Der Fuehrer's Face

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Der Fuehrer's Face
Donald Duck series
Der Fuehrer's Face.jpg
Original theatrical film poster
Directed by Jack Kinney
Produced by Walt Disney
Story by Joe Grant
Dick Huemer
Voices by Clarence Nash
Groucho Marx (singer)
Music by Oliver Wallace
Animation by Bob Carlson
Les Clark
Bill Justice
Milt Neil
Charles Nichols
John Sibley
Layouts by Don DaGradi
Andy Engman[1]
Studio Walt Disney Productions
Distributed by RKO Radio Pictures
Release date(s)
  • January 1, 1943 (1943-01-01)
(USA)
Color process Technicolor
Running time 8 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Preceded by Bellboy Donald
Followed by The Spirit of '43

Der Fuehrer's Face (originally titled Donald Duck in Nutzi Land[2]) is a 1943 American animated propaganda short film produced by Walt Disney Productions and released in 1943 by RKO Radio Pictures. The cartoon, which features Donald Duck in a nightmare setting working at a factory in Nazi Germany, was made in an effort to sell war bonds and is an example of American propaganda during World War II.[3] The film was directed by Jack Kinney and written by Joe Grant and Dick Huemer from the original music by Oliver Wallace.[4] The film is well known for Wallace's original song "Der Fuehrer's Face", which was actually released earlier by Spike Jones.

Der Fuehrer's Face won the Academy Award for Best Animated Short Film at the 15th Academy Awards. It was the only Donald Duck film to receive the honor, although eight other films were also nominated.[5] In 1994, it was voted Number 22 of "the 50 Greatest Cartoons" of all time by members of the animation field. However, because of the propagandistic nature of the short, and the depiction of Donald Duck as a Nazi (albeit a reluctant one), Disney kept the film out of general circulation after its original release. Its first home video release came in 2004 with the release of the third wave of the Walt Disney Treasures DVD sets.

Plot[edit]

The cartoon begins with music from Wagner's comic opera Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg before continuing into the title song.

A German oom-pah band—composed of Axis leaders Joseph Goebbels on trombone, Heinrich Himmler on snare drum, Hideki Tōjō on sousaphone, Hermann Göring on piccolo and Benito Mussolini on bass drum—marches noisily at four o'clock in the morning through a small German town where everything, even the clouds and trees, are shaped as swastikas, singing the virtues of the Nazi doctrine. Passing by Donald Duck's house (the features of which depict Adolf Hitler), they poke him out of bed with a bayonet to get ready for work. Herr Donald then faces and "Heils" the portraits of the Führer (Adolf Hitler), the Emperor (Hirohito), and Il Duce (Benito Mussolini), respectively. Because of wartime rationing, his breakfast consists of a piece of wooden bread, coffee brewed from a single hoarded coffee bean, and an aromatic spray that smells like bacon and eggs. The band shoves a copy of Mein Kampf in front of him for a moment of reading, then marches into his house and escorts him to a factory with Donald now carrying the bass drum and Göring kicking him.

Donald salutes the "Fuehrer"

Upon arriving at the factory (at bayonet-point), Donald starts his 48-hour daily shift screwing caps onto artillery shells in an assembly line. Mixed in with the shells are portraits of the Führer, so he must perform the Hitler salute every time a portrait appears, all the while screwing the caps onto shells, much to Donald's disgust. Each new batch of shells is of a different size, ranging from minute shells to massive shells, as large as Donald if not larger. The pace of the assembly line intensifies (as in the Charlie Chaplin comedy Modern Times), and Donald finds it increasingly hard to complete all the tasks. At the same time, he is bombarded with propaganda messages about the superiority of the Aryan race and the glory of working for the Fuehrer.

After a "paid vacation" that consists of making swastika shapes with his body for a few seconds in front of a painted backdrop of the Alps as exercise, Donald is ordered to work overtime. He has a nervous breakdown with hallucinations of artillery shells everywhere, some of which are snakes and birds, some sing and are the same shape of the marching band from the start, music and all. When the hallucinations clear, he finds himself in his bed, and realizes that the whole experience was a nightmare, but he sees the shadow of a figure holding its right hand up in the form of a Nazi salute. He begins to do so himself until he realizes that it is the shadow of a miniature Statue of Liberty. Remembering he is in the United States, he embraces the statue, proud of his United States citizenship.

The short ends with a caricature of Hitler's angry face. After two sets of "Heils", a tomato is thrown at Hitler's face and forms the words The End.

Song[edit]

"Der Fuehrer's Face"
Single by Spike Jones and His City Slickers
Recorded 1942
Writer(s) Oliver Wallace

Before the film's release, the popular band Spike Jones and His City Slickers, noted for their parodies of popular songs of the time, released a version of Oliver Wallace's theme song, "Der Fuehrer's Face" (also known informally as "The Nazi Song") in September 1942 on Bluebird Records #11586.[6] The song parodied the Nazi anthem, the "Horst Wessel Song". Unlike the version in the cartoon, some Spike Jones versions contain the rude sound effect of an instrument he called the "birdaphone", a rubber razzer (aka the Bronx Cheer) with each "Heil!" to show contempt for Hitler. (The version in the cartoon features the use of a tuba instead.) The so-called "Bronx Cheer" was a well-known expression of disgust in that time period and was not deemed obscene or offensive. The sheet music cover bears the image of a tomato splattering in Hitler's face. In the Jones version, the chorus's line, "Ja, we is the Supermen—" is answered by a soloist's "Super-duper super men!" delivered in an effeminate character suggesting the prevalence of epicenes in the Party; the Disney versions delivers both lines flat but with effeminate gestures. The recording became very popular, peaking at #3 on U.S. charts.[7]

Other versions[edit]

Comic book cover

In other media[edit]

Releases[edit]

See also[edit]

Further reading[edit]

  • Young, Jordan R. (2005). Spike Jones Off the Record: The Man Who Murdered Music (3rd edition) Albany: BearManor Media ISBN 1-59393-012-7.

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ a b Der Fuehrer's Face at The Encyclopedia of Animated Disney Shorts
  2. ^ "New U.S. War Songs". LIFE 13 (18): 44. 2 November 1942. Retrieved 20 January 2012. 
  3. ^ Blitz, Marcia (1979). Donald Duck. New York: Harmony Books. p. 133. ISBN 0-517-52961-0. 
  4. ^ "Der Fuehrer's Face". BCDB. 2012-12-16. 
  5. ^ Biographies of 10 Classic Disney Characters from Walt Disney Archives at D23: The Official Disney Fan Club
  6. ^ "The Week's Best Releases". Billboard. September 26, 1942. p. 66. Retrieved June 17, 2014. 
  7. ^ Whitburn, Joel (1986). Pop Memories 1890-1954. Menomonee Falls, Wisconsin: Record Research, Inc. p. 242. ISBN 0-89820-083-0. 

External links[edit]