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"Artzy" Art during World War II

Introduction Unit Objectives
Unit-At-A-Glance/Lesson Plans Artzybasheff Bibliography
Teacher Resources Supplemental Activities
World War II WebQuests Literary Terms and Vocabulary
Student Chatroom Student Portfolios
Home University of North Texas
TEKS/TAKS Standards Online Tutorials
WWII Letters links Initial Artzybasheff images

Lesson 4: Anthropomorphic images and Cartoons

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Anthropomorphic Images and Cartoons


This lesson will focus on Anthropomorphic images in cartoons during World War II, and how the events of World War II influenced the creation of these images.


English Language Arts, Fine Arts, Social Science


150 min

Grade Levels:






TSIET... recognize and interpret important symbols.


TSIET... recognize and interpret poetic elements like metaphor, simile, personification, and the effect of sound on meaning.


TSIET... analyze texts such as editorials, documentaries, and advertisements for bias and use of common persuasive techniques.


TSIET... organize and convert information into different forms such as charts, graphs, and drawings.


TSIET... draw conclusions from information gathered.


The student understands the economic effects of World War II, the Cold War, and increased worldwide competition on contemporary society.


TSIET... describe the economic effects of World War II on the home front, including rationing, female employment, and the end of the Great Depression.


The student understands the impact of significant national and international decisions and conflicts from World War II and the Cold War to the present on the United States.


TSIET... identify reasons for U.S. involvement in World War II, including the growth of dictatorships and the attack on Pearl Harbor.


TSIET... analyze major issues and events of World War II such as fighting the war on multiple fronts, the internment of Japanese-Americans, the Holocaust, the battle of Midway, the invasion of Normandy, and the development of and Harry Truman's decision to use the atomic bomb.


TSIET... identify and explain causes and effects of World Wars I and II, including the rise of nazism/ fascism in Germany, Italy, and Japan; the rise of communism in the Soviet Union; and the Cold War.


By analyzing artistic styles and historical periods students develop respect for the traditions and contributions of diverse cultures. Students respond to and analyze artworks, thus contributing to the development of lifelong skills of making informed judgments and evaluations.


The student expresses ideas through original artworks, using a variety of media with appropriate skill.


The student demonstrates an understanding of art history and culture as records of human achievement.


TSIET... study a selected historical period or style of art.


TSIET... analyze visual qualities to express the meaning of images and symbols, using precise art vocabulary.


TSIET... make subtle discriminations in analyzing complex visual relationships and content, using precise art vocabulary.


TSIET... identify and illustrate art history as a major source of interpretation.





examples of political cartoons, comics, propaganda posters, and animated stills from WWII.   



newspapers and magazines   



Aesop's Fables, illustrated by Boris Artzybasheff   



Artzybasheff's political cartoons in Life magazine   



World War II Webquest   








The overall goal of this lesson is to examine how the events of World War II influenced the creation of different types of cartoons, including but not limited to, political cartoons, animation, propaganda images, and comics, and then how visual metaphors are expressed in these cartoons, tieing in the previous lesson.  These cartoons will be viewed as different examples of anthropomorphic images.

This examination will then lead into a discussion of narrative cartoons that are also metaphoric to an extent, after which the students will examine narrative anthropomorphic images that correspond with Aesop's Fables, which Boris Artzybasheff illustrated.  Finally, the students will write their own fable, complete with an illustration that is anthropomorphic and narrates the story they have written.



Students will demonstrate an awareness of the different types of cartoons that evolved during World War II.

Students will demonstrate an understanding of the specific differences between the various types of cartoons.

Students will analyze the influences of different societies on the creation and perception of these cartoons.

Students will identify specific cartoons as belonging to separate categories or types of cartoons.

Students will demonstrate creative skills in designing a scrapbook in which to organize examples of cartoons.

Students will analyze the metaphoric references in selected excerpts from Aesop's Fables, and compare them to the visual metaphors contained within the accompanying cartoons.

Students will use correct grammatical skills to write a short, original fable of their own.

Students will demonstrate artistic skills in illustrating the fable they have written.




As a motivational activity, the teacher can have the cartoon video ("Cartoons Go To War") playing as the students enter the classroom.  If the video is unavailable, example images of different types of cartoons from World War II can be displayed in the room so the students can see them easily, and so that they attract the students' attentions.



1.  (Optional) Show the video "Cartoons Go To War"--Black and White/ Monochrome; Sound; 50 min long. A&E Home Video--available at most libraries or media centers or through A&E.  (Mixes rare vintage footage with first-time interviews to celebrate the World War II propaganda and training films made by animation greats such as Disney, Warner Bros. Frank Capra, and Chuck Jones.)

2.  As a group, have students look at examples of political cartoons, animated stills, comic strips, and propaganda cartoons on posters.  These examples need to be from and about aspects of World War II.  Go to for additional resources other than the ones provided.  Relate the term "anthropomorphic" to these cartoons.

