During World War II, Disney’s lovable characters made their own contribution to the war effort. In short propaganda films, Donald Duck, Goofy and the gang encouraged fellow Americans to support the draft and pay their taxes. And, through Disney characters, Americans learned about the evils of the Nazi regime. Here, we’ve gathered five of these animated propaganda films: Donald Gets Drafted (1942); Der Fuehrer’s Face (1943), The Spirit of 43′ (1943), The Old Army Game (1943), and Commando Duck (1944).
Fast forward 25 years and America found itself fighting a very different war, the Vietnam War. So far as I know, Disney never threw its cultural weight behind this divisive conflict. It wouldn’t have made good business sense. However, Disney’s most iconic character, Mickey Mouse, did appear in an animated underground film created by two critics of the war, Lee Savage and the celebrated graphic designer Milton Glaser.
Produced in 1968 for The Angry Arts Festival, the one minute animation shows Mickey getting lured into fighting in Nam, and then, rather immediately, getting shot in the head. The anti-war commentary gets made brutally and economically. Sometimes less is more. In a recent interview with Buzzfeed, Glaser recalls: “[O]bviously Mickey Mouse is a symbol of innocence, and of America, and of success, and of idealism — and to have him killed, as a solider is such a contradiction of your expectations. And when you’re dealing with communication, when you contradict expectations, you get a result.”
Would you like to support the mission of Open Culture? Please consider making a donation to our site. It’s hard to rely 100% on ads, and your contributions will help us continue providing the best free cultural and educational materials to learners everywhere.