A fitting release for Veterans Day. Below are my first impressions of a new hard cover offering from Disney Editions titled: “Disney During World War II: How the Walt Disney Studio Contributed to Victory in the War”. This book takes a detailed look at how the Walt Disney Studio contributed to World War II. Many of us disneygeeks know the basics that during the War most production at the Disney Studios was shut down and the military moved into the Burbank Studios. You may even know about some of the projects for the war effort that were undertaken by Walt and his team. These projects were done at cost, and many cases below cost because Walt did not want to be seen profiteering from the war and wanted to support the war effort. This book by John Baxter takes a comprehensive look at these projects. They are organized into the following chapters: The Training Films, Propaganda, Entertainment Shorts, and Military Insignia. There is also a chapter dedicated to Gremlins a story that never made it to the screen.
This book contains some concept art, production stills, and other pictures from the period including some movie posters/title cards, but the bulk of the book is the narrative that goes through the many pieces that were created detailing the production history for the topic then each film/short that was created with a synopsis and additional background on many.
The Training Films discusses the vast array of training films Disney produced for the US government between 1941 and 1945, totally close to 170. These included live action, animations, slide shows, and a variety of other techniques to churn out the final products as efficiently as possible. Topics such as how to identify ships or planes or how to fire an anti-tank missile were included.
The studio produced an array of Propaganda films during the war for both the Canadian and US governments. Included are films like Victory through Air Power or Food Will Win the War.
The entertainment shorts features a detailed look at the shorts produced during the time that were war related. Most featured Donald Duck, starting with Donald Gets Drafted which was released in 1942. There was also two Goofy shorts, Victory Vehicles & How to Be a Sailor. There were also several that featured Pluto.
The Disney studios created over 1,200 Military Insignias during the way for all branches of the service. They would create these upon request from the unit with usually only a few week turn around. The insignias featured a large cast of Disney characters from the Fab 5 to secondary characters to even background characters.
I really enjoyed reading through this book. It is another piece of history and a slightly different way to learn about some aspects of World War II. I had not really studied the breadth and depth of what the studio produced during the war years and when you see it laid out like this it is rather impressive what they pulled off and how the studio managed to survive those tough years. In addition to being an interesting read I think this will make a great reference book to look back on if a question about one of these projects was to rise up. Due to the nature of the book and heavy history element it is not a light read and it is detailed so not a quick read either. The artwork throughout is interesting and compliments the narrative but unlike many Disney books the text is the meat of this and carries the book for me. I would recommend this to anyone wanting to learn more about the Studios history and production during World War II, you will not be disappointed by this well researched and thorough book.
The three images used in this post were provided by Disney Editions