The Spirit of '43

A Wartime Short

Release Date : January 7, 1943

Synopsis

A companion piece to "The New Spirit" has Donald struggling with two sides of his personality, one a spendthrift, the other a tightwad, and , in the end, deciding to show the proper spirit and pay his income tax.

Characters

Donald Duck

Credits

Director
Jack King
Animation
Ward Kimball

Video

United States
Great and Minor Animation Vol. 3
Donald Duck
Cartoon Collections Vol. 1 : Porky in Wackyland

DVD

Disney Treasures : On the Front Lines

Technical Specification

Color Type: Technicolor
Animation Type: Standard animation
Sound Mix: Mono
Aspect Ratio: 1.37 : 1
Negative Format: 35mm
Print Format: 35mm
Cinematographic Process: Spherical
Original Language: English

Comments

From Ryan Kilpatrick at The Disney Film Project : You thought we were done with 1943 shorts, didn’t you? Not so fast, my friend, as Lee Corso would say. In addition to the public shorts that Disney produced during this wartime period, there were the propaganda shorts that served to enhance the spirit of Americans about the war. At least that was the idea, and The Spirit of ’43 was designed for that purpose.

The specific subject here is income taxes. During the war, taxes were “high,” so that the government could produce the things needed to wage the war. That’s a point that gets touched on later in the short, but the opening uses the old trick of pitting man’s best nature against his worst, this time with Donald Duck as the person in between.

In this case, the good side is urging Donald to pay his taxes, put money away and support the war effort by making all his payments on time. On the bad side, the spendthrift duck is urging Donald to go to the nightclub and blow the money on entertainment. The good duck is represented by a character remarkably like Uncle Scrooge, which becomes quite odd.

As the short progresses and Donald is trying to fight off the two sides, he ends up knocking them off. The good side slams into a wall, and reveals an American looking façade. Again, just odd because he’s represented by a Scottish speaking duck in a kilt!

The bad side spendthrift duck staggers off the side of the club, revealing his Hitler mustache. The club doors form a swastika, and we see the clear message that blowing your money instead of paying taxes is supporting the Axis.

Take a second to think about that – would you see such a thing today? Encouraging people to pay their taxes, because it’s their patriotic duty? I don’t think so. It’s an amazing study of sociology to see how much attitudes have changed in the intervening 60 plus years to think of how unacceptable this short would be today.

At the time, however, with everyone united around the war effort, The Spirit of ’43 was an acceptable thing. The second half of the short is a rehash of other wartime shorts, showing all the guns, tanks and other machinery that can be produced if you pay your taxes. It’s well done, but nothing new. It’s the ducks that are so interesting here, and well worth watching just to see how things have changed.


From Jerry Edwards : Donald Duck is torn between the temptations of a zoot-suited spendthrift and a gentle, counseling, thrifty Scotsman (who looks like an early version of Uncle Scrooge McDuck). These two opposing forces engage in a tug-of-war over Donald until both lose their grip and crash in opposite directions.

The Scotsman crashes into a wall whose plaster falls away to reveal lines of red bricks and white mortar with a window of stars on a blue field - a composition of the American flag. The spendthrift crashes into a bar whose swinging door shatters into a swastika. His bow tie has become a swastika as well, and he blows swastika-shaped smoke rings and now sports a Hitler mustache and forelock.

Donald approaches the spendthrift, but instead of succumbing to his entreaties, Donald smacks him. Donald then hurries to the Internal Revenue window to pay his taxes. The ending animation of The New Spirit was repeated.

Walt Disney, after the problems being paid for The New Spirit, insisted on the Treasury Department getting the money from Congress before he did the short. The money was reduced to only $20,000 - so only the Donald Duck animation was changed from the previous The New Spirit.

Entertaining, but the main interest is historically.


From Ryan : I found some entertainment value in this short, but I mainly liked it historicalwise. Donald has just been paid. There are two sides of a person as the narrator says: the spendthrift (who urges people to spend their money the way they want) and the thrifty (who urges people to save some of their money for important things). I noticed that the thrifty side looked somewhat like Scrooge McDuck and even talked in a Scottish accent. The spendthrift had a swastika on his sleeve, and in one scene even had the hairstyle and mustache of Hitler. After some time battling between the thrifty and spendthrift, Donald does the good thing: he saves the money to pay his income tax. By doing this, he can help his country, along with the other allied countries, win the war. It's either the taxes or the Axis. This is a wonderful short, and I think the Disney Channel should air it (I wonder why they haven't).
From Sam : I saw the short film. The only part I liked is the scene with Donald and his personality sides. It gives it the old "angel vs devil" situation. The scene with why people should pay taxes is what gave me a hunch of why it was banned. But, all in all, it was a good short propaganda. 3.5 out of 5. (Webmaster's note : This short was never "banned.")
From Baruch Weiss : This cartoon was not meant for entertainment, but I like it historicalwise. I enjoyed the thrifty side with the Scottish Accent. In fact, I'll bet he was the inspiration for Scrooge McDuck.