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Propaganda and War Time Animation – Part 1

03 Feb 2010 General

Yesterday I wrote a very short post which, after a fairly meandering journey, talked a little about propaganda animation produced during the war. Since then I’ve had several friends asking me more about the subject and, since it’s something that I find absolutely fascinating and also something that I have a little bit of knowledge about, having done my dissertation on it, I thought I’d go in to the subject in slightly more depth.

Animation is the perfect medium for propaganda. Why? Lots of reasons:

  • Animation is considered an innocent medium. It’s associated mostly with children’s entertainment, and the audience therefore lowers it’s guard. We don’t expect a political message to be delivered in an innocent medium.
  • Animation doesn’t have a class, a race, a sex or anything else that alienates part of the audience. A talking bunny is neither black nor white, neither upper or lower class.
  • Animation is a clear and concise medium which allows you to say exactly what you want. The animator controls every single pixel of every single frame of the film, and can show only what they want the audience to see. This increases the power of the message dramatically.

And there are a million of other reasons. This is why animation is frequently used not only in propaganda, but also in advertising, which has many of the same requirements.

In Britain during the Second World War, propaganda was considerably more muted than it’s American counterpart. Halas and Batchelor films such as ‘Dustbin Parade’ for example, reveal England’s fighter spirit and everyone pulling together attitude. American films, such as Disney’s Der Fuhrer’s Face or Education for Death often revealed a more aggressively anti-Nazi/Japanese attitude.

I always believed that this was because the American people needed to be educated about why they were going to war, and why they should hate the Germans. The British already knew why they were going to war and only had to be taught how they could help. It could also be to do with the excessive amount of anti-German propaganda produced in England during the First World War, which had mostly been proven to be lies.

For more information on this fascinating subject, I recommend the films of Halas and Batchelor (and here I can squeeze in a plug for the Animation Research Center in Surrey, which I used to Manage, and which contains an extensive collection from the studio), the documentary Animation Nation from the BBC, and the collection of films from the Disney studio entitled On the Front Lines.

Here are the films contained within On The Front Lines, most of which are available to watch on YouTube:

Donald Gets Drafted

The Army Mascot

Private Pluto

Fall Out; Fall In

The Old Army Game

Home Defense

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