If you ask the average person to name a Christmas cartoon, you might get answers like Frosty the Snowman, A Charlie Brown Christmas, or even South Park. But for some of us, the first ones that come to mind are a little less festive.
When I think of Christmas cartoons, I think of Peace on Earth and Good Will to Men, a pair of animated short films produced by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. But rather than the usual yuletide cheer and jolly happenings, these cartoons tell the story of the extinction of man through never ending wars.
Peace on Earth was released in 1939 and runs about eight and a half minutes. It begins with a family of squirrels living in homes made from the helmets of dead soldiers, singing Christmas carols. When they get to the lyric “good will to men”, one of the children stops to ask Grandpa Squirrel what “Man” was and why there aren’t any more of them around.
Grandpa explains that “there ain’t no more men in the world” because they were always fighting, feuding, and shooting one another. Through flashbacks we see battle after battle until the final two men alive face off against each other.
The animals then discover the ruins of a destroyed church, with a “book of rules” including “Thou Shalt Not Kill” and decide to “rebuild the old wastes” and start a society based on peace to avoid Man’s fate.
Peace on Earth was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Animated Short Film in 1939. Some claim that it is the only animated film ever nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize, but it is not listed as a nominee in the official Nobel database so that claim cannot be verified.
The film was remade as Good Will to Men in 1955, with William Hanna and Joseph Barbera directing.
A lot of the remake is identical to the original, including some scenes and dialog, but in the pre-WWII version, Man kills himself off through conventional war. In the newer version, Man has even more destructive weaponry, including flamethrowers, bazookas, and missiles, and the cause of the his extinction is nuclear weapons.
Good Will to Men was also nominated for Best Animated Short in the year it was released.
Both shorts are embedded below for your enjoyment. The videos tend to be taken down fairly often, so if they disappear, they can usually be found on various streaming services.
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