The Walt Disney Company has a not-so-well-known connection to World War II, producing hundreds of Pro-War Propaganda during the 1940s.
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Those art and film pieces will be displayed at The National World War II Museum in New Orleans, LA. The exhibit, simply named “The Walt Disney Studios & WWII,” has been traveling the country for the past year and originated in The Walt Disney Family Museum of San Francisco.
Visitors of the exhibit will get an up-close look at over 500 rare historical objects and film clips. The exhibit has been deemed a “family-friendly” experience, highlighting the Walt Disney Company’s involvement in aiding the American Allies in the war. The art and films that the company made were designed to lift spirits and educate troops overseas. However, what Guests might not see is some of the propaganda that would be considered shocking today.
Disney and The War
Walt Disney himself was no stranger to war; he was actually an ambulance driver for the Red Cross during World War I when he was only 16 years old. While he never fought in actual battle, Disney always took pride in supporting the troops.
During the 1940s, several Disney films bombed at the box office, and the animators at the Walt Disney Company went on their first strike (not much different than the company’s current state today), leaving the studio in a financial bind. To make up for this loss, Disney agreed to get heavily involved in the war at the time.
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The propaganda cartoons featured Donald Duck mainly since Mickey Mouse was too innocent to be the face of war. In most cases, Donald was shown as a soldier who was ready to fight the good fight for his country. The message was always clear, “war good, enemy bad.”
More notably, The Walt Disney Company made several films with Donald that mocked our enemies and depicted them in an almost stereotypical caricature style. The most infamous film being Der Fuehrer’s Face (1943), which used an excessive amount of xenophobia imagery. From the Germans to the Japanese, the company went too far at times with crude drawings of them. During the time of war, these were considered motivating. But today, they would be regarded as insulting and racist.
Although The National World War II may not be displaying these aspects from the company’s war propaganda library, that doesn’t mean Disney can simply erase them from the past.
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