Peace On Earth—Classic Christmas Cartoon (1939) + Good Will to Men (1955)

Glory to God in the Highest, Peace on Earth, Goodwill to Men

Image by kevin dooley via Flickr

Dandelion Salad

Michael Strum on Dec 11, 2019

Peace on Earth is a one-reel 1939 Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer cartoon short directed by Hugh Harman, about a post-apocalyptic world populated only by animals.

Two young squirrels ask their grandfather on Christmas Eve who the “men” are in the lyric “Peace on Earth, good will to men.” The grandfather squirrel then tells them a rotoscoped history of the human race, focusing on the never-ending wars men waged. Ultimately the wars do end, with the deaths of the last men on Earth, two soldiers shooting each other. Afterwards, the surviving animals discover a copy of the Bible in the ruins of a church. Inspired by the book’s teachings, they decide to rebuild a society dedicated to peace and nonviolence (using the helmets of soldiers to construct houses). The cartoon features an original song written to the tune of “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing”. According to Hugh Harman’s obituary in the New York Times and Ben Mankiewicz, host of Cartoon Alley, the cartoon was nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize. However, it is not listed in the official Nobel Prize nomination database. Mankiewicz also claimed that the cartoon was the first about a serious subject by a major studio. In 1994, it was voted #40 of the 50 Greatest Cartoons of all time by members of the animation field. It was also nominated for the 1939 Academy Award for Short Subjects (Cartoons).

[Two minute clip]

[Full 9 minute video]

Good Will to Men (1955)

William Hanna and Joseph Barbera remade the cartoon in CinemaScope in 1955.[2] This post-World War II version of the film, entitled Good Will to Men, featured updated and even more destructive forms of warfare technology such as flamethrowers, bazookas, and nuclear weapons. This version used a choir of mice as the main characters including a Deacon mouse who tell the story to his charges (voiced by Daws Butler-uncredited), and also had more direct religious references (the Book is called “The Bible”, while in Peace on Earth is simply referred to as the book of humans’ rules). This new version was also nominated for the Best Animated Short Subject Oscar. –

Alejandro López on Sep 18, 2013

From the archives:

Bethlehem: Beyond the Christmas Story

Scrooge (1935) and Scrooge (1970)

A Christmas Journey to Freedom

Are Wars Inevitable? by William T. Hathaway

Peace is Inevitable by Dennis Kucinich

Kathy Kelly: The Power of Peace