Posted in WB Cartoon Companion on March 24, 2004
One of the means by which the U.S. Government financed its war effort during both the First and Second World Wars was through the sale of War Bonds: low-denomination government securities sold directly to citizens. (United States Savings Bonds fulfill a similar function today.) Even lower demonination War Savings Stamps were sold, mostly to children, who could save them up and turn them in for a War Bond. War Bonds were partly used as an effort to get civilians involved in the war effort, partly as a financing tool, and partly as an anti-inflationary measure, to get money out of circulation in a time when a lot of money was chasing after a small amount of goods, due to the wartime economy.
Hollywood celebrities were recruited for the effort to pitch these bonds. Carole Lombard died in a plane crash when returning from one such rally. Kate Smith did more than nearly any other star in personally pitching war bonds, literally selling millions through her efforts.
Cartoons were also a part of this sales effort. Leon Schlesinger contracted with the U.S. Treasury to put out a short selling War Bonds starring Bugs Bunny. Initiated before Pearl Harbor and completed in early 1942, the short’s on-screen title is Leon Schlesinger Presents Bugs Bunny, but has generally come to be known as The Bugs Bunny Bond Rally. The film features Bugs singing the Irving Berlin song “Any Bonds Today?“, backed up by Porky Pig and the fatter version of Elmer Fudd. The short was produced by the Clampett unit.
The famous “Minuteman” poster used to sell bonds throughout the war can be seen at the very beginning of The Wacky Wabbit (Clampett, 1942) stuck inside a cactus. A modified version of it can also be seen in Fifth Column Mouse (Freleng, 1943) with a rodent version of the minuteman. The Weakly Reporter (Jones, 1944) extolls the virtues of hoarding War Bonds, and an ad for War Bonds appears at the end of The Ducktators (McCabe, 1942), although it is usually cut from prints shown today. A poster urging the purchase of War Bonds was added to the re-used animation from Clampett’s Scalp Trouble (1939) that made up Freleng’ Slightly Daffy (1944). The grasshopper in Foney Fables (Freleng, 1942) may be as lazy as his fabled counterpart, but he demonstrates that he is much smarter, flashing a wad of War Bonds.