Der Fuehrer's Face
Season Donald Duck, Episode Donald Duck
Der Fuehrer's Face
Air date 1943
Written by Oliver Walace
Directed by Jack Kinney
Episode guide
Der Fuehrer's Face
Bellboy Donald
Der Fuehrer's Face (originally titled Donald Duck in Nutzi Land[1]) is a 1943 American animated anti-Nazi 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.[2] The film was directed by Jack Kinney and written by Joe Grant and Dick Huemer from the original music by Oliver Wallace.[3] The film is well known for Wallace's original song "Der Fuehrer's Face", which was 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.[4] 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 deeply 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 Joseph Goebbels on trombone, Heinrich Himmler on snare drum, Hideki Tojo on sousaphone, Hermann Göring on piccolo and Benito Mussolini on bass drum—marches noisily at four o'clock in the morning through a small town where the trees, windmills, fence posts, and even the clouds are shaped like swastikas, singing the virtues of the Nazi doctrine. As they near Donald Duck’s house, Donald is heiling to the song in his sleep. His alarm clock, with all the numbers replaced with swastikas, goes off and he smashes it. His cuckoo clock with a bird that is dressed up as Hitler heils as a clock chime, only for Donald to throw a shoe at it. Passing by Donald Duck's house (the features of which depict Adolf Hitler), the band members poke him out of bed with a bayonet to get him ready for work. Here Donald then faces and "Heils" the portraits of the Führer (Adolf Hitler), the Emperor (Hirohito) and Il Duce (Mussolini) respectively, then goes to make breakfast.

Because of wartime rationing, Donald's breakfast consists of bread that is so stale and hard it resembles wood (and must be sliced using a saw), coffee brewed from a single hoarded coffee bean, and an aromatic spray that smells (and, apparently, also 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 now carrying the bass drum and Göring kicking him.


Upon arriving at the factory (at bayonet-point), Donald starts his comical 48-hour daily shift of screwing caps onto artillery shells coming at him 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 individual bullets 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 Führer.

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 (some of the animation from this sequence is recycled from the "Pink Elephants on Parade" sequence from Dumbo).

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, holding her torch high in her right hand. Remembering he is in the United States, he embraces the statue, grateful of his United States citizenship.

The short ends with a caricature of Hitler's angry face, and a tomato is thrown at Hitler's face forming the words The End.


Der Fuehrer's Face




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 RCA Victor Bluebird Records #11586.[5] 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 (also known as the Bronx Cheer) with each "Heil!" to show contempt for Hitler (Instead, the cartoon version features the sound of a tuba.) 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 Donald Duck throwing a tomato in Hitler's face. In the Jones version, the chorus line, "Ja, we is the Supermen—" is answered by a soloist's "Super-duper super men!" effeminately delivered suggesting the prevalence of epicenes in the Party; in the Disney version, these lines are flatly delivered but with effeminate gestures. The recording was very popular, peaking at #3 on U.S. charts.[6]

Other versionsEdit


Political themesEdit

Although the film portrays events in Nazi Germany, its release came while the United States also was on total war footing. Coffee, meat and food oils were rationed, civilians were heavily employed in military production, and propaganda in support of the war effort (such as the film itself) was pervasive. The film's criticism therefore emphasizes violence and terror under the Nazi government, as compared with the dull grind that Americans faced.[8]


In 2010, Der Fuehrer's Face was ruled by a local court in Kamchatka, Russia to be included in the national list of extremist materials, which was first created in 2002. This was due to a local who received a suspended sentence of six months for uploading it to the internet and "inciting hatred and enmity". On July 21, 2016, another Russian court reversed the ruling of the local court, removing the short film from the list. The court highlighted that the film's portrayal of Nazism through caricature form cannot be deemed "extremist" in nature.[9]

In other mediaEdit


See alsoEdit

Further readingEdit

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


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  4. Biographies of 10 Classic Disney Characters from Walt Disney Archives at D23: The Official Disney Fan Club
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  8. Van Riper, A. Bowdoin (2011) Learning from Mickey, Donald and Walt: Essays on Disney’s Edutainment Films
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External linksEdit


Donald Duck World War II films
Donald Gets Drafted (1942) * The Vanishing Private (1942) * Sky Trooper (1942) * Fall Out Fall In (1943) * The Old Army Game (1943) * Commando Duck (1944)

Donald's Decision (1942) * The New Spirit (1942) * Der Fuehrer's Face (1943) * The Spirit of '43 (1943)

Donald's Tire Trouble (1943) * Home Defense (1943) * Donald Duck and the Gorilla (1944)