3.  Discuss how events that took place during the war directly influenced the creation of these cartoons.  Draw from the research conducted during the World War II web quest.

example:  Think about some of the things that Hitler did.  How are those things being communicated in some of these cartoons?

4.  Have the students create a scrapbook of their own, in which they will organize examples of cartoons.  Have them divide the scrapbook into sections--one for political cartoons, one for animated stills, one for comic strips, and one for propaganda cartoons.

5.  Have students research different sources for examples of the different types of cartoons.  They can use the library, the Internet, newspapers, magazines, etc. for their search.  This activity can be started in class and completed as homework.

6.  Introduce Aesop's Fables as an example of Artzybasheff's cartoons (if you have the version that has his cartoons in it).  If not, introduce the fables as having corresponding illustrations that represent anthropomorphic images.  Introduce the term narrative and discuss how these images are "metaphoric narratives".

7.  Pass out printed examples of the fables that have corresponding cartoons.  (Not all of them have illustrations.)  Divide the class into groups of two or three people.  Give each group several fables and several illustrations, which are separate from the fables.  Have them read the fables and try to match the illustrations to the correct fables.

8.  Discuss what a fable is and how it is related to a metaphor. 

9.  Have students write their own original fable.  Then have them illustrate the fable they have written, using anthropomorphic images.  As an optional activity, have them exchange their fable with a classmate and illustrate their classmate's fable.

10. Return to Artzybasheff's original World War II images as a closing activity.  Discuss any new ideas that come up as to what the images mean, using what they have learned about other cartoons from World War II.  












Fable:  A usually short narrative making an edifying or cautionary point and often employing as characters animals that speak and act like humans.

Moral:  The lesson or principle contained in or taught by a fable, a story, or an event.

Anthropomorphic:  Attribution of human motivation, characteristics, or behavior to inanimate objects, animals, or natural phenomena.


·  A narrated account; a story.

·  The art, technique, or process of narrating.

Metaphor:  A figure of speech in which a word or phrase that ordinarily designates one thing is used to designate another, thus making an implicit comparison, as in “a sea of troubles” or “All the world's a stage” (Shakespeare).



A completed, organized scrapbook of images that illustrate examples of different types of cartoons, showing that they can distinguish between the different styles.

An original, written fable that teaches a moral and an illustration that effectively narrates the fable and uses anthropomorphic images.


To make scrapbook:

construction paper, scissors, glue, yarn, ribbon, hole punchers, magazines, newspapers.

To illustrate fables:

pencils, erasers, white paper, black ink pens



The outbreak of war in Europe cut off Walt Disney’s highly profitable foreign market at a time in which he needed badly that foreign revenue. Then later America’s participation in the war stripped Disney of staff and supplies. The government next enlisted his all out support for the production of wartime films. He was forced to give in to government demands over those of paying audiences. The American government confiscated 94% of Disney's facilities to create propaganda during WWII. The cartoon that impacted the most during this period was Der Fueherer’s Face in 1943, which had Donald Duck waking up as a Nazi in Nazi Germany.

Chuck Jones is one of the five fathers of Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, Porky Pig, and Elmer Fudd and personally created the Road Runner and Wile E. Coyote, Pepe le Pew, Marvin Martian, Gossamer, Michigan J. Frog, Hubie & Bertie, Junyer Bear of the Three Bears, Witch Hazel, Hugo, Ralph Wolf and Sam Sheepdog.

He also directed Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas, Horton Hears a Who, The Dot and the Line, The Phantom Tollbooth, A Cricket in Times Square, Kipling’s Rikki Tikki Tavi, The White Seal, and Mowgli’s Brothers to name just a few.



Bugs Bunny Bond Rally ("Any Bonds Today")
This was a promotional film designed to sell war bonds during WWII. It features Bugs Bunny singing the Irving Berlin song "Any Bonds Today?", along with appearances by Porky Pig and Elmer Fudd. If you watched the "Lost WB Cartoons" special on Cartoon Network, you saw an edited version of this cartoon with Bugs' blackface imitation of Al Jolson cut out.
Play Live | Download


Private Snafu
During WWII, the WB animators made a series of short films for the army starring a character named Private Snafu. Because they were meant for servicemen, these cartoons were more "adult" in nature than other cartoons of the period. Presented here are three Snafu cartoons:

"Booby Traps"
Play Live | Download

Play Live | Download

" Spies"
Play Live | Download


  • animal tale that has a moral purpose
  • anthropomorphic animals (cartoons)
  • help deal w/ Moral & ethical issues

Extensions and Comments:

Draw political cartoons

Flip Book animation

Writing children's books

With a story starter, draw a six-ten frame comic strip

Political cartoon worksheet