nkorean-icon nkorean-icon

North Korean Anti-U.S. propaganda cartoon

Kids, learn your math and you too can defeat the imperialist United States of America! That seems to be the message behind this 1950s-era North Korean propaganda cartoon which recently surfaced on You Tube. Say what you will about the message, the animation is pretty good.

(Thanks, Tim Dixon)

  • Arlyn

    Friggin Love it!!!!!

  • Jorge Garrido

    Something about this looks like CGI Cel Shading animation.

    • Iritscen

      Yeah, one part actually looked exactly like CG to me. I’ve seen that effect happen before in animation that’s both really solid, and animated on ones. Sadly, the Koreans who painstakingly animated for their country 60 years ago were probably paid *better* than the ones who draw the Simpsons every week.

      • This looked amazing. Had to be animated on ones (and at what frame rate?) Super smooth. Still, it’s a little bland, but it shows how fancy you can get when labor costs aren’t an option.

  • Hmm, the sound in this video doesn’t sync up very well.
    Something about this reminds me of late 1930s Soviet animation, back when the animators weren’t yet used to using cels and characters often seemed a bit wavy with some unnatural movements. Likely some North Korean animators learned from the established school in Moscow, since stylistically this is a like a mix between Japanese & Soviet animation. It’s impressive in the amount of work that was done, but not so much in terms of animating skill, which is inferior to late 1940s Soviet animation. For example, witness the excellent craft of the character animation here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yEGaleUxNkQ

    I have no doubt that North Korean animators got better with time, though. I remember that North-South animated feature coproduction, in which the Southerners praised the Northern Korean animators for their attention to how people move.

    • Chris Sobieniak

      Hmmm, was that “Empress Chung” I’ve heard about?

      The North had gotten better, if only to be used by foreign producers in their subcontracted efforts as of recent years.

      The studio “SEK” (Scientific Educational Korea, a.k.a. “April 26th Childrens Film Studio”). has produced this and many other films in North Korean including a popular running series called “A Squirrel and the Hedgehog”, where forest critters continue to fight an ongoing battle with weasels, wolves and other predators.

      Here’s a recent episode that surfaced on YouTube…

      • Chris Sobieniak

        Here’s a more recent entry that possibly shows off their Flash-based capabilities!

      • Keep in mind: I’m certain that there are many domestic examples of North Korean animation work that you’ll never get to see until the country opens up, much as was the case with Soviet animation. The only thing you see now is their contracted work for other studios, which may be good but I think that native directors probably have a better idea of their own people’s strengths.

        • Hernandez2014

          There’s another 1950’s era North Korean propaganda cartoon on YouTube. This one, however, is in black and white, and does not have children as main characters. Watch out for the version with YouTube’s anti-shake filter.

      • Sorry, I misread your post – I see that those were done by native studios. Still, my point stands – what we see now is probably only a very carefully-chosen tip of the iceberg.

      • Chris Sobieniak

        I think so as well (assuming they do let these people create more personal, yet impressive films on their own).

      • North Korea still has that whole Stalinist cult of personality thing going on, so I don’t know about “personal”. During Stalin’s rule in the USSR, the animation tended to be standardized (a studio style, if you will, like Disney) and it could be difficult to tell one director’s works from another’s. On the other hand, the fact that the style could not be changed much redirected the artists’ development in other directions, so you got excellent character animation like in “Polkan and Shavka” (which I linked to previously).

        From what I’ve read from Westerners who’ve worked with NK animators (such as Guy Delisle), they still have a strong collectivist ideology – those who try new stylistic things aren’t rewarded. It’s very much about following the greats. In other words, not much like the Soviet scene from the 1960s on, when you saw a wide profusion of different styles.

        This is mostly speculation, though, so who knows.

      • Chris Sobieniak

        I’ll have to pick up Delisle’s book someday, but yes, I guess I was favoring that 60’s Soviet scene myself and the artists and styles that did emerge from it.

  • I wonder if this is because we hate what they did to our black and white cartoons… :P

  • Inkan1969

    That NK cartoon has been up for a while. It’s a cool cartoon; just switch the names and it could’ve been a U.S. kid fighting NK ships. Pretty universal.

