If you were to grow up as a child in North Korea, chances are you’d be raised watching any number of anti-U.S. propaganda cartoons designed to indoctrinate children. The regime of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea has been steadily pumping out animated shows for kids since its founding that display critical sentiments of the U.S. Some are subtler than others, and some are pretty damn explicit.
Squirrel and Hedgehog is one such animated show featuring cute, cuddly characters and hardcore military glorification. Produced by state-run SEK Studios, the series has been running since the 1970s and is something children in North Korea watch daily, according to the Los Angeles Times. “It’s a classic,” a North Korean guide told the Los Angeles Times. “Everyone knows Squirrel and Hedgehog.”
The heavily-armed creatures often run up against evil weasels, representing Japan, and wolves, representing the United States. Occasionally friendly but drunk bears representing Russia show up, too. The show is one of dozens of propaganda programs aimed at kids that exalt North Korean values and demonize the U.S. Other shows include The Boy General, a program featuring a child warrior fighting off foreign invaders, including the Chinese and South Korean military.
Using cartoons to indoctrinate children into a particular ideology seems immoral, but it’s a practice the U.S. engaged in blatantly throughout the 20th century. During World War II, Walt Disney created dozens of propaganda cartoons to drum up support for the war effort. 1943’s “Der Fuehrer’s Face” features Donald Duck experiencing life in Nazi Germany, complete with ridiculous Nazi food rations like coffee made with one bean and a big ol’ swastika armband slapped on the cartoon characters’ uniform.
Disney ratcheted up the violence a little more for “Commando Duck,” in which Donald manages to destroy an entire Japanese airbase. Amidst rising tensions with Russia during the Cold War, the U.S. churned out films like “Destination Earth,” which praise the values of industry competition and demonize repressive, communist societies.
Obviously, U.S. cold war propaganda and contemporary North Korean cartoons aren’t exactly morally equivalent, but they do both show that using children’s’ entertainment to drill ideology into kids’ heads has a long, long history. Most of this ideology is so blatant that it just makes the whole production look goofy. We’ll stick to SpongeBob, thanks.