Everyone knows the big ones – Cinderella, Snow White, Aladdin, Beauty and the Beast. The list goes on and on. Disney is responsible for some of the finest animated films ever made. But there was a time when Walt and co. didn’t make features. There was a time when Disney churned out dozens upon dozens of short animated films, most featuring some of their most popular characters.
In true Disney fashion, many of the short films are fantastic and still hold up. Others…well, they aren’t bad, but they aren’t, let’s say, traditional Disney fare. They fall into the “bizarre” category. How bizarre? Well, let’s start by taking up back to 1943 to experience the…
The Spirit of ‘43
When the subject of propaganda is brought up most like to forget that America was not exempt. We produced our very own slate of brainwashing silliness that made war seem like the hippest, coolest fad out there. But as with nearly every American war, we went into the propaganda battle with the best weapons imaginable. Very few countries had a movie-making genius behind their campaigns to alter public perceptions.
In the 1940s, Walt Disney, the Alpha and Omega of all things cartoony and magical, worked with the U.S. government to create a total of 68 hours of brain manipulating propaganda, with over 90% of Disney’s employees working on the films at once.
The most delightfully insane of the bunch stars Donald Duck as an average citizen trying to figure out what to do with his paycheck. Two manifestations of his personality pop up to drag him separate directions. The first is a wise Scrooge McDuck archetype who encourages Donald to save that extra cash for taxes to help the war effort.
The second is a smooth pimp of a duck who wants to blow the money on women.
What follows is nearly 6 minutes of insane jingoistic, fetishistic, warmongering animation featuring one of America’s most beloved characters.
At the 1:14 mark is one of the most brilliant reasons for convincing people to pay taxes:
“This year, because of Hitler and Hirohito, taxes are higher than ever before.”
Citizens are given countless reasons to pay taxes, yet none of them play into America’s inherent need for a villain to hiss at and blame everything on. With a single simple and elegant sentence, the Disney people pinned high taxes on 1) an Emperor who underestimated America by a wide margin, and 2) the greatest villain the world has ever known. Imagine if George W. Bush had announced that because of Osama bin Laden all Americans across the board would have to pay higher taxes? It would be true, yes; every war the U.S. has ever fought, except for the Mexican-American War of 1846, resulted in a tax hike to offset the insane costs of war. But it would have sounded so cartoonishly, outlandishly silly to our ears that Dubya would have been booted out on his ass by his Fox News-viewing base in a matter of seconds. No election required.
Then, to really make the frothy warmongering saliva spew from our mouths, the short takes a dark, nihilistic turn toward nightmarish.
“American factories, working day and night; factories making guns – machine guns, anti-tank guns, long-range guns. Guns. GUNS. ALL KINDS OF GUNS!”
The thing turns into a fetishistic cult chant that’s more fitting at a book burning than a cartoon featuring Donald Duck. Factories churn out scorching orange bullets. Molten metal forms to make battleship canons. Japanese battleships explode and sink. A graveyard of downed and decimated Nazi planes.
At a certain point you almost expect the voice over to break down and reveal itself to be a sketch that ends with the voice over actor losing his mind and having to be dragged out and drugged. The guy sounds like he had a serious murder erection destroying the inner-lining of his pants.
And now I provide you with this picture with no context…
Education For Death
Keeping with the theme of Disney-made WWII propaganda, Education For Death tells the story of how a German child gets drafted into the Hitler Youth. So, right off the bat you know this is going to be a heartwarming story that the kids will love. Or it will force them to eject a spray of fear-poop so mighty it will rocket propel them to their nearest army recruitment office. More so the latter, probably.
The saddest thing about the short is that there really isn’t much exaggeration. Sure, it has its cartoony elements – silly mugging faces and such – but in terms of the information being presented, it’s a stark representation of reality. Even the more outlandish segments are rooted in a great deal of fact. For example, in Hitler’s Germany, the story of Sleeping Beauty had the evil witch representing the evils of democracy, and Sleeping Beauty could only be saved by the kiss of the prince, who is, of course, Hitler.
As a result of this twisted take on the classic fairy tale, Hans, the little boy whose story we follow throughout, idolizes Hitler for being a hero. This ultimately leads to Hans growing up and becoming the fully fledged Nazi solider he was always meant to be, complete with a regulation swastika-adorned horse blinders, muzzle, and spiked chain collar, that we all remember seeing in all of those pictures of Nazis from history books.
But then, the shot of the army of marching Nazis…
…slowly transitions into a not-so-subtle “We’re going to kill all you mother****ers” message, as their marching bodies turn into headstones.
And that’s how you know you’re going to win a war. You win when you casually mention how your country will kill every single member of the opposing army in a children’s cartoon.
The Story of Menstruation
Alright, enough with the Nazis. Let’s talk about the time Walt Disney tried to teach little girls about menstruation.
In 1946, Walt Disney was commissioned by Kotex to produce a short film explaining menstruation to students in health classes all around the country. In all, around 105 million students watched this film in class. That all sounds nice and benevolent, but keep in mind this was essentially a 10-minute long corporate advertisement. It gave female students a better understanding of what will soon be going on in their bodies, but it also sinisterly came packaged with a booklet called Very Personally Yours that discouraged the use of tampons. Why? Because Kotex wasn’t in the tampon business at the time; only pads. Tampax, their lead competitor, was the reigning tampon king, which was also a title my grandfather bestowed upon himself before he lost his mind and died. You can read the whole book here, or you can skip ahead to the anti-tampon section on pages 17 and 18 here.
In all, the short is fairly simple and sticks to its educational message. But there are occasions when things get a little weird. How often have you heard the consistency of period blood described as “velvety”? If you watched the video, then you’ve officially heard that once, and you’ve since thrown out your velvet pillows. I have. But not for reasons of disgust. I just figure, if I have a girlfriend that naturally produces velvety textures, why waste money? I’m thrifty.
Disney historian Jim Korkis interprets the video as being more of a “hygienic crisis” and less of a “maturation event,” meaning he believes the short was ultimately less about understanding your body than it was about quickly putting up the sandbags before the rusty tidal wave consumes us all.
Der Fuehrer’s Face
Hey, remember when I said we were done with Disney and Nazis? I lied. I’ve got another for you, and it’s called “Der Fuehrer’s Face,” and yet again it stars Donald Duck as a reluctant Nazi (the best kind of Nazi?) who has Nazism so ingrained within him he cannot prevent himself from saluting Hitler at a rate of about 8 salutes per minute. In fact, saluting Hitler plays a big role in the short, as the frequency in which Donald has to salute Hitler pictures is only rivaled by the frequency we the audience breathe in oxygen in the 7 minutes it takes to watch the whole film.
He salutes in his sleep.
He salutes when he wakes up.
He salutes in the factory.
And then again in the factory when a procession of Hitler photos roll down the assembly line for no reason, other than to further destroy your childhood concept of Donald Duck. Donald says “Heil Hitler” more times in this short than it was ever spoken when Hitler was heiled in real life.
After being overworked by the Nazis, Donald finally cracks. He spits and sputters in his Donald Duck way, and it is all revealed to have just been a dream, which we know because we see Nazi ghosts flying into Donald’s ass — the hallmark of all bad dreams.
It was all just a nightmare. You know, like it is for us modern folk to watch Donald Duck used a propaganda tool to raise taxes and promote war bonds.
So far this list has featured three Disney-made WWII propaganda short films. While they probably weren’t the most artistically engaging projects to work on, they paid the bills. In the 40s, Walt Disney Studios was in a bad financial state. The reason 90% of their work force was devoted to making propaganda films was because those films were the only things bringing in any money. One of the projects that had to be cut before it could fully get off the ground was a groundbreaking pair up of two artistic legends – Walt Disney and famed surrealist painter Salvador Dali. The idea was to have Disney produce a fully-animated version of an original Dali work, essentially giving Dali a new canvas on which to paint on. But after barely managing to squeeze out of the storyboarding phase and barely producing 17 seconds of test footage, Disney felt the project wasn’t financially viable and canceled it.
A half-century later, Roy E. Disney, Walt’s nephew, found the project and decided to pick up where his uncle and Dali left off. The result is six minutes of animated surrealist beauty.
A Dali painting allows you to stare at a single frozen moment in time. You’re able to soak in every millimeter of meaning. Clocking in at around 6 1/2 minutes, Destino is an ocular gangbang and a cranial onslaught. It’s almost too much Dali. But, nonetheless, it is beautiful. It’s hard to find the words to keep talking about it. You just have to watch it. I would love to tell you what the story is, but in truth, I’d have an easier time explaining the meaning of life and the intricacies of God’s master plan. Also, there are people on bikes with breadheads.
According to the Wikipedia summary, “The six-minute short follows the love story of Chronos and the ill-fated love he has for a mortal woman.” Honestly, you could have told me the thing was about a child that picks his nose and gets sucked into his own subconscious and I would nod, stroke the beard I don’t have, and say “I concur.”
Mr. Prada has called out the mouse before with Five Terrible Things Theme Parks Make You Realize about Humanity. –>