Walt Disney: Animation for the War Effort

Posted on April 16th, 2016 by:

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Walt Disney: Animation for the War Effort

In 1942, Walt Disney was approached by the government to produce animated educational training and propaganda films for civilians and servicemen of the Armed Forces.

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Screen shot from Walt Disney’s 1943 Der Führers Face (The entire film can be seen on our YouTube Page)

Disney was no stranger to producing large scale animations. From 1937 to 1942, his production company had created the feature length masterpieces of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Fantasia, Pinocchio, Dumbo and Bambi as well as a number of other short films.

The US Navy was the first to approach Disney requesting training films on navigational tactics. Their request called for Disney’s production company to create 90,000 feet of film in 3 months, a staggering number as Disney’s company had previously averaged 27,000 feet of film per year.

Disney also created films for the US Army and Army Air Forces, guiding soldiers and airmen on topics ranging from camouflage to the importance of long range strategic bombing.

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The Fifinella, a female gremlin designed by Walt Disney became the official mascot for the Women’s Airforce Service Pilots (WASPS) during WWII

At the request of the Henry Morgenthau Jr. the Secretary of the Treasury, Disney produced films explaining the benefit income taxes played on the war effort. Disney’s films were seen by 26,000,000 Americans. In a Gallup poll conducted after the screenings, 37% of the audience claimed they were more willing to pay their taxes.

From 1942 to 1945, ninety percent of Disney’s employees were devoted to creating animated educational and propaganda films for the government, producing mostly at cost, over 400,000 feet of film. Disney’s company also drew unit insignia’s for the Armed Forces, creating some of the most iconic US Navy and Army Air Force squadron insignia of WWII.

Although many of the films Disney produced during World War II played on wartime racial stereotypes and deal with subject matters not relevant to today’s audience, the brilliance and charm of Disney’s work make them worth a look or two.

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For More on Disney During WWII Check Out:

Disney During World War II: How the Walt Disney Studio Contributed to Victory in the War (Disney Editions Deluxe)

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