Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Cartoon a Day: Der Fuehrer's Face

Der Fuehrer's Face
Directed by Jack Kinney (uncredited)
Available on: Walt Disney Treasures - On the Front Lines

Having looked at a cartoon yesterday that was so influenced by the world at war, I decided to continue with another World War II cartoon. Most of the major animation studios contributed to the war effort in some way, both with educational films and films designed to boost the spirits of the war weary public. One of the best cartoons from this time is the Donald Duck short "Der Fuehrer's Face."

This cartoon wasn't shown much after the war. Though it is very funny, it is also somewhat disturbing. After all, Donald is forced to read Mein Kampf in one scene. The film's title comes from the song that is played throughout the film which was made famous by Spike Jones. Having spent many Sunday nights of my youth listening to the Dr. Demento Show, I knew of the song long before I knew of this cartoon.

In the film, Donald is living in Nazi-land. It's actually kind of interesting that it isn't revealed that this is all a dream until the end of the picture (sorry to spoil the ending there folks). It must've been strange for movie audiences to see Donald cast as a Nazi and have no explanation as to why America's favorite duck had gone to the dark side.

The whole Nazi-land environment is played out hilariously with the background designs. We see trees, windmills, even fire hydrants all in the shape of a swastika. Even Donald's house ends up being a caricature of Adolf Hitler.

The film moves at a frantic pace and by the end even becomes somewhat psychedelic in it's style as Donald ends up in a sequence similar to the pink elements on parade scene from "Dumbo."

This Academy Award winner is a brilliant piece of animation and one of the best examples of Disney's contribution to the war effort.

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