This animated short was released in Los Angeles on July 1, 1939, just a few days before the celebration of the 4th of July. The animation is realist, which was director Chuck Jones’ style at this time of his career. It was often described as a Disney-like style, which is why the Studio asked him to work on this project. And with good reason. The studio did not want this short to be looney, but to be a message to the American people.
As Old Glory opens, a wide-eyed, child-like Porky Pig is learning the Pledge of Alliance. “I don’t see why I have to learn that,” he muses. Porky falls asleep there in the school yard, with his text book wide open. Uncle Sam, the iconic symbol of patriotism, appears to Porky in a dream. Uncle Sam moves Porky through early American history, from Patrick Henry’s “Give me liberty”, to Paul Revere’s call to arms. As the short moves into the signing of the Constitution, there is an emphasis on freedom of religion, freedom of press, and freedom of speech. Uncle Sam’s history lesson covers the American Revolutionary War to the expansion of the American old west. The short highlights two great Americans, George Washington who “laid the foundation of a great democracy ” and Abraham Lincoln who gave a “new birth of freedom.”
When Porky wakes up from his dream, he is convinced that learning the Pledge is important because it represents the great history of the country. He has been converted by Uncle Sam to the civil religion. But we’re not talking the Sarah Palin-moose-hunting-while-putting-on-lipstick-while-reciting-the-pledge kind of civil religion.
In 1939 lives were disrupted and families faced separation. Hitler was rising in power and influence in Germany. On September 1st of that year, Hitler’s troops conquered Poland in the Blitzkrieg, or “lightning war.” This would be the spark for the second World War, that would send many young men overseas. In the meantime, the United States was still suffering under the effects of the Great Depression. In 1939, close to 10 million people were unemployed.
Following this short, there would be dozens and dozens of shorts made by Warner Bros. and Disney to raise awareness and support for the government during war time. Why? To encourage unity among the country. The country needed to work together to rise out of the grips of the Great Depression and the country would need to do the same as it faced some of her greatest enemies.