Thursday, 11 November 2021

Hugh Harman's War Against War

If Hugh Harman surpassed Walt Disney at any time during his career, it would have been with his anti-war cartoon Peace on Earth, released after Europe had plunged into war in 1939.

The art direction is outstanding and it’s a shame the only person credited on it is Harman. I would love to know who was responsible for the backgrounds. There’s effects animation, too, with snow and rain.

Here are some of the shots as a grandfather squirrel explains how mankind annihilated itself in wars. Cannon with huge wheels would soon be a thing of the past, if they weren’t already.

Maybe it’s because the grandparents of adults in 1939 would have been more often rural than urban, but Mel Blanc’s grandpa squirrel sounds like some old-timer from down on the farm. Blanc’s endless jawing of “Peace on Earth” is annoying after a while, but considering the rest of the cartoon, it can be forgiven.

You can see more art in this post and this post, which also tracks the making of the film, some contemporary reviews, and Fred Quimby’s opinion.


  1. Hans Christian Brando11 November 2021 at 18:15

    I'd love to have heard Walt's assessment of this cartoon, having read his blistering attack on "To Spring." He certainly wasn't one to sugar-coat his criticisms (although he was usually right), and might have found the rotoscoping here too literal. But then for years Disney had trouble with male human characters unless they were boys, clowns, villains, grandpas, or faintly effeminate Price Charmings.

  2. A lot of what you see in the cartoon (and in the thumbnails above) is World War I-vintage weaponry. There was a great deal of World War I equipment still in use at the time, though those kind of rhomboid World War I tanks had not been in service for many years. Field artillery on wheels was still a feature of World War II, though the metal-wheel type (as opposed to rubber-tired type) was soon to be extinct.

  3. I wonder if PEACE ON EARTH was included in MGM's package of pre-48 cartoons they syndicated to local stations in the 1960s and '70s? Where I grew up, that package of cartoons ran for a long time, but I don't remember ever seeing this particular short until it was included as an extra on MGM/UA's laserdisc release of the 1938 A CHRISTMAS CAROL. I can see it as being a short that many stations would have considered inappropriate for their early morning CARTOON CARNIVAL show.