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Tag Archives: Propaganda

April 9

April 9, 1946 – The Educational Film Jet Propulsion is Delivered to General Electric

On April 9, 1946, the educational film Jet Propulsion was delivered to General Electric Company. Although World War II ended on September 2, 1945, Disney was still in dire straits, with very little capital after having spent time and money almost solely on the war effort. To supplement, the Disney Studios continued to create training films for various companies, such as the Firestone Tire and Rubber Company, and General Motors. Jet Propulsion centered around the development of airplanes, starting with the history of their development to a breakdown of their various parts.


March 4

March 4, 1943 – Der Fuehrer’s Face Wins Academy Award


“We heil! Heil! Right in der Fuehrer’s face!”

On March 4, 1943, the 15th Academy Awards were held at the Coconut Grove in Los Angeles, California. The Disney propaganda short film Der Fuehrer’s Face won the Academy Award for Best Animated Short Film, beating out the likes of All Out for V, Blitz Wolf, Juke Box Jamboree, Pigs in a Polka, and Tulips Shall Grow. Most of the shorts in this category, including Der Fuehrer’s Face, ridiculed the brainwashing tactics of Nazism and were very anti-German, save for Pigs in a Polka, which parodied Disney’s Three Little Pigs and Fantasia. The song for Der Fuehrer’s Face, written by studio composer Oliver Wallace, also proved to be very popular after it was recorded by Spike Jones and His City Slickers.

December 17

December 17, 1943 – The Wartime Propaganda Short Film Chicken Little is Released to Theaters


“As our story continues, we find all our fine feathered friends happy and contented. And why not? Didn’t they have a big strong fence protecting them?

On December 17, 1943, the wartime propaganda special short film Chicken Little premiered in theaters. The short was a piece about persuasion and falling under the sway of leaders with sinister agendas. Originally it was supposed to have explicit connotations of World War II, with Foxy Logy reading Mein Kampf, but was left generic to be used in potential future cases. The short was directed by Clyde Geronimi.

The story begins in a small peaceful farmyard, and introduces the characters: the mayor rooster Cocky Locky, local gossip Henny Penny, intellectual Turkey Lurkey, the carefree Jitterbirds, bar regulars Goosey Poosey and Ducky Lucky, and the main character Chicken Little. The entire community feels safe with a large fence protecting them, and don’t seem to notice Foxy Loxy taking an interest in the chickens. He decides to use psychology to get all of the chickens, and begins with Chicken Little, pegging him to be the least intelligent of the lot. He tricks Chicken Little into thinking the sky is falling with a bit of show and a piece of a sign. Chicken Little believes the lie Foxy Loxy told him, and it spreads like wildfire. Cocky Locky doesn’t believe it, and reassures the group that it was just a piece of wood that hit Chicken Little on the head. Undeterred, Foxy Loxy changes strategy to make the chickens lose faith in Cocky Locky. Through holes in the fence, Foxy Loxy manages to spread rumors and false information to each different group within the community, and again it spreads through the community. He then eggs on Chicken Little to assume the leadership, and through his whispers, he convinces Chicken Little to take the entire community to the cave – right where Foxy Loxy is lying in wait. Cocky Locky is left as the lone chicken in the yar, with Foxy Loxy devouring every last chicken.


November 19

November 19, 1941 – The Wartime Educational Film The Thrifty Pig is Delivered


“You ought not to sing and dance while there’s danger all about. You should get your houses wolf-proof: bricks like these will keep him out.”

On November 19, 1941, the wartime educational film The Thrifty Pig was delivered to the National Film Board of Canada. It was the first of a series of films created by Disney for this particular project, with the goal of persuading Canadians to invest in war bonds. The short is similar to the Silly Symphony The Three Little Pigs, which was a huge success for the studio upon its release and deemed the perfect story to make the war bond case; this was also the first case of “cartoon recycling” for the studio in order to keep costs down.

Practical Pig is working on his house while his brothers tease him. He warns them that they should make their houses “wolf-proof”, which he is doing with war bonds. His brothers sing that they aren’t afraid of the wolf, and while they do, the wolf – now in Nazi regalia – shows up to try and capture them. He blows down Fifer Pig’s house first, then goes after Fiddler Pig’s house. Fifer and Fiddler Pig escape to Practical Pig’s house, with the wolf hot on their trail. When he tries to blow down Practical Pig’s house, all he does is blow away the top layer to reveal multiple Canadian savings bonds; Practical Pig then uses some extra bond bricks to chase the wolf away. In the end, the pigs all sing about protecting themselves from the wolf by lending their savings. An animated plea for Canadians to do their part to stop the Axis is then presented at the end of the short.

January 7

January 7, 1943 – The Wartime Short Film The Spirit of ’43 is Delivered to the U.S. Treasury Department

Spirit of 43

“You must save for victory!”

On January 7, 1943, the wartime short film The Spirit of ’43 was delivered the U.S. Treasury Department. After the success of The New Spirit, the Treasury Department was more than eager to have Donald represent them again and encourage Americans to pay their taxes to help the war fund. After the debacle in the House for not paying Disney for The New Spirit, it was decided that the Treasury Department’s funds for the short would have to be approved by Congress in advance; the $20,000 came through quickly. Unfortunately, this amount wasn’t enough to pay for brand new animation, so the studio reused some footage from The New Spirit.

