A Year in Shorts Day 53: "Good Will to Men"
It’s the same complaint every year. Doesn’t Hollywood make anything new anymore? Why is everything a remake or adaptation or sequel? Remember when Hollywood was original? And so on this Christmas season, I will give you the greatest gift of all- the realization that Hollywood was always creatively bankrupt! Hell, they used to remake shorts! Case in point- 1955’s Good Will to Men.
Much like its predecessor, Good Will to Men is another fun Christmas short about animals living in a post-apocalyptic world in which humanity has driven itself to extinction. And while that was undoubtedly a very real concern when Peace on Earth was released in 1939, it was especially pressing to the audiences of 1955, what with the Cold War and the atom bomb and the mutually assured destruction and all that jazz. Such a short could obviously never be made today (when humanity wipes itself with climate change, we'll probably be taking the cute animals with us), but it's still a fascinating time capsule.
I mentioned in my review of Peace on Earth that at the time I considered this film to be the superior of the two, and my assessment holds up. The two shorts are pretty similar, but I think Good Will to Men just does everything a bit better. There isn't as much awkward forced humor interspersed throughout all the preaching, and I think the animation is a bit better too. William Hanna and Joseph Barbera directed this short just before they began the transition from theatrical shorts to television, and I think it's a beautifully done piece of work. Certainly better than One Droopy Knight, anyway.
There is undeniably something very strange about both Peace on Earth and Good Will to Men; cute animals and Christmas mix uncomfortably with warfare and devastation. But their hearts are in the right place, and if there's room in our Year of Shorts for cartoons celebrating war, then I guess a couple that preach against are more than welcome.
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