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Western Animation / The Ducktators

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Three fowl fellows indeed.

"The Ducktators" is a 1942 Wartime Cartoon released by Warner Bros. and directed by Norm McCabe, who would later direct "Tokio Jokio" (1943). It's notable for being a satirical allegory for World War II depicting Adolf Hitler, Benito Mussolini and Hideki Tojo (though some sources claim that the Japanese duck caricature is, in fact, Emperor Hirohito) as ducks and geese who take over a farm, while a peace dove (possibly based on U.S. President Roosevelt) feels powerless to stop them. Near the end, after being trampled in a failed attempt to end the Ducktators' reign of terror peacefully, he decides to muster up the courage to defeat them. The short ends with a propaganda message to buy war bonds.

Since the end of World War II, it has been seldom seen on television due to its explicit ties to the era, though on the rare times it has been shown on TV, it has usually been shown edited, barring its sole appearance on the Cartoon Network program Toon Heads. As a result, it has fallen into Public Domain. It's mostly interesting for historians or people interested in wartime cartoons.

"The Ducktators" provides examples of:

  • Adolf Hitlarious: Hitler is shown as an angry duck who makes a fool of himself.
  • America Won World War II: The cartoon is obviously aimed at a U.S. audience, even with shouts like "Give 'em one for Pearl Harbor!" near the end. The Japanese are also the first ones to be beaten up.
  • And I'm the Queen of Sheba: When the Japanese duck tries to tell a turtle he's not Japanese by showing him a badge that says "I am Chinese"note , the turtle doesn't fall for it and keeps hitting him, saying "Yeah, and I'm mock turtle soup!".
  • Artistic Licence – History: Mussolini is depicted as getting his ideas from Hitler, when in reality it was Mussolini who invented fascism and inspired Hitler. Further, Hitler and Mussolini were not friends in real life even as allies (to be fair, the Axis was basically an alliance only in name whose only common aspects were illiberalism and anti-Communism). Mussolini viewed Hitler as a dangerous parvenue who was stealing his spotlight, and Hitler saw Mussolini as a buffoon who wasn't even "Aryan". The two also had conflicting territorial claims in Austria that almost had the two nations come to military blows. The main reason Mussolini entered Hitler's orbit was Italy's ejection from the League of Nations over his invasion of Ethiopia and the resulting international shunning Italy received for the invasion.
  • Big, Thin, Short Trio: Mussolini goose is big, Hitler duck is thin, and Tojo duck is short.
  • Bowdlerize: In the versions distributed by Guild Films, the entire ending where the War Bonds soldier shoots the fleeing dictators and the dove shows his children his enemies as moose heads on the wall, followed by a message to buy War Bonds was cut, making the short end abruptly with the Jerry Colonna-esque rabbit hitting himself on the head. This edited version has been seen on many gray-market public domain VHS cassettes and DVDs and sometimes crops up on online video channels (though most video sites have the uncut version with the complete ending and the uncut version has been shown on Cartoon Networknote  and is featured on the last volume of the Looney Tunes Golden Collection DVD series).
  • Breaking the Fourth Wall: The black ducknote  claiming to be from "South Germany" winks to the audience after saying his line.
  • Curb-Stomp Battle: The Axis are defeated extremely easily in the end. They all patiently wait until the dove comes to beat them up and they all fall down after only one good punch.
  • Dark Is Evil: Hitler duck hatches from a black egg.
  • Deliberately Monochrome: The cartoon is in black-and-white, just like all of Norm McCabe's cartoons.
  • Doves Mean Peace: While the ducks and geese start a war, the Dove of Peace tries to end it. Subverted when the Ducktators ignore the Dove of Peace and walk right over him. The Dove is furious and beats them up, which encourages the other animals to fight back as well.
  • Everybody Smokes: The father duck hands out cigars to celebrate the birth of his child.
  • Failed Future Forecast: Although the defeat of the Axis powers is predicted almost correctly, the Allied forces had a lot more trouble defeating them in real life. Here, Japan is defeated first and in one good blow, but in reality it was the last of the Axis countries to surrender.
  • Feathered Fiend: Hitler duck, Mussolini goose and Tojo duck, the titular "Ducktators".
  • Foul Waterfowl: The three dictator ducks and geese.
  • Gratuitous German: While all other languages in this cartoon are mostly gibberish, Hitler's father does speak one actual German line: "Ach, mama, was ist los?" (translation: "Oh, mother, what's the matter?")
