World War II.

<i>Crazy Cruise</i> 1942 film by Tex Avery, Bob Clampett

Crazy Cruise is a 1942 Warner Bros. Merrie Melodies cartoon. The short was released on March 14, 1942.

<i>A Star Is Bored</i> 1956 American film

A Star Is Bored is a 1956 Warner Bros. Looney Tunes cartoon, directed by Friz Freleng. The short was released on September 15, 1956, and stars Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck. The cartoon expands upon the rivalry depicted between Bugs and Daffy, in such films as Chuck Jones' 1951 short Rabbit Fire, this time placing the action in a show-biz setting. In this 7-minute short, Daffy must double for Bugs in any slapstick that Warners deems too dangerous for its top star. After each disaster, Daffy shouts "MAKEUP!". The director directing the scenes has an Erich Von Stroheim accent.

<i>Looney Tunes Golden Collection: Volume 6</i> 2008 American film

Looney Tunes Golden Collection: Volume 6 is a four-disc DVD box set collection of Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies cartoons. Following the pattern of one release each year of the previous volumes, it was released on October 21, 2008. It is the final release in the Golden Collection series. Succeeding the Golden Collection series would be the Looney Tunes Platinum Collection series on Blu-ray, first released November 2011. On July 3, 2012, a two-disc DVD version of Volume 1 of the Platinum Collection was released.

<i>Confusions of a Nutzy Spy</i> 1943 American film

Confusions of a Nutzy Spy is a 1943 Warner Bros. Looney Tunes cartoon directed by Norman McCabe. The short was released on January 23, 1943, and stars Porky Pig.

<i>Africa Squeaks</i> 1940 film

Africa Squeaks is a 1940 Warner Bros. Looney Tunes cartoon directed by Bob Clampett. The short was released on January 27, 1940, and stars Porky Pig.

World War II changed the possibilities for animation. Prior to the war, animation was mostly seen as a form of family entertainment. The attack on Pearl Harbor was a turning point in its utility. On December 8, 1941, the United States Army began working with Walt Disney at his studio, stationing Military personnel there for the duration of the war. The Army and Disney set about making various types of films for several different audiences. Most films meant for the public included some type of propaganda, while films for the troops included training and education about a given topic.

<i>Bartholomew Versus the Wheel</i> 1964 film

Bartholomew Versus the Wheel is a 1964 Warner Bros. Merrie Melodies cartoon directed by Robert McKimson. It was released theatrically on February 29, 1964.


  1. Beck, Jerry; Friedwald, Will (1989). Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies: A Complete Illustrated Guide to the Warner Bros. Cartoons. Henry Holt and Co. p. 141. ISBN   0-8050-0894-2.
  2. Behnken, Brian D.; Smithers, Gregory D. (2015). Racism in American Popular Media: From Aunt Jemima to the Frito Bandito. ABC-CLIO. pp. 107–108. ISBN   9781440829772 . Retrieved 13 June 2020.
  3. "Norm McCabe".
  4. "Norm McCabe".
  5. "Looney Tunes in the Public Domain". Archived from the original on March 26, 2016. Retrieved December 29, 2019., based upon Film Superlist: Motion Pictures in the U.S. Public Domain by Walter E. Hurst.