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Mickey Mouse explains weapons in Second World War

Government work for the War effort rolled into the studio
(Artist: Walt Disney)

Film poster for "Der Fuehrer's Face", from 1943
(Artist: Walt Disney)

The earliest biggest producer of instructional illustrated training materials was the Disney corporation. Modern instructional illustrations start with the Industrial Revolution and the mass-production of technical products for end-users. The earliest examples are sewing machines (around 1850) and typewriters (around 1870). These were the first products that were delivered with manuals. The beginning of the 20th century saw the introduction of the automobile, and later the radio, which were both quickly sold to a mass public, including manuals, often with visual support.

The second World War brought major developments in technical instructions. Young men had to learn to operate complex military machines, such as tanks, machine guns and fighter planes. For this, of course, they got a training, and for this training a lot of instructional material was developed. A major change was the introduction of instructional illustrations in cartoon style. This is not surprising if one realizes that the biggest producer of such training material was the Disney corporation. The cartoon style was not only to make simple explanation drawings, but also to make the instructions more attractive. Striking examples are the series are 16mm movies with Mickey Mouse and other Disney figures as guides explaining the use of all kinds of weapons, for instance a movie with Mickey Mouse explaining how to use a Browning P.50 machine gun.

Screenshot from the short film "Der Fuehrer's Face", from 1943
(Artist: Walt Disney)

The cartoon-industry introduced many other elements from cartoons into visual instructions such as Anthropomorphic illustrations: drawings of products that seem to have human characteristics, such as a sweating television, or a coughing copying machine; Balloons with short texts or magnified details; Dotted lines to indicate elements that do not exist in reality, movements or highlighting elements; Use of symbols, such as the skull for indicating danger or the magnifying glass; Various types of lines to indicate sounds; Variation in the design of arrows: curly, outline, partially dotted to indicate movement such as shaking.

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