Monday, July 4, 2011

Walt on the Front Line

Walt on the Front Line

"Actually, if you could see close in my eyes,

the American flag is waving in both of them

and up my spine is growing this red, white and blue stripe."

~ Walt Disney ~

Celebrate America with Special Independence Day Shows at the Disneyland Resort

      This saying was never more true to Walt Disney than during WWII. Walt was a proud American that had served his country at the end of WWI as an ambulance driver in France and as a showman and communicator in WWII.

       During WWII the US Army took over the Disney Studio. Disney and other studios were tasked with making propaganda and training films for the government. Disney put all this energy into making the shorts needed. The studio put out many short cartoons that were intended for the public to encourage patriotism and spread the word on what was needed to help the country win the war.

       Disney made many short cartoons during WWII. There were cartoons that encouraged young men to enlist in the armed forces. Many called for people to buy US Savings Bonds. Some were made to teach health and safety tips such as how to dig a latrine or why to take vaccines to those who were at home. Others taught how to recycle items that were needed to help supply the troupes overseas. There were many that gave toonish and funny ideas on how to save gas. Most were humorous and gave the war weary public a much needed laugh as it gave them something to think about.

       Walt and his animators were like most Americans and were behind the war effort and pulling for a quick end. As most Americans feared and hated the Nazi so did Walt. One cartoon that by today’s standards would be considered raciest and not politically correct is "Education for Death" with the subtitle of "The Making of a Nazi". It shows how a happy German child was taught to hate and kill. In truth it is not anti German it is anti Nazi and anti hate. When my daughter saw this at the age of 10 or so she said, “look mom that is how street gangs lure people in.” Sometimes I think we are too politically correct and withhold much needed information from our children.

       Walt read a book by military strategists, Major Alexander P. De Seversky. The book was “Victory Through Air Power”. Walt saw the value of this idea and decided to make an animated movie based on the book that showed how WWII could be won with Long-Range Bombers. Walt knew this would not do well in wide release and did not plan on it as a money making venture. Walt wanted to get the word out and cost was not an issue. Quite simply put, Walt put his money where his mouth and heart was in support of the American war effort.

       Winston Churchill saw the movie while in Canada and was very impressed with the concept. When he heard that President Roosevelt had not seen it he and Air Marshal Tedder prodded the President until he finally ordered a print be sent to him. The film’s director H. C, Potter was told years later that our country made the decision to commit to long-range bombers after President Roosevelt saw the movie.

       With all the work for the government and many of the young animators drafted and serving in the armed forces, few short movies for profit were being made, there was not enough resources left for working on new full length movies Walt had already planned or in the works. Also overseas markets were closed because of the war. The studio was on the verge of bankruptcy by the end of the war.

In the years after WWII Walt went to other countries at the behest of the US Government on good will tours. Walt was a proud American and was glad he could serve his country in any way. You can see his love of country when you first walk into any Disney Park. The entrance is by way of Main Street USA.

As a side note about Walt and his time at Disneyland, when Walt was at Disneyland he would make sure he was in his apartment in time the flag retreat.  He would watch from his window above the Firehouse.

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