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Thursday, November 27, 2014

Disney at War: Shorts from World War II

animated shorts from World War II worldwartwo.filminspector.com
A scene from a wartime animated short.

Walt Disney, both the man and the studio, were prime movers in the U.S. war effort. The studio created numerous shorts and advertisements to support the Allies, and Walt himself served as an ambassador of sorts on behalf of the U.S. State Department. It was during the war that Mickey Mouse started to slip from his perch at the top of the Disney heap and Donald Duck moved in, becoming the country's most popular animated star by 1943.

animated shorts from World War II worldwartwo.filminspector.com
Donald Duck helps sell war bonds (Walt Disney/Hank Porter, WDP c. 1943).

"Der Fuehrer's Face" in 1943 was a hit Disney animated movie. It spun off a hit song, with the song advertising itself as being taken from the hit movie. The movie, meanwhile, eventually advertised itself as being taken from the hit song. Ain't advertising grand? That's called synergy.

animated shorts from World War II worldwartwo.filminspector.com

Hollywood's animated shorts from World War II also used Mickey Mouse and Bugs Bunny (who only was "born" in July 1940). However, Donald Duck was the pearl in the oyster.

animated shorts from World War II worldwartwo.filminspector.com


In addition, there was Daffy Duck from Warner Brothers, and other animated characters all urging you to save that cooking fat to help the boys in the trenches. Daffy never approached the success of Donald Duck or Mickey, but did have a loyal following. Animation was especially important during World War II because it was in color, when all the other films were in black and white. That made going to see an animated film a unique and memorable experience for the time.

animated shorts from World War II worldwartwo.filminspector.com
Der Fuhrer gets it on der Cranium.

It's kind of uncanny how live action films from the period appear creaky, dated and old, while animated shorts may deal with period themes, but they appear fresh and practically new. That's the power of a leap in technology, simply adding color was the key ingredient.

animated shorts from World War II worldwartwo.filminspector.com


The jokes in "In Der Fuehrer's Face" and some of the other wartime animated films are surprisingly sophisticated and assume an informed audience. There are plenty of clever puns and subtle word-plays. Of course, there also are very broad stereotypes of the Germans and Japanese, but there was a war on, you know. Nobody was too worried about the rights of Japanese or Third Reich supporters in the 1940s.

animated shorts from World War II worldwartwo.filminspector.com


"Der Fuehrer's Face" won Best Animated Short for 1943.



Disney's "The Thrifty Pig" (1941) shows how the themes of animated films films subtly reinforced themes that the U.S. government was trying to convey.

animated shorts from World War II worldwartwo.filminspector.com
This is the sheet music for the hit song "from the Walt Disney Motion Picture."
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2017

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