Early Disney Animation Was Local Political Cartoon

Did you know that, before Snow White and Mickey, even before Oswald the Lucky Rabbit, Walt Disney worked on a series of short animations called Newman Laugh-O-Grams?

The last of these, a 1922 short called “Kansas City’s spring clean-up,” shows a line of uniformed policemen entering a station only to be fired and kicked out. His idea, as captured in Timothy Susanin’s book Walt Before Mickey: Disney’s Early Years, 1919-1928, “was to do a sort of animated cartoon commentary on local topics for the Kansas City screen.” That included “a reorganization of the Kansas City police department to eliminate political patronage from the ranks.”

You can see the rest of the Laugh-O-Grams here:

Disney’s early adventure into cartoons with a political message calls to my mind Richard H. Minear’s excellent book Dr. Seuss Goes to War: The World War II Editorial Cartoons of Theodor Seuss Geisel. There, Minear assembled a vibrant collection of Dr. Seuss‘s political cartoons addressing Nazism and World War II. You can view a collection of these cartoons here.

Like Disney, Seuss’s political cartooning was over-shadowed by his other art that, on its face, targeted children.

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