Walt Disney's World War II propaganda production

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Between 1942 and 1945, during World War II, Walt Disney was involved in the production of propaganda films for the U.S. government. The widespread familiarity of Disney's productions benefited the U.S. government in producing pro-American war propaganda in an effort to increase support for the war.

Disney's involvement[edit]

Upon the surprise attack on Pearl Harbor by the Axis-affiliated Empire of Japan on December 7, 1941, 500 United States Army troops moved in the next day to occupy Walt Disney Studios in Burbank, California for the next eight months—the only Hollywood film studio under military occupation in history—as America began a massive build up to fight in World War II. The soldiers were stationed there to protect a nearby Lockheed aircraft plant from enemy air raids, convert parking garages into ammunition depots, and fixing equipment in large soundstages.[1] From there, Disney was approached with requests from the U.S. services to produce propaganda films.[2] The Navy was the first, and other branches of the government, including the Army Air Forces, the Department of Agriculture, and the Treasury Department, rapidly caught on to Disney’s creative approach to generating educational films, propaganda, and insignias.

During World War II, Disney made films for every branch of the United States Armed Forces and government.[3][4] This was accomplished through the use of animated graphics by means of expediting the intelligent mobilization of servicemen and civilians for the cause of the war. Over 90% of Disney employees were devoted to the production of training and propaganda films for the government.[3] Throughout the duration of the war, Disney produced over 400,000 feet of educational war films, most at cost, which is equal to 68 hours of continuous films. In 1943 alone, 204,000 feet of film was produced. [2]

As well as producing films for different government divisions from 1942 to 1943, Disney was asked to create animation for a series of pictures produced by Colonel Frank Capra for the U.S. Army.[2] This series included films such as Prelude to War and America goes to War. Although these films were originally intended for servicemen, they were released to theaters because of their popularity.

The Navy productions[edit]

The Navy first requested 90,000 feet of film to be ready in three months. The purpose of these films was to educate sailors on navigation tactics. This was a shock for Disney, as he was used to creating 27,000 feet of film in a year.[2]

The Office of the Coordinator of Inter-American Affairs also requested educational films for aviation branches of the government. The subjects of these films varied widely from aerology and not compact tactics to ground crew aircraft maintenance.[5]

The Treasury Department productions[edit]

Disney created The New Spirit (1942) after a request from the Secretary of the Treasury, Henry Morgenthau, Jr., to make Americans accept the payment of income taxes. The film was followed by The Spirit of '43 (1943). In this film, Donald Duck deals with income taxes and shows their benefit to the American war effort.[6] The film was seen by 26 million people. In a later Gallup poll 37% admitted that the film played a factor on their willingness to pay taxes. Disney also made a book for children to try to encourage them to purchase War Savings stamps.[7]

The Army Air Forces (USAAF or AAF) productions[edit]

Aerology film production was supervised by naval aviation experts and some members of Disney's team learned how to fly to better understand the problems the Army Air Forces encountered.[3] Victory Through Air Power (1943) is one of the propaganda films Disney produced for air warfare.[5] This film is an attempt to sell Major Alexander de Seversky's theories about the practical uses of long range strategic bombing. The animated film humorously tells about the development of air warfare and then switches to the Major illustrating how his ideas could win the war for the Allies.

Propaganda productions[edit]

As requested by the U.S. Government, Walt Disney created a number of anti-German and anti-Japanese films for the servicemen and the U.S. public. He wanted to portray these countries and their leaders as manipulative without morals. A few of the films he produced were Reason and Emotion (1943), Der Fuehrer's Face (1942), Education for Death - The Making of a Nazi (1943), and Commando Duck (1944).[citation needed]

In Der Fuehrer’s Face, Donald Duck experiences a day in a Nazi country where he has to make do with eating ridiculous Nazi food rations (smell of bacon and eggs, coffee made with one bean, and a slice of stale bread) experiences a day at a Nazi artillery factory and breaks down. He wakes up realizing that the experience was a nightmare, embraces a model of the Statue of Liberty and exclaims Am I glad to be a citizen of the United States of America!

Education for Death - The Making of a Nazi was a wartime propaganda film that takes on the perspective of Hans, a young German boy. As the movie progresses and Hans is exposed to Hitler youth and the Nazi culture, his ability to value human life decreases. In Commando Duck, Donald, by himself, destroys an entire Japanese airbase.

Further reading[edit]

  • "Disney's Troupe Goes to War". Times. 15 November 1942. p. 20–21

See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Moseley, Doobie (December 7, 2015). "Pearl Harbor Changed Everything, Even the Disney Studio". Laughing Place. Italic or bold markup not allowed in: |publisher= (help)
  2. ^ a b c d "Walt Disney's Animated War". Flying. March 1945. p. 50–51
  3. ^ a b c "Walt Disney Goes to War". Life magazine. 31 August 1942.p. 61–69.
  4. ^ "Walt Disney: Great Teacher; His Films for War are Revolutionizing the Technique of Education". Fortune. August 1942. p. 90–95
  5. ^ a b {{cite journal |date=September 1942 | title =Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck Work for Victory | journal =Popular Science | volume =141.3 | issue =September 1942 | pages =98
  6. ^ "The New Pictures". Time Magazine. February 9, 1942.
  7. ^ "Disney Studio at War". Theater Arts. Jan 1943. p. 31–39

External links[edit]