In 1968, the war in Vietnam made Americans and the world aware that fighting on foreign soil could be government folly rather than a battle against falling dominoes. Regardless of whether one was for or against, in all wars there are many kinds of casualties, including soldiers, civilians and some of a nation’s most cherished icons. Mickey Mouse, presumably an apolitical symbol of American creativity, was recruited for an anti-war film created by Milton Glaser and Lee Savage for The Angry Arts Festival that year.
The 16mm film, featuring an unsanctioned pencil-sketch version of the famous rodent, resurfaced a couple of years ago on YouTube and shows our hero shipping off to serve in the Vietnam War, where like so many real soldiers, he is killed in action.
“Mickey Mouse in Vietnam” was but one of many pieces of art that not only protested but showed the price of this war (check out Country Joe’s “Fixin’ to Die Rag“). The short protest animation has slipped under the popular culture radar since its debut. But recently, a limited-edition enamel pin version (below) of a marching mouse with “Born to Kill” on his helmet became available for sale on Etsy through Local Badass (Instagram @localbadass), eerily priced at $6.66. To be honest, the point of reviving this particular symbol is not quite clear, but the sentiment that war is not a cartoon does indeed resonate.
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About Steven Heller
Steven Heller is the co-chair of the SVA MFA Designer /Designer as Author + Entrepreneur program, writes frequently for Wired and Design Observer. He is also the author of over 170 books on design and visual culture. He received the 1999 AIGA Medal and is the 2011 recipient of the Smithsonian National Design Award.