Donald Duck on the Futility of Nuclear War

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?

Original image
Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain
‘American Gothic’ Became Famous Because Many People Saw It as a Joke
Original image
Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

In 1930, Iowan artist Grant Wood painted a simple portrait of a farmer and his wife (really his dentist and sister) standing solemnly in front of an all-American farmhouse. American Gothic has since inspired endless parodies and is regarded as one of the country’s most iconic works of art. But when it first came out, few people would have guessed it would become the classic it is today. Vox explains the painting’s unexpected path to fame in the latest installment of the new video series Overrated.

According to host Phil Edwards, American Gothic made a muted splash when it first hit the art scene. The work was awarded a third-place bronze medal in a contest at the Chicago Art Institute. When Wood sold the painting to the museum later on, he received just $300 for it. But the piece’s momentum didn’t stop there. It turned out that American Gothic’s debut at a time when urban and rural ideals were clashing helped it become the defining image of the era. The painting had something for everyone: Metropolitans like Gertrude Stein saw it as a satire of simple farm life in Middle America. Actual farmers and their families, on the other hand, welcomed it as celebration of their lifestyle and work ethic at a time when the Great Depression made it hard to take pride in anything.

Wood didn’t do much to clear up the work’s true meaning. He stated, "There is satire in it, but only as there is satire in any realistic statement. These are types of people I have known all my life. I tried to characterize them truthfully—to make them more like themselves than they were in actual life."

Rather than suffering from its ambiguity, American Gothic has been immortalized by it. The country has changed a lot in the past century, but the painting’s dual roles as a straight masterpiece and a format for skewering American culture still endure today.

Get the full story from Vox below.

[h/t Vox]

Original image
“Dissension” by Tobias Rothe. Original image courtesy Fondazione Federico Zeri/Università di Bologna // CC-BY 3.0
Get Your GIFs Ready for This International Public Domain GIF-Making Competition
Original image
“Dissension” by Tobias Rothe. Original image courtesy Fondazione Federico Zeri/Università di Bologna // CC-BY 3.0

Excellent GIF-making skills can serve you beyond material for your clever tweets. Each year, a group of four digital libraries from across the world hosts GIF IT UP, a competition to find the best animated image sourced from public domain images from their archives.

The competition is sponsored by Europeana, the Digital Public Library of America (DPLA), New Zealand’s DigitalNZ, and the National Library of Australia’s Trove, all of which host millions of public domain works. The requirements are that the source material must be in the public domain, have a 'no known copyright restrictions' statement, or have a Creative Commons license that allows its reuse. The material must also come from one of the sponsored sources. Oh, and judging by the past winners, it helps if it’s a little whimsical.

The image above won the grand prize in 2015. And this was a runner-up in 2016:


This year’s prizes haven’t been announced yet (although Europeana says there will be a new one for first-time GIF makers), but last year’s grand prize winner got their own Giphoscope, and runners-up got $20 gift cards. (Turns out, there’s not a lot of money in public domain art.)

Not an expert GIFer yet? You can always revisit the audio version of DPLA’s advanced GIF-making tutorial from last year.

The fourth-annual GIF IT UP contest opens to submissions October 1.


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