ANIMATION ANECDOTES
December 17, 2015 posted by

The Disney Animated Presidential Commercial

eisenhower-for-prezIn the midst of the current Presidential campaign, it is important to realize that the first television commercial for a U.S. President candidate was made by the Disney Studios.

Dwight D. “Ike” Eisenhower was a World War II hero. By the end of the war, he had supreme command of all operational Allied forces. He retired from the service in May 1952. Both the Democrats and the Republicans wanted him to run in the Fall 1952 U.S. Presidential election.

Jacqueline Cochran was a successful cosmetics executive and one of the most famous women pilots in the world. In February 1952, she helped sponsor a massive rally at Madison Square Garden for Eisenhower supporters. It finally convinced the General to run for president as a Republican. Ike and Cochran remained close friends for the rest of his life.

What does all this have to do with Walt Disney? Well, during the 1952 campaign, Cochran contacted Roy O. Disney at the Disney Studios and persuaded him to produce a black-and-white animated television commercial in support of Eisenhower’s candidacy.

Eisenhower was the first presidential candidate to ever use television commericals in his campaign.

However, the most frequently run (and supposedly most popular) Eisenhower campaign advertisement was not his many live action ones but an animated one that was produced quickly by the Disney Studios. The actual spot (and the song created by the Disney Studio) was officially called “We’ll Take Ike (to Washington)”.

Officially, 225 prints of the one minute spot and 210 prints of the 20 second spot were shipped to the important television stations in the country. “Since the election, we have been advised by these stations that these cartoon spots were played more than any of the other Eisenhower television films,” claimed Disney Producer Bill Anderson in November 1952.

The additional material begins with a little, confused animated “everyman” overwhelmed by all the issues of the day from war to lower wages. “I’ve listened to everyone. I’ve tried but who’s right? What are the facts?”

The film cuts to a dapper business suited live action actor who remarks that the confusion is natural but “beyond all the words, beyond all the claims, there is actually just one thing on which most people base their final decision…the man.”

ike-uncle-samThen it seques into the well known advertisement. At the end, the live action actor again appears and states, “Those were the voices of the people. What’s your decision? Who will you vote for?”

The little animated everyman nows wears an “I Like Ike” button and smiles, “Me? I like Ike!” Then there is silent footage of Eisenhower accepting his nomination at the Republican national convention while the voice over says “The National Citizens for Eisenhower-Nixon have presented this message to all thinking voters regardless of party affiliation.”

The body of the one minute commercial is filled with a catchy tune and repeating animation cycles. A strutting Uncle Sam wearing an “Ike” button on his lapel leads a parade of regular citizens marching to the nation’s capitol where a shining sun with the name “Ike” in the middle rises in the air. Those steadfast American citizens include young parents pushing a baby carriage, a cowboy, a house painter, a baker, a railroad engineer, a fireman, a draftsman and even a milkmaid.

The parade includes a large gray elephant draped with a banner featuring a caricature of Eisenhower’s face. The elephant beats with his tail on a drum pulled behind him to help rally the spirits of the placard and banner carrying supporters. All these folks are marching to the right and briefly in the background is a shadowy figure (implying it is Eisenhower’s Democratic opponent Stevenson) riding a donkey the wrong way to the left.

Singers:
Ike for President. Ike for President. Ike for President.
You like Ike, I like Ike, everybody likes Ike for President.
Bring out the banners, beat the drums, we’ll take Ike to Washington.

We don’t want John or Dean or Harry. Let’s do that big job right.
Let’s get in step with the guy that’s hep. Get in step with Ike.

You like Ike, I like Ike, everybody likes Ike for president.
Bring out the banners, beat the drums, we’ll take Ike to Washington.

We’ve got to get where we are going, travel day and night.
Let Adlai go the other way. We’ll all go with Ike.

You like Ike, I like Ike, everybody likes Ike for President.
Bring out the banners, beat the drums, we’ll take Ike to Washington.
We’ll take Ike to Washington!”

The “John, Dean or Harry” mentioned in the song and caricatured as donkeys were meant to suggest Stevenson’s running mate John Sparkman, as well as Democrats Dean Acheson and Harry Truman.

