Peace on Earth Cartoon from 1939 – Ahead of Its Time

Peace on Earth, directed by Hugh Harman,  is a one-reel classic 1939 Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer cartoon. Grandpa squirrel, in a post-apocalyptic world populated only by animals,  tells his nephews about a terrible human war that occurred because men failed to follow the message in one of their favorite Christmas songs of "Goodwill to Men".  Incredible foreshadowing in that this cartoon was made in 1939 and in Sept of the same year Hitler’s tanks invaded Poland, thus marking the official start of WWII. 

Grandpa squirrel also delivers hope in his story, describing how the surviving animals found a Bible (referred to as the "human’s book of rules"),  in the ruins of a church. The animals are moved and inspired to rebuild the ruins of the place in which they live by the words they find in The Bible, especially those of the ten commandments. The society they rebuild, using the helmets of soldiers as the foundation for their homes, is based on peace and nonviolence. 

According to Hugh Harman’s obituary in the New York Times and Ben Mankiewicz, host of Cartoon Alley, the cartoon was nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize. However, it is not listed in the official Nobel Prize nomination database. Mankiewicz also claimed that the cartoon was the first about a serious subject by a major studio. It was also nominated in 1939 for the Academy Award for Short Subjects, but lost out to a cartoon featuring Mickey Mouse.  In 1994, it was voted #40 of the 50 Greatest Cartoons of all time by members of the animation field.


In 1955 William Hanna and Joseph Barbera remade the cartoon in Cinema Scope with the title Good Will to Men.  The new version featured more destructive and updated forms of warfare.  The squirrels were replaced by mice as the main characters and the Bible is referred to directly as The Bible instead of as a book of rules. This new version was also nominated for the Best Short Subjects Oscar.


December 20 , 2009 | | In: Cartoons, Movies

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