Updated on July 4, 2022
Today’s Independence Day here in the United States. In honor of such, here’s a list of some noteworthy cartoons that centered around the Fourth of July, or the American Revolution in general.
I’ll start off with one of this post’s pictures, Peter Cottontail dressed as Uncle Sam for Independence Day in the Easter special “Here Comes Peter Cottontail.” Among the holidays Peter travels through time to visit, Peter (fresh from visiting Mother’s Day) lands on the Fourth of July. Despite the presumably-global reach of the Easter Bunny, the holidays in the special were all US-centric.
The 1979 Rankin-Bass film “Rudolph and Frosty’s Christmas in July” centers around the Fourth, as well as Rankin-Bass’ attempt to cash in on the theme of “Christmas in July,” albeit with mixed results.
A 1939 Merrie Melodies short, “Old Glory,” stars Porky Pig. The short’s plot sees a young Porky studying American history, but becomes quickly bored. Falling asleep, he dreams about meeting Uncle Sam, who shows him various great moments in American history. It’s all done in a serious fashion, with a bump in animation quality (including rotoscoping for Patrick Henry‘s speech).
A typical historical take for its era (unsurprisingly, slavery’s ignored), but an interesting historical artifact. Also of note: Porky gives the Pledge of Allegiance as it stood pre-1950s; the phrase “under God” was only added in 1954.
Peabody’s Improbable History
“Rocky and Bullwinkle”‘s backup segment, “Peabody’s Improbable History,” featured the American Revolution in a few episodes:
Peabody and Sherman are forced to find a means of transit for Revere to give his famous warning, after discovering Revere’s “horse” is merely a statue.
The best line was the closing pun, after General Washington notes Peabody’s somehow brought him his needed soldiers in less than 60 seconds: “Would you call them ’60-second men,’ Mr. Peabody?” “Of course not, Sherman, I’d call them… minutemen.”
The Battle of Bunker Hill
The British soldiers, in response to the colonialists’ expression “don’t fire until you see the whites of their eyes,” are all wearing sunglasses.
The best line, when one of the British soldiers are asked where they got the sunglasses: “From one of the far-off colonies… Long Beach, California. All the natives wear them out there.”
The Battle of Yorktown
General Cornwallis was unable to find his sword to formally surrender to General Washington. Cue Peabody and Cornwallis sailing back to England to get said sword “in record time,” thanks to a hurricane. (Fortunately for them, it was “conveniently” blowing both directions…)
The early 2000s PBS animated series “Liberty’s Kids” did a thorough job at going over the details of the American Revolution, including touching on issues such as slavery, British loyalists, etc.
I wrote about the show’s main Black character, Moses, in an earlier post.
Educational animated series “Histeria!,” which aired on The WB from 1998 to 2000, featured plenty of American historical moments. Given the show was produced by the same staff as “Animaniacs,” it contained the usual satire one would expect. George Washington, for instance, sounds and acts like Bob Hope.
A segment about Thomas Jefferson working on the Declaration of Independence was a take-off on Jack Benny’s old radio/television program. This is to the point of Jefferson’s voice on the show being an imitation of Jack Benny. Never mind, of course, no kid watching (let alone plenty of adults) would get these references.
Several episodes delved into the American Revolution, while one episode discussed the War of 1812.
Tiny Toon Adventures
Speaking of Warner Bros., 1990’s “Tiny Toon Adventures” had a particularly funny Fourth of July themed episode. In “Egged On Eagle,” Sweetie (the show’s female analog of Looney Tunes’ Tweety) is being raised by an overly-patriotic bald eagle.
The best part: on the Fourth of July, the eagle delivers a highly patriotic, pro-American speech. Sweetie then asks: “but aren’t most fireworks made overseas?” The eagle’s response: “don’t think so much—have a sparkler.”
The bicentennial of 1976 got plenty of comics exposure. A storyline in 1976’s “Action Comics” (running from “Action Comics” #460 to #463) saw an alien forcibly send Clark Kent 200 years back in time. There, an amnesiac Clark ends up working for Ben Franklin’s newspaper, covering the signing of the Declaration of Independence.
The classic educational shorts series “Schoolhouse Rock” featured a batch of segments called “America Rock,” produced in time for the 1976 bicentennial. The shorts showcased in song various aspects of the American Revolution, plus American culture/government in general.
Some of the segments hold up today (the famous “I’m Just a Bill”). Others, however, are clearly reflective of their time; a whole song about manifest destiny?