After the triumphant arrival at the domed capitol, the Voice Over Announcer (the narrator and writer of the True Life Adventure documentary series, Winston Hibler) states: “Now is the time for all good Americans to come to the aid of their country.” (By voting for Eisenhower, of course!)

ike-commercial2The Disney Studios put together an autographed cel set up for several people directly involved in Eisenhower’s campaign. These included Mr. Arthur Summerfield (who Ike made his Postmaster General), Mr. Paul Hoffman (an influential, if unofficial advisor), Mr. Paul Helms (whose Smoke Tree Ranch Home was used as a vacation spot by Ike) and Mr. Tex McCray (who helped stage the Madison Square Garden rally). In addition, an autographed cel setup was sent to Ms. Cochran

Producer Bill Anderson wrote to Cochran in November 19, 1952, “I am enclosing an autographed cel setup for yourself, and an autographed cel setup and a copy of the song “We’ll Take Ike” for General Eisenhower. The cel setups were prepared from the original art material used in the television spot, ‘We’ll Take Ike’.

“We prepared several of these and rather than send them all to General Eisenhower, we sent one to Mr. Arthur Summerfield, Mr. Paul Hoffman, Mr. Paul Helms, Mr. Tex McCrary, and yourself. We thought all of you would get a kick out of them as a souvenir.

“We have sent General Eisenhower’s to you as the original idea for a television spot was yours and we think you are the logical one to pass them on to him. Thanks again for rallying us to the Eisenhower Band Wagon and we hope you will enjoy this autographed cel setup as a memento of the campaign.

Left To Right: Dwight Eisenhower, his son David, and Walt Disney.

Left To Right: Dwight Eisenhower, his son David, and Walt Disney.

“All of us here take this opportunity to thank you for the part you played in putting the idea of a television spot over. We had a great deal of fun in making the films and it was with pride that we viewed our work on television night after night. For most of us, this was our first active political campaign.

“Naturally, we are all very happy that General Eisenhower was elected President with landslide proportions and we like to think that our films contributed in a small way. Producing these films taught us a lesson; we found out just how quickly we could put a one minute spot together and get prints distributed on a nation-wide basis.”

Walt’s brother, Roy Oliver Disney also wrote to Cochran a few days earlier on November 14, 1952: “The boys and girls all enjoyed working on the project and, of course, we are all very happy at the outcome of the election. Kindest regards.”

Roy also included a list of the Disney employees who contributed their time and efforts to the cartoon. That list and other related correspondence is in the Jacqueline Cochran Papers, Eisenhower Campaign Series, Box 2, in the Eisenhower Presidential Library and Museum in Abilene, Kansas patiently awaiting some other researcher to journey there and reveal its contents.

8 Comments

  • I’ve seen that ad dozens of times, but I had no idea it was done by Disney! I’ve only recently heard of Disney’s commercial work on the fifties, and there’s some interesting stuff that came out of there.

  • The tag sounds like Art Gilmore. Winston Hibler can be heard here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DG4Zk9d7Ekw . It’s not the same voice.

  • Dean Acheson, specifically, was Secretary of State at the time of the general election, and had been a target of much GOP ire for mistakes (real or alleged) in places like China and Korea. Those are very good caricatures of Acheson and Truman in the corral, and are instantly recognizable. It’s a good caricature of the Senator from Alabama, too, but Sparkman has faded into much deeper obscurity, even with his long service in both houses of Congress.

  • Ike had the better animation. Adlai Stevenson had the better voice artists in his animated spots, with Mel Blanc and Alan Reed doing voice work on some of the ads, which can be seen and heard here (unfortunately for Adlai, having the future voice of Fred Flintstone touting you or an ad indicating that Marvin Martian was seemingly in cahoots with the Eisenhower campaign didn’t satisfy enough voters in ’52)

  • This was adapted by Cartoon Network in early 2000 as a spot for Brak during their “Cartoon Campaign 2000” promotion.

  • I hesitate to admit how many years it took me to realize that “I Go Pogo” was a take-off of “I Like Ike.”

  • Any idea who in the Disney Studio came up with the jingle? I’ve heard others attribute it to Irving Berlin, but he wrote a different version, based on his song “They Like Ike” from the musical “Call Me Madam”.

    • Berlin did write a song called “I Like Ike” based on the song from “Call Me Madam,”and you are correct that that was not used in the Disney spot.
      The “I Like Ike” lyrics used in the spot were written by Gil George, that is, Hazel George, Walt Disney’s nurse. To my knowledge this is the first song she wrote for Disney, though she went on to write many more, primarily with Paul Smith. Paul Smith wrote the music for the Eisenhower jingle. The title for the song is actually “We’ll Take Ike”.

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