Sunday, April 13, 2014


RELEASE DATE: Friday 1st January 1943

SYNOPSIS: In this extremely controversial cartoon, Donald wakes up one morning as a soldier in Nazi Germany. He is worked to the bone, given the bare minimum of food and rest, and every time he sees the face of his beloved Fuehrer he has to "heil."

Walt Disney was approached by the U.S. government in these war years to create propaganda cartoons that encouraged patriotism, as well as demeaning and demonizing the enemy - in this case, Adolf Hitler. It is a very touchy subject, and it's hard to actually put ourselves in the shoes of people who were living in this era. But it is fascinating to see a cartoon like this in this day and age. You have to applaud Disney's guts in making a funny cartoon out of something so political.

IRVYNE: I'd love to know if Adolf Hitler ever saw this cartoon! Someone would have brought it to him, surely. Whether or not he actually watched it, I have no idea.

WENDY: It's so clever how many ways they can fill the screen with swastikas!

MERRYWEATHER: Donald even made himself one while he was exercising!

MALEFICENT: The trees, the power lines, the windmills! They were everywhere!

IRVYNE: I bet that's what Germany really looked like during World War II! Heh!

MERRYWEATHER: By making it all into a joke, it's like taking away the enemy's power. "We're aware of what you're doing, we're not scared of you, we're going to beat you, and your ideas are so ridiculous we're going to mock them and laugh at them." I think that's the thinking behind this cartoon. And then at the end he's in his American pajamas.

IRVYNE: He's never been more patriotic!

MERRYWEATHER: That's probably the only time he wore pants!

SHENZI: Did you know that Donald Duck was banned in Denmark because he didn't wear pants?

IRVYNE: Really? Surely not! I shall research it... (This website explains the source of the urban legend - Finland, not Denmark - and it turns out it's completely false anyway.)

I have a strange disconnect in my mind when watching Der Fuehrer's Face. You always think of World War II, you know, this old war that happened so long ago. But cartoons like this really haven't aged that much. They're still incredibly entertaining and well-made by today's standards. But to think that this was made in the middle of World War II, and it was made in reference to World War II, as a current event... It just kind of blows my mind.

SHENZI: It's pretty trippy.

MALEFICENT: "Aren't you lucky to be chosen to work overtime?" Oh, those nasty Nazis!

WENDY: How did you like the way the Japanese man was portrayed? I don't suppose racial sensitivity was high on their priorities list.

MERRYWEATHER: So did Mickey have to do similar propaganda movies?

IRVYNE: No. He did not. Donald was the poster child for the war efforts.

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