MGM's 1939 classic "Peace on Earth." Directed by Hugh Harmon. The synopsis sounds bleak: Animals inherit the earth after the last two men kill each other in war. But there are so many cute little animals running around adding a spoonful of sugar to the pacifist message that the blow is softened. And the animation - so rich and lush - the old beautiful kind.
Created twenty years after the end of The Great War and just as the Second World War was cranking up in Europe, the cartoon focuses on two little squirrels asking their grandpa what "Peace on earth, goodwill toward men" means. What is peace? What is goodwill? What are men? The scene where the last two humans - knee-deep in trench mud and wearing gas masks - kill each other never fails to startle me.
"Peace on Earth" trivia:
- The only cartoon ever nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize (Wow!)
- First MGM cartoon to be nominated for an Academy Award (can't believe it didn't win)
- Re-made/updated in 1955 by Hanna & Barbera under the title "Goodwill to Men" (also nominated for an Oscar).
Be on the lookout for this one. Turner Classic Movies has it scheduled for Saturday, December 24 at 11:30am. TiVo, if you must, or find the MGM Christmas cartoon collection on DVD.
We'll talk "favorite" Christmas cartoons later (and they are legion . . . ).