Week 7

Short paper due

Please submit on Blackboard.

WWII & propaganda

We will look at how control of media evolved during World War II and how it was used as propaganda by all of the parties involved. Animation was used particularly to depict the enemy as the “other” and show them in a diminished and humiliating manner. Animation was also used in training films, to educate soldiers in technical details, and to rouse the support of the citizens on the “homefront”. In Europe and Asia, studios worked creating animation to replace the work from American studios, whose works received limited to no foreign distribution during the war.

Jump to the different sections with the links below:

Overview of media control / Depiction of the “other” in WWII animation / War animation /

Overview of media control during WWII

In World War 2 (1939-1945), the Axis powers (Nazi Germany, Fascist Italy and the Empire of Japan) fought the Allies (the United Kingdom, the Soviet Union, the United States, and many other European, Asian and African countries), leading to the eventual defeat of the Axis powers in 1945. The Axis powers were a military alliance united by their Fascist ideologies.

Animation became an important tool in the USA during the war. It was used for propaganda purposes and to educate the general public to rally behind the war effort, and to train soldiers in specific tasks. After the USA entered the war after the bombing of Pearl Harbor in 1941, the US military began working in Disney’s studio, and they remained throughout the years of the war. Familiar Disney characters, such as Donald Duck, were featured in films such as New Spirit encouraging Americans to pay their taxes. Warner Bros. also made cartoons starring Daffy Duck and Bugs Bunny that encouraged patriotic behavior, like buying war bonds and saving scrap metal.

American animation had become dominant throughout the world, with broad international distribution. This was disrupted during the war. Axis powers Japan and Germany worked on developing animation studios to compete with the popular American style.

In Japan, animation expanded during this period as they developed the industry to produce propaganda for the war effort. The first full length animated film was made as a propaganda film during this period.

In Germany, artists who produced abstract work in animation as well as other media were considered “degenerate” and their works were banned, leading to the departure of many of the artists. The Nazis encouraged animation in some of the occupied countries.

“The Deutsche Zeichenfilm Company (“German Animated Film”) was consequently founded in 1941. It received millions in financing. A giant studio was built and some 200 employees hired, but a mistake was made: Instead of hiring experienced directors, animators and artists, ranks were filled with Nazi loyalists, young and fresh from design school but who had little knowledge about filmmaking.” (from “From pioneer to laggard: Animated film in Germany” DW. https://www.dw.com/en/from-pioneer-to-laggard-animated-film-in-germany/a-52216599 Retrieved June 2021)

In the Soviet Union, animation had already been used as a means of creating propaganda about the superiority of the communist system over capitalism. During the war, the  Soyuzdetmultfilm Studio continued to produce propaganda animation as well as animated folktales.

Depiction of the “other” in WWII animation

The Axis powers and the Allies used animation in to portray the enemy, usually in a xenophobic manner. In the United Kingdom, Bury the Axis was created by American animator Lou Bunin in 1943. This stop motion animation caricatured the leaders of the Axis powers as buffoonish losers and was intended to evoke hatred of the enemy.

Nimbus Libéré (1943) is an animated short created in Vichy France during the German Occupation. This film, animated by Raymond Jeannin, contains anti-semitic stereotypes and depicts familiar American cartoon characters such as Donald Duck and Popeye leading an incompetent version of an Allied airstrike on France.

“Кино-цирк (Kino-Circus), 1942 is one of the few cartoons made in the darkest time of the war by Leonid Amalrik, Olga Khodatayeva, and her brother Nikolai Khodatayev – a short piece with three “attractions” aimed at Hitler. The first episode is about dogs representing the German allies (Italy, Hungary, and Romania), second compares Hitler with Napoleon and recalls his unsuccessful war with Russia in 1812, and third depicts Hitler as a clumsy juggler playing with fire.” (from Soviet cartoons of the Second World War, part 3: Kino-Circus and Newsreel of Politsatire https://animation-stories.com/2012/02/02/soviet-cartoons-of-the-second-world-war-part-3-kino-circus-and-newsreel-of-politsatire/ Retrieved June 2021)

Momotarō no Umiwashi (Momotaro’s Sea Eagles) was written and directed by Mitsuyo Seo (1911-2010) in 1943. In this film Momotaro (“Peach Boy”), a figure from Japanese folklore, leads an air attack with planes flown by squadrons of birds, dogs and monkeys on an American/British naval facility. It is meant to be a recreation of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. The main American soldier resembles Bluto from the Popeye cartoons and is shown as a drunkard coward.

War animation


In the US, animation was used extensively for training purposes. The military set up a unit in Disney’s studio after the entrance of the US into the war after the bombing of Pearl Harbor. The studio produced films such as Four Methods of Flush Riveting for Lockheed Martin’s engineers. Stop That Tank!, a 21 minute training film, was commissioned by the Canadian Directorate of Military Training and depicts a defeated Hitler as well as showing how to use and clean a weapon.

Below is the complete Stop That Tank! (1942).

Animation was used to encourage citizens to buy bonds and to rally the spirits of the American people to the sacrifices that had to be made during the war. Animator Seymour Kneitel (1908-1964), Max Fleischer’s son-in-law, directed Ration Fer the Duration, which features Popeye growing a victory garden, a vegetable garden that could supply additional food during rationing caused by the war effort.

Ration Fer The Duration was made in 1943), distributed by Paramount.

