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Der Fuehrer's Face is a 1943 animated cartoon by Walt Disney Productions, starring Donald Duck. It was directed by Jack Kinney and released on January 1, 1943 as an anti-Nazi propaganda film for the American war effort. The film won the 1943 Academy Award for Best Animated Short Film and was the only Donald Duck cartoon to win an Oscar. In 1994, it was voted #22 of "the 50 Greatest Cartoons" of all time by members of the animation field.
A German oom-pah band composed of Axis leaders Hideki Tojo on sousaphone, Göring on piccolo, Goebbels on trombone, Mussolini on bass drum and Heinrich Himmler 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 Adolf 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 wood shaped like a loaf of 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 and escorts him to a factory, with Donald carrying the bass 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 Donald must perform the Hitler salute every time a portrait appears, all the while screwing the caps onto shells, much to his 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 shapes as the marching band from the beginning, music and all. When the hallucinations clear, he finds himself in his bed – in the United States – and realizes the whole experience was just 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".
Home video releases
- Walt Disney Treasures: On the Front Lines
- Walt Disney Treasures: The Chronological Donald, Volume 2
This movie also include some German words. Besides the Hitlergruß ("Sieg Heil" and "Heil Hitler") there are as following:
- Heraus! (when Donald gets poked out of bed) - Get out!
- Schweinehund (incorrectly spoken as Schweinhund) -compares to b****** or swine
- Mach schnell! - quick(ly)!
- Verdammter Esel (incorrectly spoken as feminine form verdammte Esel) - compares to b****** or donkey
- The original title of this short was Donald Duck in Nutzi Land. It was changed after Spike Jones' recording of the song became a huge hit, peaking at #3 in the Best Selling Singles chart.
- The phrase "Heil Hitler" is spoken 33½ times in this short, the ½ being after Donald wakes up and realizes mid-sentence that the silhouette of der Fuehrer he is saluting is actually a figurine of the Statue of Liberty.
- Despite its openly American patriotic and anti-Nazi message, this short is not available on Disney+ due to the Nazi symbology and images in it and possibly its war propaganda purpose.