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History - In toon with the times

What it's all about

It's 100 years since the birth of legendary cartoonist Chuck Jones, the creator of characters such as Wile E. Coyote and Road Runner, writes Chris Fenton.

Years ago, watching my pupils cram their jotters with drawings, laughing as they competed to create the funniest cartoon, I was inspired to use cartoons in lessons on the Second World War. Investigating the cartoons of the era, I found the likes of Bugs Bunny taking on the Nazis and, of course, winning in the most slapstick fashion possible. The image above is from the Oscar-winning cartoon Der Fuehrer's Face (1942), in which Donald Duck has a nightmare about living under Nazi rule.

I introduced the cartoons as we looked at propaganda art. Some are nearly 70 years old, but my class loved them - a simple story, the good guy always winning, exaggerated characters and slapstick had them gripped.

When I explained how these types of cartoons were made during the war to raise morale, the children understood them on a different historical level. They had laughed at the cartoons and enjoyed seeing the Nazis being beaten, just as people had done then.

Other famous cartoons such as Tom and Jerry also illustrated the times they were written in. Houses always had an African-American maid, signifying a period in US history when white and black Americans were accorded different status.

Cartoons are a treasure trove for primary schools, and they keep the little darlings quiet for five minutes.

What else?

Introduce pupils to political cartoons with a PowerPoint and blog from annajordan, bit.lyfunnypolitics. Ask pupils to create their own newspaper cartoons using a guide from Gloucestershire Archives, bit.lycartoonnews.

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