Chuck Jones worked with Theodor Geisel, also known as Dr. Seuss, on a series of animations featuring Private Snafu (“Situation Normal: All Fouled Up”). Geisel was one of the writers on the series. Private Snafu was a clueless G. I. and the films covered a wide variety of topics from security, sanitation, booby traps, to military topics. They were humorous, meant to encourage the troops as well as emphasizing consequences of not following orders. American director Frank Capra designed the character, the films were scored by Carl Stallings, with Mel Blanc voicing the character. Warner Bros. underbid Disney, who also wanted exclusive rights to the character. Bob Clampett, Fritz Freleng and other Warner Bros. animators directed these shorts.

Private Snafu – Fighting Tools (1943) was directed by Bob Clampett. Private Snafu finds out what happens when you don’t clean your gun.


Soyuzmultfilm is a Russian film studio that was founded in 1936. At the start of the war, they created anti-fascist propaganda. They were forced to re-locate to Samarkand in Uzbekhistan from Moscow, and many of the employees were sent to the front lines of the war where some perished. During the war period, they made a number of films based on folktales. The Tale of Tsar Saltan (1943) was animated by sisters Valentina Semyonovna Brumberg  (1899-1975) and Zinaida Semyonovna Brumberg (1900-1983). They used rotoscoping, which was called Eclair in the Soviet Union. The studio returned to Moscow in 1943. Another film made during this period at Soyuzmultfilm was  The Winter’s Tale (1945) by Ivanov-Vano.


Adolf Hitler set Joseph Goebbels, who was the Minister of Propaganda, in charge of all cultural production in 1933 when the Nazi Party came to power. Hitler was an admirer of Disney and the American style of animation. Goebbels formed the Deutsche Zeichentrickfilme G.m.b.H (DZF) in 1941.

Abstract works and other experiments with form were banned by the Nazis, called “Degenerate Art”. Oskar Fischinger emigrated to the US in 1936.

Der Störenfried (1940) was made by animator Hans Held. It uses a familiar form of cute animal cartoon animation to tell a militaristic tale. Wasps fly in military formation to attack an invading fox in defense of a family of rabbits.

Hans Fischerkoesen (1896-1973) was a German animator who had worked primarily in advertising. He worked on a trio of films commissioned by the  DZF (German Animation Film Company) Die Verwitterte Melodie (Weather-Beaten Melody) in 1942, Der Schneemann (The Snowman) in 1943 and Das dumme Gänslein (The Silly Goose) in 1944.

Die Verwitterte Melodie was directed by Fischerkoesen, written by Horst von Möllendorff and Fischerkoesen. Animation production was in Prague by Jiri Brdecka.



The first animated feature in Japan was Momotarō: Umi no Shinpei (Momotaro’s Divine Sea Warriors) made in 1942. It was made by the same director, Mitsuyo Seo, who directed the earlier propaganda film Momotarō no Umiwashi . It features Momotaro, “Peach Boy”, a figure from Japanese folklore, with a dog, a monkey, a pheasant and a bear cub.


The Film Board of Canada was started in 1939 by John Grierson, a British documentary filmmaker.

” By 1945 the NFB had grown into one of the world’s largest film studios with a staff of 787. More than 500 films had been released (including 2 propaganda series, The World in Action and Canada Carries On, shown monthly in Canadian and foreign theatres), an animation unit had been set up under the supervision of Scottish-born animator Norman McLaren, non-theatrical distribution circuits were established and many young Canadian filmmakers trained.” (from Morris, Peter and Wyndam Wise “National Film Board of Canada” The Canadian Encyclopedia https://www.thecanadianencyclopedia.ca/en/article/national-film-board-of-canada Retrieved June 2021)

Norman McClaren (1914-1987) was a Scottish animator who worked in Canada.He was an innovator, known for drawing directly on film, working with abstraction, and working with stop motion pixillation.

“Initially the Film Board was making war propaganda films, many aimed at the U.S., which had still not entered the war. McLaren’s unit was tasked with making animated commercials encouraging Canadians to buy war bonds. Among these films are two of McLaren’s early classics, Hen Hop  (1942) and Dollar Dance  (1943). Both were drawn directly on celluloid, frame by frame, although with their broad pen work and solid color backgrounds, they only hint at the intricacies of McLaren’s later films.

Starting in 1942, McLaren was given the freedom to assemble a team of animators with whom he would work for most of his career. These included Jim McKay, George Dunning, and Evelyn Lambart, McLaren’s collaborator on Begone Dull Care (1949). This group, with McLaren as the head animator and mentor, came to be known as Studio A, and worked within the NFB with relative autonomy. The NFB’s stated mission was “to produce and distribute and to promote the production and distribution of films designed to interpret Canada to Canadians and to other nations.” They answered the call by creating a distinctively Canadian animation form for an international audience, with a focus on a combination of modernist experimentation and populist modes of address.” (from Sicinski, Michael. “The Sprightly Civil Servant: Norman McLaren at the National Film Board of Canada” Criterion Collection https://www.criterion.com/current/posts/5824-the-sprightly-civil-servant-norman-mclaren-at-the-national-film-board-of-canada Retrieved June 2021)

Click here to see Five for Four by Norman McLaren (1942)


ASSIGNMENT: Short paper due

Your short paper is due next week. Please review the guidelines and grading rubric here and submit your final version on Blackboard by next week.