When most Americans went to the theater, they started off their evening with about 10 minutes of news, usually highlighting accounts of recent battles. Afterwards they were treated with a war propaganda cartoon before the main programming began.
Main programs at the theaters included dramas, comedies, mysteries, and westerns. These didn't involve war propaganda. However, war-related movies were still popular. Series like "Why We Fight" told about the allied importance in the war and did include propaganda. They showed struggles of the allied soldiers and "demonized" the Nazis and their allies.
"Der Fuehrer's Face"
"Donald Gets Drafted"
"The Spirit of '43"
"Confessions of a Nutsy Spy"
"Daffy the Commando"
Cartoons were played before the main program at the theater to raise support for the war effort. They featured popular charcters such as Superman and Donald Duck. Walt Disney and Looney Toons were two popular cartoons.
Disney's characters weren't just used for entertainment. They were an important part of the war effort. In 1941, Disney was asked to use some of its studios to defend airplane factories against air raids, and soon after were asked to help with war propaganda. Donald Duck helped start raising awareness for the war effort in cartoons such as "The Spirit of '43," and "Der Fuehrer's Face." Other characters were also featured in cartoons, such as Mickey & Minnie Mouse, Dumbo, Goofy, and Bambi. Disney was now producing five times more film than they ever had before making war cartoons. Even comics featured these characters, and had Americans laughing at their own daily lives.
Disney's War Effort
"Education for Death: The Making of the Nazi," was first seen in theaters during 1943. This was a serious film which talked about how Germany's children were taught about hatred and war from an early age, and were raised to be Nazis. This was a big departure from Disney's lighthearted films. However, Disney had already begun to help the war effort. Since 1942, Disney designed emblems for uniforms and weapons. These tanks and uniforms sported Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck, and Pluto. While Disney was an entertainment company, it still held close ties with the war effort. A rumor even states that "Mickey Mouse" was used as a password for the allies on D-Day.
Disney wasn't the only film studio with war propaganda. Warner Brothers had Looney Tunes in on the action with characters like Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck. How did people react to all these war messages in their beloved cartoons? Many Americans became conscious of the war effort. Some even admitted that they started saving money to pay their taxes after watching "The Spirit of '43." These cartoons also gave Americans courage. In shorts like "The Ducktators," and "Der Fuehrer's Face," the enemies were laughed and made fun of, especially Hitler. Most importantly, they taught people about the war's significance. Of course there was the mature films that taught about Hitler's direct impact on Germany's youth, but the cartoons also taught about the importance of helping America to fight the axis.