    IMHO, the big find in terms of NK animation is the TV series “Squirrels and Hedgehogs”. It’s a weird reimagining of Korea during the Japanese occupation and then the Korean war, with a furry cast.: weasels as Japanese, mice as South Koreans, alligators as United Nations, and wolves as U.S. troops. This guy has a lot of eps on line.


    • Sat

      Wow! It must be a very long running series, because some episodes looks very, very old (with that “soviet-motion” style), some have that 70s anime look, and some have shading and CG animated bits!

      • Chris Sobieniak

        It’s certainly a tradition to them in keeping it going as much as the battle itself! It does get kinda interesting after 20 episodes through and you start to see the CG animation kick in.

  • jordan reichek

    It’s funny.

    The mathematical breakdowns of the inbetweens have that, ‘Communistic precision” that look good on paper but lack any humanity.

    Gotta love the sprightly accordion music!

  • Dino

    I love how the US missiles etc. are ethnic caricatures with giant Western noses.

    • SJ

      “We got a million of ’em… Ha-cha-cha-cha-cha-cha-chaaaaaa!”

  • The animation style really reminds me of L’Roi et L’Oiseau. It’s like their inbetweens are super smooth, but the keys are timed a little weird

  • Im just amazed of how propaganda is pretty much the same, no matter where it comes from. What gives me chills is the fact that is aimed towards children, a culture of hate…

    …but yet again that’s what WB did on those days too.

    Animation is very good, but I do agree that some of the keys seem awkwardly placed. Great discovery!

    @Chris Sobieniak: Thanks for the links, I’m watching those right now!

    • Chris Sobieniak

      Thanks, you might not learn anything but you’ll have a great time trying to figure it out!

  • SJ

    Why those dirty… I kept wanting to see Fleischer-era Superman fly in and teach those kids a lesson. Sadly he and Popeye were no longer doing propaganda by that time.

    • Hernandez2014

      That would make for interesting shorts. Also, Popeye and Superman could be partners like Batman and Robin; they could be the Fleischer Brothers, and they could also fight terrorists.

  • TheGunheart

    One thing that’s really jarring is how the animation is padded out with so many repetitive actions. I also notice a lack of perspective in terms of the characters’ arm movements, which adds to that flat and robotic feeling.

    I actually saw that “Squirrels and Hedgehogs” cartoon on Youtube before. I’m kind of…torn, on that one. I know I should be disgusted by the fact that it’s propaganda, but cutesy animals shooting each other and ninja geese killing people with feathers…it’s one of those things that’s just too amusing to really care what the creator’s intent was. Though I do find the “good guys'” eyes to be rather creepy, especially compared to the more simplistic villain eyes.

  • Wow.. I’m a student in South Korea. It is just new to see NK animation. I like the title ‘연필포탄’. Pencil bomb is pretty cute.

  • JG

    Awesome, they’re really pushing the envelope of what can be done at concentration camps. Stale bread in – fluid animation out.

    (I’m still wondering how they did the flame on those missiles. It looks quite CG, but it’s not likely, it could be maybe double exposure. Just speculation.)

    • Chris Sobieniak

      If you look closely, those missiles are really pencils!

  • Barbara in BC

    Guess somebody in Korea remembers that just before the Korean war America tested biological weapons by spraying North Korea with cholera bacteria. Whoops!

  • Barbara in BC

    Guess somebody in Korea remembers that just before the Korean war America tested biological weapons by spraying North Korea with cholera bacteria. Whoopsie!

  • The “Squirrel and Hedgehog” cartoons showed up on YouTube a couple years ago and they’re pretty funny. I swear the mole in the suit and tie is a dead ringer for the Dear Leader himself!

    “I’m so rone-ree, so rone-ree…” :)

  • I wonder if this made South Korea a hotspot for farming animation for today’s cartoons.

    Rough Draft, Akom, Yeson…..

  • Sarah

    Get a college degree, kid…and go far away from North Korea.