American Animated Cartoons of the Vietnam Era

A Study of Social Commentary in Films and Television Programs, 1961–1973


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About the Book

In the first four years of U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War (1961–64), Hollywood did not dramatize the current military conflict but rather romanticized earlier ones. Cartoons reflected only previous trends in U.S. culture, and animators comically but patriotically remembered the Revolutionary War, the Civil War, and both World Wars. In the early years of military escalation in Vietnam, Hollywood was simply not ready to illustrate America’s contemporary radicalism and race relations in live-action or animated films.
But this trend changed when US participation dramatically increased between 1965 and 1968. In the year of the Tet Offensive and the killings of the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., and Senator Robert Kennedy, the violence of the Vietnam War era caught up with animators. This book discusses the evolution of U.S. animation from militaristic and violent to liberal and pacifist and the role of the Vietnam War in this development. The book chronologically documents theatrical and television cartoon studios’ changing responses to U.S. participation in the Vietnam War between 1961 and 1973, using as evidence the array of artistic commentary about the federal government, the armed forces, the draft, peace negotiations, the counterculture movement, racial issues, and pacifism produced during this period. The study further reveals the extent to which cartoon violence served as a barometer of national sentiment on Vietnam. When many Americans supported the war in the 1960s, scenes of bombings and gunfire were prevalent in animated films. As Americans began to favor withdrawal, militaristic images disappeared from the cartoon. Soon animated cartoons would serve as enlightening artifacts of Vietnam War-era ideology. In addition to the assessment of primary film materials, this book draws upon interviews with people involved in the production Vietnam-era films. Film critics responding in their newspaper columns to the era’s innovative cartoon sociopolitical commentary also serve as invaluable references. Three informative appendices contribute to the work.

About the Author(s)

Christopher P. Lehman is a professor of ethnic studies at St. Cloud State University in St. Cloud, Minnesota, and the author of three books about American popular culture.

Bibliographic Details

Christopher P. Lehman
Format: softcover (6 x 9)
Pages: 231
Bibliographic Info: appendices, notes, bibliography, index
Copyright Date: 2006
pISBN: 978-0-7864-2818-2
eISBN: 978-0-7864-5142-5
Imprint: McFarland

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments      v
Preface      1
Introduction: Animating Turbulent Times      3

1. The Cartoons of 1961–1962      9
2. The Cartoons of 1963–1964      33
3. The Cartoons of 1965      52
4. The Cartoons of 1966      67
5. The Cartoons of 1967      86
6. The Cartoons of 1968      102
7. The Cartoons of 1969      122
8. The Cartoons of 1970–1971      137
9. The Cartoons of 1972      154
10. The Cartoons of 1973      175

Appendix A: Selected Animated Theatrical Shorts of the Vietnam War Era, by Studio      193
Appendix B: Selected Animated Television Programs of the Vietnam War Era, by Studio      199
Appendix C: Selected Animated Theatrical Feature Films of the Vietnam War Era, by Studio      205
Chapter Notes      207
Bibliography      209
Index      215

Book Reviews & Awards

“comprehensive”—Choice; “most effective…commendable”—Journalism History.