Nuts and Bolts Soldier from Animated Film by George Pal

Nuts and Bolts Soldier from Animated Film by George Pal

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Description (Brief)
This is one of the screwball soldiers created by George Pal for his 1942 production Tulips Shall Grow, an anti-war parody of the rise of the Nazi regime in Europe. This was one of Pal's earliest movies made in the United States. Carved from wood to look like nuts, bolts, and screws and painted silver, Pal's soldiers are discernable caricatures of the "screwball Army" that overran and conquered the peaceful nation of Holland during World War II.
In this film, a Dutch couple enjoying Holland's beautiful landscape with its windmills and tulips witness the invasion of the Nazis that terrorizes the countryside and causes death and destruction in this beautiful country. Literally made to look like nuts, bolts, and screws, the shape and stance of these animated figures represent the rigid and combative mentality of the Nazi soldiers. Regarded as an historically significant film, Tulips Shall Grow was nominated to the National Film Registry in 1997 and placed in the archives of the Library of Congress.

George Pal was one of the pioneers of stop-frame animation, a painstaking process achieved by moving figures and shooting each change on a single frame of motion picture film in a series of progressive steps. For each frame shot, the head, arms, and legs of the figures were changed according to the motions needed to create the illusion of movement. Pal was awarded an honorary Oscar in 1944 for "the development of novel methods and techniques in the production of short subjects known as Puppetoons".

George Paul (1908-1980) nee George Marczincsak, was born in Austria Hungary and educated at the Budapest Academy of Arts where he studied architecture. Limited job opportunities encouraged Pal to further his interest in human anatomy, and he attended a local medical school where he studied kinetic motion—the energy of motion and the interrelationships between moving parts. This sparked Pal’s interest in animation and his studies served him well when he went to work at a silent film company where he became the head of the cartoon department.

By 1933, fascism was on the rise and the Nazi regime was spreading its influence in Europe. Pal fled to Prague, and where he was known as an animator, special effect designer, and producer and then Paris where he opened his own animation studio. He disliked the flat two-dimensional looks of the early cartoons and he began to create three-dimensional figures using carved wood with wire limbs that made for easy movement. Pal created replacement parts, such as heads, arms, and legs, that could be used interchangeably to create the impression of continuous, flowing movement. These puppets with no strings were named “Puppetoons”, a combination of the two words puppet and cartoon. Pal finally settled in Eindhoven, Netherlands were he produced short films and commercials for products that were sold in England, France, and the Netherlands.

On average, the animated shorts lasted about eight minutes, and for each film, Pal created as many as 9,000 puppets with as many as 200-300 heads and appendages. One of his first advertisements included dancing cigarettes.

In 1939, while Pal was traveling in the U.S. lecturing at Columbia University, the Germans invaded Poland. Pal, his wife, and his son were granted asylum in the U.S. and in 1940 he was hired by Paramount Pictures.

Pal had a long and successful career in Hollywood, and his work with the Puppetoons addressed a wide variety of subject matters, including politics, fairy tales, and music. Pal was also well known and respected for his work in feature films and was the first producer-director to combine animated puppets with human actors. He was awarded several patents for his creations and he was awarded eight Academy Awards for his work in film.

Currently not on view
Object Name
figure, animation
maker; producer
Pal, George
Walter Lantz Production
Pal, George
place made
United States: California, Los Angeles
Physical Description
wood (overall material)
metal (overall material)
overall: 4 1/2 in x 4 in x 3 in; 11.43 cm x 10.16 cm x 7.62 cm
ID Number
accession number
catalog number
Credit Line
Gift of Elisabeth Pal
Motion Pictures
World War II
World War II
See more items in
Cultural and Community Life: Entertainment
Movie Collection
Data Source
National Museum of American History
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