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90 Day Wondering (1956)

 -  Animation | Short
6.2
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Ratings: 6.2/10 from 74 users  
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An ex-soldier, quickly growing disenchanted with civilian life, considers the benefits of re-enlistment.

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Title: 90 Day Wondering (1956)

90 Day Wondering (1956) on IMDb 6.2/10

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Little Devil, Little Recruiter (voice)
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Ex-soldier Ralph Phillips, leaving his army camp, is ecstatic at being a civilian again, but finds that all his friends have started to raise families and that there is no place for him in his home town. Dejected, Ralph considers re-enlisting, and he's visited by two opposing figures, one advocating civilian life, the other arguing in favor of the military. The latter convinces Ralph to run back to the army camp. Written by Kevin McCorry <mmccorry@nb.sympatico.ca>

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Animation | Short

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What's "re-up", doc?
8 October 2002 | by (Minffordd, North Wales) – See all my reviews

"90 Day Wondering" was created by the Warner Bros animators at Termite Terrace, and it looks and sounds a lot like a typical Loony Toon of the mid-1950s. But this cartoon was commissioned by the United States Air Force, to be shown as an instructional film for servicemen (and servicewomen) who were nearing the end of their enlistments and were about to re-enter civilian life. This cartoon is military propaganda in the true sense of the term, as it was intended to persuade enlisted personnel to re-enlist. However, this was a worthy objective, so I shan't criticise this cartoon's intentions.

The title "90 Day Wondering" refers to the fact that a serviceman who leaves the military with an honourable discharge still has 90 days in which he or she can re-enlist without losing rank, seniority or other accrued benefits. There is also a dark side to this (not mentioned in the cartoon): a discharged serviceman is still bound by military law for his first 90 days of civilian life, and can be subject to military arrest if regulations are broken. This rule is in place to discourage any ex-PFC who waits outside the military base, planning to assault his former sergeant. Sad to say, it happens.

At the start of "90 Day Wondering", red-headed Ralph Phillips (a name formerly used by Chuck Jones for a little-boy cartoon character) has just been discharged from the Army, and he can't wait to get back to Civvy Street. "I'm a sigh-vilyun!" he shouts. "I'm human again!" But now he learns the downside of civilian life. He phones his old girlfriend, hoping to pick up where he left off ... and discovers she now has a child. He returns to his hometown, visiting the soda shop where he used to hang out: the place is now swarming with bobby-soxers and 1950s teenagers, and Ralph suddenly feels very old (a long beard sprouts on his face instantaneously).

The second half of "90 Day Wondering" is a variation on the old routine where the cartoon character has a little cartoon devil on one shoulder and a little cartoon angel on the other shoulder. Here, ex-Private Phillips has a little cartoon civilian companion (in a snappy business suit) who tells Ralph how much more money he can make in Civvy Street. But now here comes a little cartoon soldier, jauntily whistling "The Caissons Go Rolling Along" as he marches smartly along. Using charts and figures, this little guy points out all the benefits that Phillips will get if he re-enlists. Sure, his G.I. salary ain't much ... but he'll get free housing, free clothes, free meals, education, pension plan (unless he gets sent to war and killed first) and so forth. Ralph is convinced ... but his 90 days are about to expire. Zooming as fast as the Road Runner, Ralph rushes back to his Army base, shouting "Re-up! Re-up!" (G.I. slang for "re-enlist"), with his little civilian alter ego right behind him, also planning to enlist.

"90 Day Wondering" is only slightly funny, but it doesn't try to be hilarious. The animation is nothing special. The cartoon serves its purpose, showing military personnel the advantages of re-enlistment. This cartoon was made during the Cold War, yet makes no mention of that situation ... probably an intentional omission. Made for the peacetime USAF, "90 Day Wondering" isn't nearly as funny (nor as hard-edged) as the "Private Snafu" cartoons made by Warners for the wartime military. For those of us who are "sigh-vilyuns", this cartoon is a mildly interesting curiosity.


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