Peace on Earth (1939)

Mel Blanc, Sara Berner, Bernice Hansen, The Hollywood Choir Boys,
Peace on Earth is a short starring Mel Blanc, Sara Berner, and Bernice Hansen. Two baby squirrels ask grandpa to explain what "men" are when he comes in singing "peace on earth, goodwill to men". Grandpa tells the story of man's...
  • 7.4 /10.0 IMDB Rating:
  • DatePublished:
  • 2021-03-05 Added:
  • Jack Cosgriff, Khat Harman, Charles McGirl, Frank Tashlin, Writer:
  • Hugh Harman, Director:
  • Producer:

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10 / 10

When Squirrels Strode the Earth

Back in the 1940's, men fought a cataclysmic war until all were killed, leaving the animals behind to build a peaceful society in the ruins.

This has probably the strongest impact of any cartoon I have ever seen -- taking the era in which it was made into account -- and must have been virtually without precedent in 1939. Powerful post-war rivals might include "Animal Farm", "Watership Down", or "When the Wind Blows". Or Art Spiegelman's Pulitzer Prize-winning "Maus" in the field of the graphic novel.

There are scenes here of animated warfare which are still a little grim by modern standards. Childlike innocence gets temporarily suspended. "All Quiet on the Western Front" is an immediate comparison.

As was normal in the '30's, the coming war in Europe was viewed as an extension of the Great War, so we see the technology familiar from 20 years previous -- trenches, gas masks, unturreted tanks. When Neville Chamberlain bought peace for all time from Hitler at Munich, the sort of war he had succeeded in averting was the one depicted in this film. The new World War II technology did not enter the general consciousness until the averted war got underway in Sept. 1939.

I first saw this film about a decade ago, and rediscovered it recently on a compilation video entitled "MGM Cartoon Christmas". The other cartoons on the tape, "Alias St. Nick" and "Pups' Christmas", show quite clearly what a break with convention "Peace on Earth" was at the time.

9 / 10

Hugh Harman grows up

Love animation, it was a big part of my life as a child, particularly Disney, Looney Tunes and Tom and Jerry, and still love it whether it's film, television or cartoons.

Know Hugh Harman more for his cartoons that have a cute approach with a lot of sentiment. There have been times where this approach has been done sweetly and charmingly, there have also been other times where it can be too cutesy and cloying. My review summary is in no way a derogatory knock against Harman, far from it. It is alluding to that 'Peace on Earth' is a Harman cartoon that is darker and grimmer to usual. A more mature Harman cartoon and it's good, great even.

'Peace on Earth' is not what one would call subtle, there is a very important, admirable and powerful message that certainly makes its point and at times in too thick a way perhaps. It is though a message cartoon, meaning that there was always a trap of it being on the preachy side.

Regardless, 'Peace on Earth' makes a big emotional impact. It packs a very poignant punch and really makes one think about what it's trying to say. The beginning and end scenes are cute but not too sentimental, while the darker content in between provokes thought and moves. Story-wise, it's simple but this is a good thing, making the cartoon easier to understand and resonate with.

The characters carry the cartoon beautifully, they look adorable in appearance but show stronger personalities than one would expect. Mel Blanc voices beautifully, this is a less manic Blanc than in his Looney Tunes oeuvre, something that was a perfect fit and the right one.

Animation is rich in detail for design and backgrounds, vibrant in colour and crisp. Composer for the prime-era 'Tom and Jerry' cartoons and regular Tex Avery composer Scott Bradley provides a lush and atmospheric music score.

Overall, great cartoon, as well as being perhaps Harman's most mature cartoon it's one of his best. 9/10 Bethany Cox

9 / 10

And that was the end of the last man on Earth

Intelligent, thoughtful cartoon about a post-apocalyptic world where there are no more people, just animals. The story of how this came to be is told by Grandpa Squirrel to his grandkids. The kids want to know what the "men" are in the phrase "Peace on Earth, good will to men." So Grandpa tells them all about men. About how they waged war after war with each other until they were all dead. So it's a cartoon with an anti-war message just shortly before WWII. It's beautifully animated and the story is excellent. It was remade in 1955 as "Good Will to Men," updated for the atomic age. That one's good too. But if pressed I would say I prefer this original.

7 / 10

More than sixty years old, but still packs a punch

This cartoon is one of the finest produced by MGM and hasn't really lost it's impact even after sixty years. Given that the shadows of WWII lurked during its preparation, the thoughts of those involved in its preparation are fairly obvious. Although I understand why The Ugly Duckling won the Oscar (it's a beautifully crafted short and deserved recognition), I wish that this one had won or at least tied. MGM did a reprise on this one in the 1950s called, "Good Will To Men" that was good and well worth seeing, but this one is better. The Cartoon Network runs this one and it's also in print. Well worth your time. Early use of roto-scoping (live footage fimed and then animated) is excellent. Profoundly recommended. Anyone who argues animation isn't an art-form should see this!

9 / 10

Humanity Called On Our Hypocrisy

This surely has to rank as one of the great "shorts" of all time. Released by MGM at the perfect time - in 1939, with the world poised on the brink of the Second World War - the cartoon portrays a family of squirrels living in an era after humanity has wiped itself out in war, as Grampa Squirrel (voices by Mel Blanc, who would of course become most famous as the voice of Bugs Bunny) attempts to explain to two babies on Christmas Eve why the Christmas song being sung says "peace on earth; goodwill to men." "What are men?" ask the babies, and Grampa Squirrel relates a story that should make all human beings squirm at our hypocrisy as he explains how humans killed each other off, and then relates the discovery by the animals who survived of a book that has a set of rules including "thou shalt not kill."

It's simplicity probably makes this all the more thought-provoking.