Donald Duck on the Futility of Nuclear War

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In 1952, Disney released the 7-minute cartoon "Applecore" featuring Donald Duck and Chip 'n Dale, the mischievous fast-talking chipmunks. In this short, Donald plays an apple farmer whose crops are being eaten by Chip 'n Dale, so Donald retaliates, only to be foiled at every turn.

This short is cute, but there is a hugely powerful Cold War undertone here. In the wake of World War II, this short is about the futility of nuclear war, showing the escalation of an arms race, the loss of Donald's crops, and ultimately the nuclear destruction of portions of Donald's farm. At one point, Donald is seen selecting from an arsenal of "Atom Dust," lye, acid, TNT, "Essence of TNT," arsenic, poison, cyanide, and "Atomic Pills" which are basically tiny warheads. There's even an mildly xenophobic parody of "digging a hole to China" near the end.

Seeing this cartoon as a product of its Cold War era makes it bizarre -- it actually is a cute, funny cartoon for kids, but it's also an object lesson about war. Check it out:

Read some trivia about the short after the jump!

Blogger "Duckman" explains that the "Applecore/Baltimore" thing started in the Melody Time short from 1948. Other sources claim that "Apple Core" was a game popular with kids in the mid-20th century. It's unclear whether it became popular because of the Disney shorts, or the Disney shorts incorporated an existing game. But check out this snippet from a discussion of the subject, written by forum moderator "koolcat" and claiming its source as Wikipedia (though I couldn't find it on Wikipedia myself):

"Apple core" is a children's game and prank that was popular among schoolchildren in the United States in the middle of the 20th century.

The game proceeds as follows: a child finishes eating an apple, then displays the core for the other children to see. The child then says "Apple core!"

One of the other children replies: "Nevermore," "Say No More" or "Baltimore."

The first child then responds: "Who's your friend?"

And the second child responds with the name of another child in the group.

The first child then responds: "hard or soft?"

And the second child responds with the choice of either "hard" or "soft".

The first child again responds: "now or never?"

And the second child responds with his choice of either "now" or "never".

Upon hearing the name of the "friend", "hard or soft", and "now or never", the first child then throws (assuming one of the answers were "now") the apple core (either hard or soft) at the named child as he yells, "Not no more"

The origin of the game, like many schoolyard games, is obscure.

Also interesting is the history of Chip 'n Dale, who I know primarily from the late 80's TV series Chip 'n Dale Rescue Rangers. Anyway, according to Wikipedia, both chipmunks originally had identical noses, making them hard to tell apart. Later, Chip was given a black nose to distinguish him. You know, to be honest, I never noticed this stuff as a kid. I also wasn't entirely clear on what a chipmunk was, and how it differed from a squirrel -- but that's a topic for another blog entry. Here's more from Wikipedia:

According to Disney, Chip is the logical schemer, and Dale is the goofy, dim-witted one. An easy way to visually tell them apart is that Chip has a small black nose (it looks a bit like a chocolate "Chip" as a way to help people remember who is who) and two centered protruding teeth, whereas Dale has a big red nose and his two prominent buck teeth exposed. Chip is also depicted as having smooth, short fur atop his head while Dale's tends to be ruffled.

You learn something new (about cartoons) every day, right?

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December 7, 2010 - 6:39am
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