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World War II is still considered to be one of the greatest wars ever fought. It was a war in which multiple countries participated in, where new weapons were used, and was a war that was supported by the public. But before the United States’ entry into the war, her government released propaganda, information or ideas created to shift one’s opinion on a subject (1), to encourage the American people that war should not be fought. Propaganda can be made using any form of media, like the cartoons that were played in theaters. A good example was a cartoon released by MGM in 1939. Peace on Earth (2), directed by Hugh Harman, was a peace propaganda cartoon that pushed the idea that the war, which will be known in history as WWII, should be resolved in a peaceful matter and not through violence. Peace on Earth was propaganda that encouraged the avoidance of war and gave audiences at look at the consequences of war.



To start, the story for Peace on Earth was told through the memories of Grandpa Squirrel when he tells a story to his grandkids about the last man on Earth. He tells his grandkids that men were “like monsters” who wore “iron pots on their heads” and carried “shoot’n irons” or guns everywhere. Grandpa Squirrel explained to them that men “were always a fight’n, a feud’n, and a shoot’n one another”.  He explained that men fought over everything, even the simplest of things, until there were only two left who kill each other. To the American audience, the cartoon is saying that men should not act like monsters and hurt each other because of their differences. War should be avoided and a peaceful solution should be sought to save men from needless suffering and death.

As Grandpa Squirrel tells his story, the cartoon continually fades from his warm, cozy home to the dark, loud, and destructive world of men at war. The war scenes are dark and cloudy with the sounds of guns firing and bombs falling. The explosions, while big and colorful, are also blinding and deadly. Grandpa Squirrel even goes so far as to reenact a man firing a machine gun, scaring his grandkids. The war scenes Grandpa Squirrel described would have shown American audiences that was is scary and deadly, and that  it is imperative to avoid war for the sake of peace.

Grandpa Squirrel then describes the aftermath of the war where the last man died. No building was left standing and only the animals survived. The animals were able to rebuild and live prosperous lives, but man became a distant memory. The cartoon is now pushing American audiences to think of the consequences of war. If no men are left in the world because of war, who will be there to start things anew? Also why have war, destruction, and death if there are other ways to settle disputes and bring peace?

As propaganda, Peace on Earth created a strong image and message of what war can do and the importance of avoiding it. Peace propaganda like this could have help America stay clear from war, but this changed two years later when America is attacked and joins the war effort to dispose of enemies from afar.


(1)- Propaganda. Dictionary.com. The American Heritage® New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition. Houghton Mifflin Company, 2005. http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/propaganda (accessed: April 10, 2012).

(2)- Vambo23. Peace on Earth. Classic Christmas Cartoon. MGM. 1939. Online video. 8mins 46 secs. 1 Dec 2009.

One Response to “7-WWII Propaganda in the Cartoon Perspective: Part I”

  1. jhogeland says:

    I had never seen this animation before, but your description reminds me of a 1955 MGM short called Good Will To Men. They both carry an anti-war/violence theme and seem to use the same method to display their message.
    I had found this cartoon in my research for my senior seminar research paper on the depiction of WWII in animation. And found it’s strong anti-war message just 10 years after WWII to be surprising. It’s interesting how both before and after this war, MGM released shorts depicting warfare as dangerous and awful, which contrasts anything released during the war.
    here’s a link to Good Will to Men: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LBRkJBHpQ-I

    I only just now looked at the description from the video’s poster— the Polish half of it isn’t translated, but it says this is actually a re-make of Peace on Earth.