Brian Pierce (captain_slinky) wrote,
Brian Pierce

147 - "Peace on Earth" & "Good Will To Men"

Back in 2010, an obsession started for me that gets stronger every December. It's about Cartoons. I am reposting it again because my circle of friends has expanded greatly in the past 6 years, maybe somebody new knows something I don't already know?


We're up late tonight, my daughter and I, watching vintage Christmas Cartoons from We've been having a great time just watching in chronological order. My favorite of the night was 1939's "Peace On Earth"...

... but then we hit the 1950's. And in 1955, just 16 years later, the exact same company made this cartoon called "Good Will To Men"...

Folks, it's almost the EXACT SAME CARTOON. It's beautiful how they mesh together so perfectly, too! The message and the story remain the same only the second one happens in the ruined Church that was just a bit of background in the first version. I... I'm completely blown away. I grew up with these cartoons and never made the connection till *just now*.

So now it's getting to me. Since i first posted this, I've spent HOURS Googling these two cartoons trying to find out the story behind the remake. The original was made by Harman-Ising for MGM; the second was made by Hannah-Barbera for MGM. Countless pages copy-n-paste the same description ("Remake of 1939 Peace On Earth") or they get the entire thing *wrong*.

What I've been able to piece together so far, these are the points i would like to either confirm or deny.

PEACE ON EARTH (1939) was nominated for a Nobel peace Prize according to several people involved in it's production, but there is no record of the nomination in the Nobel records. It was made during the time between WWI and WWII and was seen as a strong message for the world to stay out of WWII, with the two messages from "The Book Of Human Rules" being "Thou Shalt Not Kill" and "Ye Shall Rebuild The Old Wastes", inspiring the animals to rebuild a warless society using the battle helmets of Men as their homes.

GOODWILL TO MEN (1955) takes place in the bombed-out remains of a Church that are seen in the beginning of the 1939 "Peace On Earth". So far, the only reason I have seen quoted as being the reason behind this remake was so they could try out the new "Rotoscoping" process of animation. "The Book Of Human Rules" is now clearly labled and acknowledged as The Bible, and the two "Rules" quoted are "Thou Shalt Not Kill" and "Love Thy Neighbor As Thyself". This cartoon was nominated for an Academy Award.

UNANSWERED QUESTIONS: Why the change from "Rebuild" to "Love"? Why the preachy use of The Bible instead of the understated knowing wink of "Book of Human Rules"? Why did they choose to remake this cartoon over any other, or why not just make a new cartoon to showcase Rotoscoping? Who made that decision; artistic, or suits? What World Events were happening in 1954/1955 that inspired the retelling of such an anti-war Christmas tale? Did Hannah and Barbera consult with Harman and Ising on this at all? Who wrote the original script? Are there other awards and honors that were bestowed on these two cartoons that I haven't been able to uncover via Google yet?


The next year, I had this much more information:


Jeff Lenburg, in 'The Great Cartoon Directors', writes:

Late in 1954, Bill (Hannah) and Joe (Barbera) got permission from Fred Quimby to produce a serious cartoon, one that would "leave audiences thinking," Barbera said. Good Will To Men, released in 1955, was a chilling story told by animals about the destruction of the human race by the H-bomb. "No pun intended," Bill says, "It was a real bomb." The cartoon was actually a remake of Hugh Harman's award-winning MGM film, Peace on Earth, which won several honors, including a Parents' Magazine medal. Hanna and Barbera's effort was animated almost scene for scene like Peace on Earth but the actual story was much different. Bill and Joe were hoping this Cinemascope cartoon would make a statement that would stick in everybody's minds. The film was effective, but not effective enough, says Hanna.

While not actually ANSWERING any of my questions, this DID give me new layers of questions that are easy to *speculatively* answer, but nothing factual.

The Parents' Magazine Medal they speak of could be the origin of the Nobel Peace Prize rumors? Sounds like the type of misheard/misreported information that could easily spread in the 1930's.

The best lead I have here, though, is that it was Bill and Joe's idea to make this cartoon. Not a "Suit". Nobody in Marketing came to the boys and said "What we need is an Oscar-Winner, but we want it *cheap*". Was it really HB who also decided to force-feed the simple revelations to the audience in the remake?

Since then, the only answers I have gotten have been "We'll probably never know, since pretty much everybody who was involved with those cartoons is now passed on". Still, I keep hope for new information every year :)
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