The AFISA-HAA Blog has posted another ‘Dispatch from Disney’s‘ flyer from 1943. Among the many notable articles in these scans is a great piece by Oliver Wallace on "How I wrote Der Fuehrer’s Face". Not only is it a little bit of Disney history, it’s a great insight into the creative process.
Here’s my transcription (any typos are mine):
The time was 3:00 P.M., and I was feeling low. I had been a naughty boy the night before.
That had to be the moment when Walt encountered me in the hall and gave me a rush order: "Ollie, I want a serious song, but it’s got to be funny."
The further information that it was to be for a picture telling Donald Duck’s adventures in Nazi land didn’t help very much.
"What do you mean?" I asked.
"Suppose the Germans are singing it," Walt offered. "To them, it’s serious. To us, it’s funny."
Walt walked away. I stood in the hall, I continued to stand in the hall.
Once more I was on the spot.
Arriving home disgruntled, I encountered no idea while eating dinner.
Then I laid down for a rest, "To hell with it," I told myself.
The wee small voice told me what it thought of me. It was a familiar routine.
"Get off your back and get on your bike," said my wife. "You’re going to the store with me."
The fresh air brought out the nobility in me. I turned receptive and laid myself wide open to any idea … There ought to be a German band…
The music came to me in one flash. It nearly knocked me off the bicycle.
My mouth opened in suprise. There followed a second suprise. Words came out of that mouth. I heard myself singing with the loudness which distinguishes my voice:
"Ven Der Fuehrer says, ‘Ve iss der Master Race,’
Ve Heil! Heil! Right in Der Fuehrer’s Face."
My wife laughed. "Who wrote that?"
"I"m writing it!" I yelled–and almost ran into a truck.
Half an hour later, it was finished. I sang it to my two daughters (separately)–and when each said she liked it, I thought I had something.
But would Walt like it?
Arriving at the studio next day, I sang it all over the place.
The sound brought Walt out into the hall (where he does most of his business).
"Let’s hear it," he said.
I stalled. "Orchestration … there’s a funny sound in it … can’t be made without and instrument … has to be practiced…" The truth is, I didn’t know what Walt would think of the highly robust Bronx cheer. Could such a sound be used in a Disney picture?
"Let’s hear it," said Walt.
I let loose.
The rest is history.