During World War II, the American government, especially the military, turned to Hollywood to aide in the creation of animated instructional films. The entire industry had little precedents and guidelines. Walt Disney, as one of the industry giants in animation, had an immense task and was instrumental in the indoctrination of GIs. This book chronicles the works from Walt Disney's studio and the profound effects it had on viewers. The particular section is the author's brief discussion of propaganda and Disney's works, The New Spirit (1943) and its sequel The Spirit of '43 (1943).
Shale states that while it is difficult to define the term propaganda, activity is key to any definition. If propaganda leads to only heightened emotions, but no action to follow, it is considered a failure. According to Shale, propaganda arouses emotions that in turn elicits vital action. But outright blatant propaganda leads to rejection. As Disney put it, "outright propaganda is resented...molding [public] opinion is something else again." Animation is key to this molding process because it is not as "real" of a medium as newsreels or drama.
A real example of this molding process was Disney's first big wartime propaganda hit, The New Spirit. The Treasury Department reported it had been seen by 32,647,000 people and according to the Gallup Poll, an astonishing 37% of viewers felt it had affected their willingness to pay their taxes. Even the great Frank Capra whose Why We Fight series indoctrinated the GIs congratulated Walt Disney and conceded that animation is the only method that could achieve certain effects that conventional film could not. Animation was the ideal medium for imparting uniform concise instruction, but in the powerful bridging manner as not to appear as outright propaganda. As opinions are molded, soldiers become less sensitive to what they perceive as wrong or not ideal and internalize those opinions as their own.
This source provides a significant amount of information regarding the history of how the Disney Company became involved with World War II propaganda films. It is essential to look at these facts carefully to provide a context for my thesis. Also, this book is important because it provides specific examples of propaganda cartoons made by the Disney Company. By examining these films closely, one can see how audiences may have been affected.
Birdwell, Michael. Technical Fairy First Class? Is this any way to Run an Army?: Private Snafu and World War II. Historical Journal of Film, Radio and Television Vol. 25, 2 (2005): 203-212.
This article explains how Private Snafu was brought about and why he was brought about. Snafu was the anti-soldier: he kept idle, left weapons in disrepair, skipped training, and so forth. He "died--again, and again and again--so that many GIs might live". Snafu was a tool of indoctrination that the military believed was necessary for the average GI. The lack of censorship for crass behavior catered to the soldier's need for humor and escape from the mundane training videos and dramas.
Chuck Jones used the voice of Bugs Bunny for Private Snafu's voice, creating a dissonance. Soldiers associated Bugs Bunny with wit, doing the right thing; Snafu, on the other hand, does the wrong thing, but still preserves two essential traits of Bugs Bunny: disrespect for authority and a knack for smart-aleck remarks. This dissonance leads soldiers to distance themselves from Snafu and unite against his blunders. The message is clear: every GI could be snafu. As mentioned in the article, the Private Snafu series was an antidote to the tedious training videos and reinforced what they had learned from those training videos. Additionally, the parody of Jiminy Cricket, the Technical Fairy First Class, served to represent the shortcuts in the military that always backfires. In end, Snafu is bi-polar: on one hand, we have the normal non-career solider that the GIs related to and on the other, we have the anti-soldier that GIs had to alienate against. This enforces obedient behavior--the "if I follow orders, I will be fine" mentality. It desensitizes them against reality, in hopes of staying alive.
Kemnitz, Thomas M. "The Cartoon as a Historical Source." Journal of Interdisciplinary History Vol. 4, No. 1 (1973): 81-93.
Cartoons often capture the seriously formed judgment, usually representative of the prevailing national sentiment, of a prominent idea, situation, or event, though in humorous terms. The key of these sources is how the current national opinion of that time differs (or not) from the current opinion of the viewer. The power of cartoons lies in how it conveys its message quickly and pungently. The rest of the article describes the six specific interrelated areas for investigation, which include artists and method by which cartoon reaches people, but this is less relevant to my thesis.
This is a guiding framework for this paper. It is crucial in watching the propagandistic animation to consider how the expressed views reflected public opinion and how the views tried to shape public opinion. It suggests that there are two types of cartoons: the joke cartoon and the cartoon of opinion. The propaganda falls under the second type, which are cartoons that try to advance a particular agenda of sentiment, as opposed to the joke cartoon, which tries to capture a sentiment in one moment. In particular, I tried to look at the medium, in this case film, to transmit the opinion to the target audience, the soldiers. In Spies (1943, Private Snafu series), there are the buck-teeth Japanese spies and objectification of the German female spy, which is funny as an animation, but underscores the point that no one is to be trusted. I propose that the blend of joke cartoon (such as the objectification of the Nazi woman's breasts as a transmitter) and the cartoon of opinion ( the point that everyone can be a spy) associates a serious message with humor and makes acceptance easier, leading to desensitization.