A factory whistle blows, signaling payday. As Donald walks with his cash, he is confronted by his two inner personalities: the Thrifty Donald, who convinces Donald to save some of his pay; and the Spendthrift Donald, who appears after his money begins to burn a hole in his pocket. The Spendthrift Donald takes him to the Idle Hour Club, but Thrifty Donald reminds Donald that his income tax is due in four different payments. Donald is convinced to save right away to help the troops in the war, as he doesn’t want to save for the Axis. In the end, he punches out the Spendthrift, who in the end looks like Hitler. There is then a montage of what people’s taxes will go towards.

January 23

January 23, 1942 – The Donald Duck Wartime Propaganda Short Film The New Spirit is Delivered


“Oh boy! Taxes to beat the Axis!”

On January 23, 1942, the Donald Duck wartime propaganda film The New Spirit was delivered to the Treasury Department under the support of the War Activities Committee. It was directed by Wilfred Jackson and Ben Sharpsteen. This was the first propaganda film for the US Government by the studio since the country’s entry into World War II, and the Treasury Department hoped that Disney could provide a start of the new Revenue Act of 1942 and apply the funds directly to the war effort. The Department paid $40000 for the film, asking for a very short time frame to have the film ready no later than February 15. Although there was concern about using Donald Duck for the short film, Walt had argued that using Donald was similar to MGM using Clark Gable, and Department Secretary Morgenthau agreed. Donald was seen as a cathartic character for most Americans, and his anger and patriotism resonated with a public still reeling from Pearl Harbor.

While Morgenthau was excited about the film, Congress voted to eliminate the $80,000 appropriation the Treasury had submitted to pay for the film and its marketing, as many anti-Roosevelt members thought it was a waste of money and nearly marked Walt as a war profiteer. Fortunately for the studio, The New Spirit resonated with audiences, and was hailed by the media as “an excellent bit of persuasion,” as written by the Chicago Herald-American. A survey was conducted, and 37% of those that had seen the short said it had an effect on how willing they were to pay their taxes, with further members of the audience praising the film and criticizing Congress for its failure to pay the Studio. The New Spirit was also nominated for an Academy Award for Best Documentary at the 15th Academy Awards.

Donald is ready and willing to do whatever it takes to win the war

Donald is ready and willing to do whatever it takes to win the war

The song “Yankee Doodle Spirit” is playing on the radio, with Donald dancing to its patriotic rhythm. As he listens to the radio program, Donald quickly readies himself for the threat of war. The radio announcer declares that there is something Donald can do for the war effort, and Donald states he will do anything. When Donald hears that the best thing he can do is pay his income tax, at first he is dismayed. The announcer goes on to say that his income tax is vital to the war effort, as the taxes pay for supplies for the troops to beat the Axis Powers. A new simplified form is presented, which is really all that Donald will need, along with a pen, ink, and a blotter. Donald fills out the form, and finds that he owes $13 for his taxes. He is so excited to pay his taxes that he races across the country to Washington DC to pay them in person. The announcer continues with what the taxes will be used for: factories that will make the ammunition and weapons for the soldiers, planes, and battleships.

January 4

January 4, 1943 – The Educational Propaganda Short Film The Grain That Built a Hemisphere is Delivered


“Corn is the symbol of a spirit that links the Americas in a common bond of union and solidarity.”

On January 4, 1943, the educational short film The Grain That Built a Hemisphere was delivered to the Coordinator of Inter-American Affairs. It was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Documentary in 1943, but lost to The Battle of Midway, Kokoda Front Line!, Moscow Strikes Back, and Prelude to War. This short also includes a short segment from the 1938 Silly Symphony Farmyard Symphony. The short was directed by Bill Roberts.

The short begins with an explanation of corn, and how it possibly came to be. The earliest version of corn grew on the mountains centuries ago, but was not noticed by hunters as they searched for food. When hunters were unable to find game, they were able to find corn and use it for food; this discovery is then credited as helping begin the civilization of the Americas. The narrator then directs the attention to the Mayan civilization, which was built around the growth and worship of corn, with great temples built in dedication to the corn gods, including Yum Kaax. The Aztecs also built a civilization based on corn, with their corn goddess named Centeotl. The Incas, located in the Andes, worshipped a sun god, who provided them with all they needed to grow their corn. The crop of corn spread around South America and all the way to Canada; it was also sent over the world through the conquistadors and spread from there.

A list of foods made from corn is shown through animation

A list of foods made from corn is shown through animation

The narrator lists the various foods made from corn, including tortillas, succotash, and bourbon. Brought to present day, where it is explained that, thanks to advances in machinery, we can harvest enough corn in fifteen hours, compared to the 500 the Mayans needed. The next topic is how to inbreed corn, and the entire process is explained step by step. It produces small versions of the corn plant, but once two small unrelated inbred plants are cross-bred, that produces a stronger, larger stalk with more ears. Seventy-five percent of all corn produced in the United States goes to feed for livestock, with hogs eating the most of that percentage. After this, a scientific study of corn is presented, with an explanation of how the two parts of the corn kernel (the endosperm and the germ) are used to create oils and starches, which have a variety of uses. A hypothesis of how corn can be used to help the war effort is also presented, with the idea that corn can be used to create tough plastics, powerful fuels and explosives, tires, parachute fabrics, and more.