- Der Fuehrer's Face
Der Fuehrer's Face Donald Duck series
Theatrical film poster
Directed by Jack Kinney Produced by Walt Disney Story by Joe Grant
Voices by Clarence Nash Music by Oliver Wallace Animation by Bob Carlson
Layouts by Don DaGradi
Studio Walt Disney Productions Distributed by RKO Radio Pictures Release date(s) January 1, 1943(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 is a 1943 American animated short film produced by Walt Disney Productions and released 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. The film was directed by Jack Kinney and features adapted and original music by Oliver Wallace. 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. In 1994, it was voted #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.
A German oom-pah band composed of Axis leaders Hirohito on sousaphone, Göring on piccolo, Goebbels on trombone, Mussolini on bass drum and an unnamed man on snare drum marches 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's house (the features of which depict Hitler), they poke him out of bed with a bayonet to get ready for work. Because of wartime rationing, his breakfast consists of a piece of stale bread, coffee brewed from a single hoarded coffee bean, and an aromatic spray that tastes 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, carrying the bass drum, and escorts him to a factory with Donald carrying the drum and Göring kicking him.
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 — in the United States — and realizes the whole experience was a nightmare. Donald embraces a miniature Statue of Liberty, thankful for his American 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.
"Der Fuehrer's Face"
Written by Oliver Wallace Music by Oliver Wallace Written 1942 Original artist Spike Jones and His City Slickers
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"). The song parodied the Nazi anthem "Horst Wessel Lied". 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.
Jones recorded two versions of the song at the request of RCA Victor Records which released the song on the Bluebird label — one with a trombone note after each "HEIL!" and the other with a razzer called a 'birdaphone'. The birdaphone version was the one released.
- Harry Turtledove adapted the song in one of his Colonization novels, in tune with the novels' theme. See the page on the Race for the lyrics.
- Spike sings a short version of the song in the comic book Spike vs. Dracula #3.
- In the M*A*S*H episode "Dr. Pierce and Mr. Hyde", Hawkeye Pierce sings part of the song to Radar, while suffering from insomnia. This is the Spike Jones version, with the raspberries included.
- In the movie Hart's War, a group of American POWs are seen playing the song and dancing to it in elaborate costumes.
- Herman Wouk built a scene around the song in his novel War and Remembrance.
- In the movie Stalag 17, the American POW's sing part of the song to taunt their guard, Sgt. Schultz.
- Tommy Trinder recorded the song in the United Kingdom soon after the cartoon's release.
In other media
- In August 1943, the cover of Four Favorites comic (#11), displayed the four favorites — from left to right, The Unknown Soldier, Captain Courageous, Lightning, and Magno, the Magnetic Man (along with Davey, his boy partner) — all singing "Der Fuehrer's Face" in the background, whilst a strong and powerful "War Bond" simultaneously knocks out Hirohito, Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini with one fierce blow in the foreground.
- This short was featured in part in Donald Duck's 50th Birthday.
- The film makes an appearance in Pearl Harbor (2001)
- 1943 – Original theatrical run
- 2004 – "Walt Disney Treasures: On the Front Lines" (DVD)
- 2005 – "Walt Disney Treasures: The Chronological Donald, Volume Two" (DVD)
- Education for Death
- List of World War II short films
- Young, Jordan R. (2005). Spike Jones Off the Record: The Man Who Murdered Music. Albany: BearManor Media ISBN 1-59393-012-7 3rd edition.
- Der Fuehrer's Face at the Internet Movie Database
- Der Fuehrer's Face at The Encyclopedia of Disney Animated Shorts
- Disney Archives: Donald Duck Character History
- Banned Cartoons, including Fuehrer
Academy Award for Animated Short Film (1941–1960)
Lend a Paw (1941) · Der Fuehrer's Face (1942) · The Yankee Doodle Mouse (1943) · Mouse Trouble (1944) · Quiet Please! (1945) · The Cat Concerto (1946) · Tweetie Pie (1947) · The Little Orphan (1948) · For Scent-imental Reasons (1949) · Gerald McBoing-Boing (1950) · The Two Mouseketeers (1951) · Johann Mouse (1952) · Toot, Whistle, Plunk and Boom (1953) · When Magoo Flew (1954) · Speedy Gonzales (1955) · Magoo's Puddle Jumper (1956) · Birds Anonymous (1957) · Knighty Knight Bugs (1958) · Moonbird (1959) · Munro (1960)
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