Mickey Mouse in Vietnam is a (very) short animated anti-war film produced by Whitney Lee Savage and the great American graphic designer Milton Glaser, creator of the “I♥ NY logo,” the famous 1966 poster of Bob Dylan with swirling rainbow hair, the Brooklyn Lager and DC Comics logos and countless other things. Glaser, now 87, was the co-founder of New York magazine, has been the subject of museum level career surveys the world over and is the first (and so far only) graphic designer to receive the the National Medal of Arts, which was bestowed upon him by President Obama in 2009.
The plot of the Mickey Mouse in Vietnam—which is about a minute long—is simple: Soon after arriving in Vietnam, Mickey is shot dead.
The film was long assumed to be lost when it was uploaded to YouTube in 2013 and went viral. Around that time Milton Glaser was asked about the short in an interview that appeared on the Carl Solway Gallery’s blog:
Milton Glaser: It was for a thing called The Angry Arts Festival, which was a kind of protest event, inviting artists to produce something to represent their concerns about the war in Vietnam and a desire to end it.
How did you get involved with, the director, Lee Savage in making this short?
Milton Glaser: Lee Savage was a good friend of mine, and he was in the film business of one kind or another, doing small production films — and with a little experience in animation, and all the things you have to know to produce a modest film the way we did.
What was the audience’s reaction when it was screened at the festival?
Milton Glaser: It was very moving — people responded strongly to it. But within the context of many such events and many presentations, it didn’t quite have the power that you experience when you are seeing it in isolation. But it was moving.
You know, I was just talking about it this morning, because I have not seen it many, many years. It just shows you the power of symbolism, because in some ways it’s much more powerful than seeing a photograph of dead GIs in a landscape — something about the destruction about a deeply held myth that moves you in way that is unexpected.
Speaking of symbolism, is that why you picked Mickey Mouse in particular?
Milton Glaser: Well, obviously Mickey Mouse is a symbol of innocence, and of America, and of success, and of idealism — and to have him killed, as a solider is such a contradiction of your expectations. And when you’re dealing with communication, when you contradict expectations, you get a result.
Watch Mickey Mouse in Vietnam, below: