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Western Animation / Old Glory

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"...You don't know why you should learn the Pledge of Allegiance?"

"Old Glory" is a 1939 Merrie Melodies short directed by Charles M. Jones, starring Porky Pig. This short is notable, if just for being the most un-Warner Bros.-like cartoon ever made. It's not loaded to the brim with gags or funny characters, and the subject matter is actually portrayed seriously.

Anyway, the short is centered on a childlike Porky Pig, who, uninterested in learning about the Pledge of Allegiance, lies down for a nap. He's then confronted by a vision of Uncle Sam, who proceeds to explain to Porky (or rather, his ghost) a history of Colonial America, The American Revolution, and the expansion to the Old West, with an allusion to Abraham Lincoln at the end and an excerpt from the Gettysburg Address. When Porky wakes up he is so enthusiastic about his country that he recites the entire pledge by heart.

Essentially, this short is to Merrie Melodies as Education for Death was to Classic Disney Shorts (though nowhere near as dark) — or maybe a less musical ancestor to Schoolhouse Rock!.

This short can be found, restored, on Looney Tunes Golden Collection Vol. 2.

"Old Glory" provides examples of:

  • Animation Bump: As with Chuck Jones's early work, this is one of the most lavishly animated Warner Bros. cartoons. The most notable example is Uncle Sam, who was not rotoscoped, but animated singlehandedly by none other than Robert McKimson.
  • As You Know: Towards the viewer in this case. Most notable with the last quote from Abraham Lincoln, whose name is not mentioned, but also the ride of Paul Revere, which is otherwise completely free from context in the cartoon.
  • Dated History: Leaving aside how historiography itself has changed radically in the decades since this cartoon was made, a few aspects of this cartoon have become anachronistic.
    • It uses the original version of the Pledge of Allegiance, so it lacks the "Under God" invocation (which has sparked more than a few lawsuits and Supreme Court decisions). Those two words weren't added to the Pledge until 1954.
    • Like every patriotic cartoon from this era, there are some shots of an American flag with 48-stars instead of 50—at the time this cartoon was made, the newest state was Arizona (February 14th of 1912) while Alaska and Hawaii were both still territories at the time and didn't even become official states until around two decades laternote .
  • Foreshadowing: Patrick Henry's challenge of "Give me liberty or give me death!" is then half-transparent against a cannon firing.
  • Large Ham: Some of the expressions and acting are a little overacted.
  • Opinion-Changing Dream: Porky doesn't know why he should learn the Pledge of Allegiance, but after an informative dream he becomes a patriot.
  • Patriotic Fervor: This cartoon is meant to invoke patriotism among Americans.
  • Propaganda Piece: An unsubtle US patriotic cartoon.
  • Rotoscoping: Used to animate all the humans except Uncle Sam. The scene where Patrick Henry gives his famous "Give me liberty" line is traced directly from footage of the 1936 live action short subject "Give Me Liberty". It even uses the same audio from the film.
  • Very Special Episode: An early non-series example in which the lesson learned is how American kids should appreciate their history and take the Pledge of Allegiance seriously.