During World War II, with Europe under the threat of Hitler’s Germany, much of the European theatrical market was cut off. One way the US studios made up for that loss of revenue was to create films for the US government, which hoped that using the popularity of American cartoons would gain support for the US and their wartime causes.Bugs Bunny, Donald Duck, and many other cartoon stars of the day did their part.
While much of the material seems politically incorrect by today’s standards, at the time it was one of the best ways to visually distinguish between the US an its enemies. Physical and cultural differences were focused on and exaggerated to the point of extreme characture.
Not every wartime film was so literal in its story or imagery. A few films managed to get across complex ideas by using metaphors of classic stories to represent what they were seeing in the world at the time.
Much time has passed, and many of the countries we fought in World War II are now allies. As we look back on the propaganda films of the past and fight our current wars, we continue to see animation as an important tool in propaganda, though on a much smaller scale.
Best wishes to all the armed forces stationed all over the globe, and a big thank you to those who fought and died for the country in the past.
photo by Alfred Eisenstaedt