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When cartoons get political


Today’s more grown up cartoons might satirise politics in outrageous fashion, but even back in the early days of animated sketches, politic ribbing was rife – like, for instance, the US government bankrolling Disney to comically scoff at Hitler as part of their WW2 propaganda machine.

And let’s face it, if not for cartoons, politics would be a less interesting place. With that in mind, we’ve compiled the ten best examples of when cartoons get political.

South Park – 9/11 conspiracy

During his Presidential tenure, George Bush Jnr served largely as a walking punch line to the majority of satirical media. South Park, on the other hand, didn’t take the easy bait and instead played on Bush’s dim witted persona in a 2006 episode to mock 9/11 conspiracy theorists where Bush admits to concocting the myth of his government planning it all since “one-fourth of Americans are retarded” and will believe anything.

Family Guy – Middle Eastern suicide bombers

Any film aficionado should know a Wilhelm scream when they hear it – the in-joke sound effect used by a thousand major films to accompany any unknown henchman to their demise. What aficionados might not know, however, is that the cartoon has a similar running gag. Take these clips below, for instance, which use the same inaudible scream for two sketches lampooning Palestinian suicide bomber and a later episode which featured an unidentified Middle Eastern terrorist.

Tiny Toons – banned beer sketch

The spawn of Looney Tunes might’ve managed to entertain us for a brief period in the mid-nineties, but little did we know that they also tried to warn us of the dangers of alcohol. In one 1991 episode, Buster Bunny, Plucky Duck and Hamton J Pig find a beer in a fridge, get wildly intoxicated to the point of growing stubble and dressing like vagrants, steal a police car and drive it off a cliff to their deaths. The cartoon was only shown once in America and then banned, unsurprisingly.

Popeye – anti-Japan episode

With a can full of spinach Popeye is capable of anything, even taking down a Japanese Battleship and driving its naval commander to suicide apparently. ‘You’re a Sap Mr Jap’ is the banned Popeye episode from 1942 removed from circulation by Paramount and Time-Warner due to the negative portrayal of the Japanese or 'Japansies' as the facially-challenged sailor calls them. It’s one of the very few clips without Olive, Bluto and Wimpy yet still one the most well-known WW2 cartoons.

Futurama - The Inconvenient Truth promotion

Having already appeared in The Simpsons as an irritatingly dull toy, Al Gore was no stranger to a Matt Groening makeover before asked the cartoonist to help promote Gore’s 2006 documentary. Playing himself, Gore it turns out is inconvenienced by a trolleyed Bender who probes enough to get Gore admitting that he plays “a streetwise pimp” in the film.

Family Guy – Palin and McCain in the 2008 US Election

“Oh no, you didn’t” – a familiar phrase when it comes to the Griffin family. But back when the Republican Party was trying to topple Obama in the US general elections, Family Guy delivered a cruel blow that could well be the most poignant gag in the show’s history. After finding himself in WW2 Germany, Stewie robs a Nazi officer’s uniform, which he happens to find a McCain Palin badge on.

The Simpsons – 2008 US election fix

In what at first seems a light-hearted bit of topical ribbing, Homer Simpson was another animated soul to jump on the Obama bandwagon in 2008. Until that is, you realise that the Republicans had previous – 2000’s voting scandal which saw George Bush Jr elected - and the fact that America’s favourite family have umpteen million viewers.

Warner Bros. - Daffy Duck takes on Hitler

It is not every day that you see Hitler being taken on by a non-Aryan duck. Or just a duck for that matter. Yet this 1943 Warner Bros. short satirises American efforts to subdue Mussolini, Hitler’s attempts to stop them, and Daffy Duck as an all-American hero. Forget Chris Evans, this is the real Captain America.

Simpsons – President Schwarzenegger

Nostradamus has nothing on Sylvester Stallone. In , his frozen cop thawed out in the future finds out that Arnold Schwarzenegger had at some stage been US President. Okay, so he was actually governor of California but it was a good enough reason for The Simpsons Movie to portray him leader of the free world. The only failure of this sketch is the fact that everyone knows Rainier Wolfcastle is Springfield’s counterfeit Arnie anyway.

Donald Duck - Hitler Oppression

Der Fuehrer’s Face (1942) was used as anti-Nazi propaganda for the American war effort and shows a miserable Donald Duck working for Hitler screwing caps on top of artillery shells and slowly being driven to insanity. Due to wartime rationing Donald eats wood carved into the shape of a loaf of bread and sprays an egg and bacon aroma into his mouth for his first meal of the day. Turns out it was all a nightmare, thankfully.


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