Sunday, April 21, 2013

Wartime Short Films

Many of you know that the Disney Studios produced a number of propaganda animated shorts during WWII.
In "The Winged Scourge" the Seven Dwarfs demonstrate how to fight the spread of mosquito born malaria.
The sketches above by Milt Kahl show a rough layout for Dopey and Happy. 
The kid on the same sheet is from "Education For Death", him and his classmates are being brainwashed in Nazi philosophy.

Years ago Charles Solomon and myself conducted a few interviews with some of Walt's animators, and Frank Thomas recalled this episode in regards to this short film:
"The worst one of all was "Education For Death"…oh, lordy! 
Now Kimball got the good part of that, he got the Goerring and Hitler and Brunhilde, he had the fun stuff to work on, while Milt and I got these awful scenes of real kids, and drew them like real kids and make them look convincing. And they're talking German, and on our readings it had all German. Try to animate it, embarrassing.
Milt and I were going upstairs for some reason, and we were standing at the elevator. Milt said "We ought to kick Walt right in the ass for doing this type of thing", and all of a sudden the doors opened, and there was Walt. So I couldn't resist, so I said, "Here he is, go ahead!" 

Here are a few rough Milt Kahl drawings for another wartime short called "Reason and Emotion". It is an extremely clever and effective film that sends a warning of when emotional and reasonable impulses go unbalanced.


  1. I really love the wartime shorts. Graphically I've always found them powerful and often containing worthwhile wisdom still relevant today. Chicken Little (1943) is another favorite of mine. Great animation and draftsmanship.

    I'm really surprised Frank and Milt were "resentful" about getting signed to do more of the "realistic" characters. I'm no judge of animating characters speaking German, (you'd be a better authority on that) but I think they did awesome work.

    1. I suppose it was pretty unique and different for it's time to do a film that was meant to be taken place in Germany of that era and to have that stark contrast between the more realistic children and the silly tale sequence meant to suggest the propaganda handed out in their youth. I'm sure there was more restraint on how to handle the development of the film's main character (Hans) and his coming-to-terms with the ideology discussed and hailed in the classroom.

  2. I have always wondered if the caveman from "Reason and Emotion" was modeled off of some of the caricatures drawn of Ward Kimball. They look quite similar!

  3. Fascinating to hear Frank Thomas' comments.

  4. The little caveman was later named "Primitive Pete" and featured in an illustrated handbook on using hand tools. If there were any doubts as to whether he was indeed based on Ward Kimball, I think this link will clear up the matter:

  5. Love that story!

    I recently bought some complete xeroxed Kahl scenes from this short. All of them were of Emotion, and boy are they fun to flip through. Great acting!

    As for the caricature, there's no doubt that it's definitely Ward.

  6. Hello Andreas,

    May I ask you something.

    I am looking for a good book about staging in animation.

    Could you help me?


    1. I am not familiar with a book just on staging, but the whole
      Walt Disney Animation Studios/The Archive Series-Disney Editions is pretty good.
      Setting the Scene/The Art and Evolution of Animation Layout
      By Fraser Maclean
      Chronicle Books

  7. Many many thanks Andreas for your reply and your useful recommendations.

    Best regards.