NAZIS, AND GREMLINS, AND SPANDULES, OH MY! WWII CARTOON CHARACTERS AT THE WOLFSONIAN LIBRARY
In thinking about some of the Wolfsonian library materials that might be of interest to the Florida International University students taking my America & Movies history class on wartime propaganda this semester, I first thought of the numerous children’s propaganda books in our collection. Many of these children’s books were donated to the library by Pamela K. Harer.
Cartoon characters, of course, were enlisted in the fight against the Axis during the war years, and some of our most cherished and popular cartoon heroes were featured in animated films and printed pamphlets, sheet music covers, and children’s books. A couple of popular Sunday newspaper comic strip characters appeared as well in a wartime alphabet book published for young children. In addition to teaching youngsters their ABCs, Blondie and Dagwood, instructed these children (and parental readers) in proper patriotic behavior.
GIFT OF FRANCIS XAVIER LUCA & CLARA PALACIO-DE LUCA
While younger audiences may not know Blondie, we are all familiar with Donald Duck, who was also “drafted” into service in a number of RKO Radio film shorts during the war years, including Donald Gets Drafted, Der Fuehrer’s Face, and Commando Duck—now available via Youtube. Less renowned Walt Disney cartoons also enlisted in the Allied cause, including Gremlin and Spandule cartoon creatures who appeared in children’s books, RAF (Royal Air Force), U.S. Army Air Force periodicals and pilot safety manuals, and in animated anti-Axis film shorts.
GIFT OF PAMELA K. HARER
GIFT OF JUDITH BERSON-LEVINSON
Another of the Wolfsonian library’s children’s books will be loaned to the exhibition, Century of the Child: Growing by Design, 1900-2000, opening at New York’s Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) this coming July.
GIFT OF PAMELA K. HARER
The Warner Brothers studio also did their patriotic part in the war, producing the cartoon short, Russian Rhapsody. This Merrie Melodies satire (animated and directed by Bob Clampett) was released to theaters in the summer of 1944 as Gremlins from the Kremlin, although the original title was changed to Russian Rhapsody when The Walt Disney Studios began producing animated pieces with Gremlin characters. The Warner Brother’s production used an animated Hitler spouting maniacal, macaronic speeches that drew their inspiration from those originally delivered by Charlie Chaplin in The Great Dictator. In that satirical talkie released in 1940, Chaplin plays Adenoid Hinckel, leader of Tomania’s anti-Semitic party of the “double-cross,”–an obvious spoof of Adolf Hitler and the Nazi party and its crooked cross symbol, the swastika.