Americas, USA, World

Cartoons & Propaganda in the U.S.: Disney, Hitler & War bonds

We’ve already taken a look at how racist cartoons have been in the past. However, those examples were solely meant for entertainment purposes back then; there is an another dimension of old racist cartoons we haven’t yet touched on: Propaganda Cartoons.

Propaganda in Cartoons

All is fair in love or war — that’s what they used to say at least. So why not use cartoons to get even the youngest members of society into war mood. Show them the enemy, mock their race and win for your country. It’s that easy. Guess what, we have selected seven cartoons to show you just how the U.S.A. used entertainment for propaganda purposes, many of them based on racist depictions of both the enemy and other races in general.

The Fuhrer’s Face (1943, Disney)

Just like the last article, how about we start this one with the most famous of the bunch: Disney. Disney has a vast backlog of propaganda movies stirring hate and ridicule about the enemy. The main character in these endeavors is usually cultural mediator Donald Duck himself. In this case, poor Donald is part of the Nazi war machine, working in a shell factory.

This short was produced by Disney to sell War Bonds, and it was well received too, winning an Academy Award the same year and was voted number 22 of the 50 best Cartoons of all time in 1994. It is not alright banned, but Disney prefers to keep images of Donald Duck as a Nazi under wraps. We hear you! It is quite disturbing, to say the least, even though it is genuinely well made.

Commando Duck (1944, Disney)

Another Donald Duck animated short, this time with some hands-on time for Donald on the battlefield in Japan. Just one year after The Fuhrer’s Face, everyone’s favorite bird-based Disney character get’s into some combat action on foreign soil, including some stereotypical depictions of Japanese Snipers trying to make Donald’s live a tad shorter.

Unlike the previous cartoon, this one gets’s air time until today, as it is based on Donald Duck’s adventure and the Japanese depictions are more an afterthought. Those are therefore usually cut from modern presentations of this old animated short.

Tokio Jokio (1943, Warner bros.)

Another major player of the 40’s was Warner Bros. and The Looney Toons, chipping in with some propaganda cartoons. This animated short was designed to mimic a Japanese News Broadcast, delivering short animated jokes in quick succession.

The whole short is a best of the worst Japanese stereotypes thrown in a blender. That is also one of the reasons why Warner Bros never broadcasted this cartoon.

Daffy – The Commando (1943, Warner Bros.)

Another Duck to get up close and personal with the enemy. This time it’s Daffy Duck, that wanders behind German lines to wreak havoc, yell semi-correct German and eventually greet The Fuhrer with a hammer to the head.

If Hitler getting hammered by a duck is not motivating, I don’t know what is. Unlike other cartoons, this one is available in the public domain and has therefore been released and used in several instances after WWII.

The Ducktators (1942, Warner Bros.)

One cannot shake the feeling, that ducks seem to be the favorite motive for both Disney and Warner to use during this time. The Ducktators is a sweeping blow against the U.S. enemy forces depicting Hitler, Mussolini and a, not as closely specified, Japanese duck wreaking havoc.

The highlight here is the white peace dove beating up all three at the end with a nice disclaimer saying: “For Victory Buy United States Savings Bonds and Stamps”.

Any Bonds Today? (1942, Warner Bros.)

How about an interlude? The ice cream commercials today were the War Bonds commercials during WWII. This one consists of Bugs Bunny performing a song to animate movie-goers to purchase War Bonds to finance the war efforts.

Like nowadays with ice cream, there would be collectors in the theaters to sell said War Bonds during or right after this clip was shown before or in between movies. Nifty little sales trick.

Education for Death (1943, Disney)

Coming back to Disney, this time with an animated short that is not primarily meant to entertain by painting funny characters on the screen (though it does so anyway). This one is based on the book of the same name by Gregor Ziemer, following the development of a small child and its transformation to a Nazi through the German educational system.

The most notable here is probably the accurate German that is spoken throughout the short, though most parts are and were not translated into English. The mostly severe and dramatic undertone is also something not too often found in these kinds of animated clips, for propaganda purposes or otherwise.

Private Snafu (1943 – 1945, U.S. War Department)

The government didn’t only order films from established film companies but also created some of their own. Private Snafu was a character featured in a series of animated instructional videos for U.S. Army personnel, basically just educating their staff of what not to do. Like carelessly spilling your beans in front of a hot Nazi chick with antenna tits.

Sneaky Nazis, what a foul move. Poor Private Snafu.

The New Spirit (1942, Disney)

A little fun fact before we leave. Did you know the only reason why Disney has produced so many propaganda movies is that they faced bankruptcy during WWII? This was partly based on the massive losses they had with their film Fantasia in 1940. So the government contract to produce several propaganda films may have been their saving grace. So let’s watch another one then, shall we?

This one, in particular, tried to get the American citizens to go all in. It demanded of them the ultimate sacrifice: Income Tax! Or as they say “Taxes to beat the Axis”.

In the end, this animated short is a detailed manual how to do your income tax back in the day with some patriotic messages thrown in for good measure. All for Freedom. And Guns. Murica.

About Andreas Salmen

Born and raised in Germany, learned a job in IT and Business and ultimately decided that this wasn't exactly where my life was going to end. Left everything behind to become a writing backpacker instead. The world's crumbling away anyway so why not write about it and get a few good Instagram pics on the way, am I right?

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