"The New Spirit" is a 1942 Wartime Cartoon and propaganda film made by the Disney studio. It features Donald Duck learning from a radio broadcast how his taxes can be used to support the war effort. The rest of the cartoon shows the audience how the money will be used to defeat the Axis. The cartoon was quite a success and many Americans did indeed pay their taxes more gleefully afterwards. It was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature, but lost.
Like most wartime cartoons the short is an Unintentional Period Piece and therefore never broadcast on television.
In a case of What Could Have Been, Secretary of the Treasury Henry Morgenthau Jr. initially wanted a generic Mr. American Taxpayer to star in this short, but Disney was adamant that Donald be used, on the grounds that he had more popularity, and Morgenthau's boss, Franklin D. Roosevelt, convinced him to let Disney have his way.
In 1943 a sequel was made, The Spirit of '43, which re-uses a lot of the same imagery.
"The New Spirit" provides examples of:
- America Won World War II: The second half of the cartoon shows how the tax payer's money is used to defeat Japan and Nazi Germany.
- Animate Inanimate Object: Donald's pen, ink and blotter are alive. Even the radio seems alive, because it is shaped like a face and reacts to the things Donald says. The mailbox also reacts with surprise when Donald zooms past it.
- The Cameo: Huey, Louie and Dewey appear for a brief moment when Donald thinks of his dependents. The singing voice at the start of the cartoon is Cliff Edwards, best known as the voice of Jiminy Cricket in Pinocchio (1940).
- Documentary: It was perceived as a documentary by the Hollywood Academy, who nominated it for an Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature in 1942. It was one of 24 films nominated for that honor and lost, but it was the only cartoon to be bestowed with such an honor.
- Everybody Is Single: Donald is described as single with dependents, as he takes care of Huey, Louie and Dewey who are his nephews.
- Patriotic Fervor: The cartoon plays on the patriotic pride of its American audience.
- Propaganda Machine: This cartoons was made to make the American people understand why they should pay such high taxes in regard to the war effort.
- Public Domain Soundtrack: "Yankee Doodle Dandy" and "My Country Tis Of Thee That I Sing" are heard on the soundtrack. Ludwig van Beethoven's "5th Symphony" is quoted too, because the opening bars were the signal of the "V for Victory" campaign.
- Shout-Out: The narrator quotes from Franklin D. Roosevelt's "Four Freedoms" speech during his enthusiastic narration.
- Spiritual Successor: The Spirit of '43.
- Super Speed: Donald is so determined to pay his income taxes that he personally runs all the way from California to Washington D.C.
- Time Marches On: It was solely made as a war time propaganda short for the year 1942. More significantly, even accounting for inflation, Donald gets a pretty sweet deal: his 1942 salary in 2018 dollars is roughly $38,000, and his income tax is worth roughly $200 in 2018 (converted here). His income tax is less than a percent of his yearly income, and that's during a war!
- War Is Glorious: The war effort will surely lead to victory, according to the narrator.
- War Time Cartoon: As blatant as they come. Donald is explained in great detail what to do in order to fill in his tax income record, while he, at first a bit resistant, eagerly joins in.
- What, Exactly, Is His Job?: It may come as a surprise that Donald is apparently not a sailor, but describes himself as "an actor". Even his pen is in doubt as he puts a question mark behind this profession.