Mickey Mouse In Vietnam: The Underground Anti-War Animation from 1968, Co-Created by Milton Glaser

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.”

Mick­ey Mouse In Viet­nam aired once at the afore­men­tioned fes­ti­val, then fad­ed into obliv­ion, only to resur­face lat­er at the Sara­je­vo Film Fes­ti­val and now on YouTube.

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Relat­ed Con­tent:

Don­ald Duck’s Bad Nazi Dream and Four Oth­er Dis­ney Pro­pa­gan­da Car­toons from World War II

How Bertrand Rus­sell Turned The Bea­t­les Against the Viet­nam War

Bed Peace Revis­its John Lennon & Yoko Ono’s Famous Anti-Viet­nam Protests

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Comments (2)
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  • Roger Hackler says:

    I hope that we learn about these ani­mals that are the largest one the face of the Earth, which is impor­tant, because this some­thing that peo­ple are unaware of being the case.

  • Lynn Roy says:

    I have paper­work and pic­tures of a dwarf named Pokey the Dis­ney com­pa­ny cre­at­ed for my dad’s reg­i­ment dur­ing the Viet­nam war

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Open Culture was founded by Dan Colman.