  • Heroic Resolve: Only when the peace dove is trampled by Hitler, Mussolini, Tojo and their soldiers does he finally snap and fight back.
  • Human Head on the Wall: Hitler, Mussolini and Tojo are subjected to the avian equivalent of this trope, and this is presented as good triumphing over evil.
  • Hurricane of Puns:
    • The title.
    • The storm troopers walk in an actual storm cloud. One of them even gets hit by lightning.
    • When Hitler orders everybody to "Sieg Heil", one soldier claims "I'm a sick heiler too!", while coughing and looking delirious.
    • The Tojo duck is introduced as "making a silly Axis of himself".
    • The Gestapo headquarters has the title Gestinko Gestapo.
    • Goosestepping.
  • I Lied: Hitler signs peace treaties, but puts them in a shredder, then beats up everybody in the room.
  • Incoming Ham: Hitler is born screaming the words "SIEG HEIL!" at the top of his lungs.
  • Ironic Nursery Rhyme: Hitler, Mussolini and Tojo sing about invasions to the tune of "One, two, buckle my shoe".
  • Japan Takes Over the World: The Japanese duck puts a sign reading "Japanese Mandate Island" on the back of a turtle.
  • Lemony Narrator: The narrator has a very dry, sarcastic tone.
  • Mistaken Nationality: To avoid being beaten up, Hideki Tojo tries to invoke this trope by claiming he is Chinese instead of Japanese, presenting an "I am Chinese" badge, but the badge has a subtitle Made in Japan label, which prevents the turtle from buying the ruse.
  • National Stereotypes:
    • The black ducknote  claiming to be from "South Germany" is an Afro-American man from the Deep South.
      • This joke actually becomes 10 times funnier when South Germans in real life are ACTUALLY stereotyped to be rural hicks like their southern American counterparts. A German unfamiliar with American stereotypes would still find the joke funny for unintended reasons.
    • The Mussolini goose gives a speech with "a lotsa Italian-a accentuations" and lists things like "tutti frutti", while the aria from Gioachino Rossini's The Barber of Seville plays in the background.
    • The Tojo duck is caricatured as a small pathetic wimp with rounded glasses, Asian Buck Teeth and an Asian Speekee Engrish accent. He sings "I'm The Japanese Sandman", apologizes insincerely for infuriating the turtle and rubs his hands wickedly.
  • No Fourth Wall: A title card comes up with the note "Apologies to all the NICE DUCKS and GEESE who may be in the audience", an acknowledgment on the part of the writers and animators of the many innocent German and Italian citizens suffering under the regime of these tyrants.
  • Pacifism Breaking Point: The dove reaches this point after his attempts to compromise with the ducks fail (and gets literally trod on by them). After this, he decides enough is enough and leads a violent revolt against them.
    Dove: I hate war, but once begun... Well, I just didn't choose to run.
  • Propaganda Piece: This is a straight out US propaganda cartoon.
  • Proud Papa Passes Out the Cigars: Aduck Hitler's father displays the trope in the opening scene.
  • Public Domain Animation: The cartoon has fallen into the public domain.
  • Pun-Based Title: "The Ducktators" instead of "The Dictators".
  • Satire: The cartoon is a satirical allegory of World War Two.
  • Shout-Out: The rabbit with a moustache who says "Busy little bee, aren't I?" is a caricature of comedian Jerry Colonna.
  • Standard Snippet:
    • The title music is "Oh, du Lieber Augustin", often played whenever Germans are around in old cartoons.
    • When Mussolini speeches the "Figaro" chorus from The Barber of Seville can be heard.
    • The Tojo duck sings "I'm The Japanese Sandman".
  • Stealth Pun: goosestepping.
  • Those Wacky Nazis: The Axis are depicted as barnyard ducks and geese.
  • Took a Level in Badass: The peace dove once he musters the courage to take on the Hitler, Mussolini and Tojo birds head-on.
  • Toothy Bird: Hitler, Mussolini, and Tojo.
  • Turtle Island: The Tojo duck mistakes a turtle for an island.
  • Uncle Tomfoolery: The "I'm from South Germany" duck may be this, depending on whether you interpret him as intending to be a parody of black people, southern people, or both.
  • War Is Glorious: The cartoon tells the audience to buy war bonds to make the defeat of the Axis come true.
  • War Time Cartoon: One of the most famous for its' particularly biting satire of the war.
  • Yellow Peril: Implied. Hitler and Mussolini, who are very obviously caricatured as themselves, are followed up by a card that says "we like to apologize to all the nice ducks and geese in the audience", which shows the audience that they are not representative of all Germans and Italians. The Tojo duck arrives only after the apology and, unlike the other two, is presented as a racial caricature that just happens to be wearing his real life counterpart's military hat.