“The Ducktators”: Loony Tunes Turns Animation into Wartime Propaganda (1942)

George Orwell pub­lished his satir­i­cal alle­go­ry Ani­mal Farm in 1945 at the tail end of World War II. While Orwell claimed his inspi­ra­tion for the farm set­ting was a bucol­ic vil­lage scene, it’s tempt­ing to imag­ine that he also drew some of his ideas from Amer­i­can pro­pa­gan­da car­toons made dur­ing WWII by Dis­ney (see below) and Warn­er Broth­ers. One par­tic­u­lar­ly strik­ing exam­ple from 1942 is Loony Tunes’ “The Duck­ta­tors,” set on a farm that becomes Europe under a new­ly-hatched Adolf Hitler duck­ling, sport­ing the fore­lock and mus­tache and shout­ing “sieg heil” as soon as he emerges from his jet-black egg. Hitler-duck’s pos­tur­ing appeals to a strut­ting, broad­ly stereo­typ­i­cal Ital­ian goose (Mus­soli­ni), and many of the ducks and geese on the farm, who line to up salute and, um… goos­es­tep. There are plen­ty of lit­tle gags thrown in—it’s all played for comedy—but of course, there is a mes­sage (or two) here.

First, cut to the sim­per­ing “Dove of Peace,” an androg­y­nous crea­ture who wrings its hands and says, “Have they for­got? ‘Tis love that’s right, and naught is gained by show of might.” This is clear­ly a car­i­ca­ture of Neville Cham­ber­lain, whose inef­fec­tu­al poli­cies enabled and embold­ened Hitler.

Cham­ber­lain is remem­bered for pre­ma­ture­ly declar­ing that his appease­ment of Hitler in the 1938 Munich Pact (here rep­re­sent­ed by a barn­yard “Peace Con­fer­ence”) had secured “peace for our time.” The ref­er­ence is an inter­est­ing exam­ple of a wartime dig at the U.S.’s British allies.

Hitler-duck tears up the “Peace Con­fer­ence” treaty and beats up the British and French ducks. Then a (painful­ly racist) Japan­ese duck rows ashore singing “I’m a Japan­ese Sandman”—a stand in for Tojo Hide­ki or Emper­or Hiro­hi­to. The three “Duck­ta­tors” rule the roost and tram­ple the Dove of Peace under­foot. His­tor­i­cal alle­go­ry gives way to slap­stick, and the wimpy Dove morphs into a pudgy, vic­to­ri­ous Churchill with the Duck­ta­tors’ heads mount­ed on his wall. Then, mes­sage num­ber two appears with fan­fare: “If you’d like to make this true, here’s all you have to do: For Vic­to­ry Buy Unit­ed States Sav­ings Bonds and Stamps.” Over­all, The Duck­ta­tors is a fas­ci­nat­ing exam­ple of wartime adver­tis­ing, and of con­tem­po­rary U.S. feel­ings towards its Euro­pean allies. You can down­load The Duck­ta­tors here.

Find Dis­ney Pro­pa­gan­da Films Here:

The Mak­ing of a Nazi: Disney’s 1943 Ani­mat­ed Short

Don­ald Duck’s Bad Nazi Dream (1942)

Don­ald Duck Wants You to Pay Your Tax­es (1943)

Josh Jones is a doc­tor­al can­di­date in Eng­lish at Ford­ham Uni­ver­si­ty and a co-founder and for­mer man­ag­ing edi­tor of Guer­ni­ca / A Mag­a­zine of Arts and Pol­i­tics.


by | Permalink | Comments (2) |

Sup­port Open Cul­ture

We’re hop­ing to rely on our loy­al read­ers rather than errat­ic ads. To sup­port Open Cul­ture’s edu­ca­tion­al mis­sion, please con­sid­er mak­ing a dona­tion. We accept Pay­Pal, Ven­mo (@openculture), Patre­on and Cryp­to! Please find all options here. We thank you!

Comments (2)
You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.
  • Debra Freeman says:

    We have a pen­cil draw­ing of ” Don­ald Duck ” as foot­ball play­er dat­ed oct.28th,1942. It looks like anoth­er draw­ing i saw on ” Antiques Road­show” that is a bomber plane ““Mas­cot”” could this be the ” same sha­bang” it even has scotch tape on it that looks like it could be from the 40’s!! Any info would be great­ly appre­ci­at­ed. Thank You.

Leave a Reply

Open Culture was founded by Dan Colman.