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Walt Disney’s War Propaganda from 1939-1945?

Updated September 10, 2022
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Walt Disney’s War Propaganda from 1939-1945? essay

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Introduction

When one thinks of a topic like war, one will usually think of soldiers on the battle front fighting the other side. However, during World War II, a new wave of propaganda, exemplified by Walt Disney, changed the views of the war to the American citizens. Walt Disney used comics, and short films starring Disney’s most beloved characters like Donald Duck, to get the American citizens on board with the war effort.

These forms of propaganda led to the American citizens learning more about the war and learning all the information they needed to know, along with this information, Disney was able to appeal to the citizens in a way everyone can understand and enjoy to watch. Not only did these comics and films help the citizens on America’s soil, it even boosted moral for the soldiers that were on enemy grounds fighting the war.

Walt Disney published many comics, audio tapes, and films to aid American support for the war, some of these include the famous films “Der Fuehrers Face”, “Commando Duck”, and comics such as his original “Walt Disney’s Comics”, in which the first edition was issued on January of 1942. In the years 1939-1945, the need for support of the war effort was in high demand, for the U.S. to succeed there would need to be a lot of support. Walt Disney saw this and began to act by making many forms of propaganda to help. through the use of many forms of propaganda, Walt Disney was able to shift the American citizens to support the war effort during World War II from 1939-1945.

Pre-WWII

Before America had entered the war on December 7, 1941, The U.S. had a neutrality policy that prevented us from taking our part. There was not much support for being as involved as America should have been, in the earlier parts of the war, until the bombing of Pearl Harbor. After the bombing on December 7, 1941, the Americans joined the war and the amount of citizen support jumped. When the United States joined the war, not only did the involvement change the course of the whole war, but for Walt Disney as well.

Before America entered the war, Walt Disney was also facing many problems involving his studios. After the production of the infamous film “Snow White” in 1937, Disney was facing many problems. The animators strike on 1942 and the war cutting off international profits, nearly brought Walt Disney’s studio to bankruptcy. However, the United States entrance into the War in Europe was a very helpful thing for Walt Disney and his studios. After the bombing of Pearl Harbor, the United States Armed forces commandeered Disney studio space in Burbank, California.

Though this may have seemed more worse than better for the Disney studios itself, but it was actually beneficial for them because it gave them a more inside view on the army and how it all worked from within. This insight led to Walt Disney being able to create propaganda that would be very accurate, but he would also be able to help the citizens learn more and push for more American support.

Propaganda

As Walt Disney began to produce his propaganda, he produced many influential short films and comics that were very influential in pushing for American support. Some of those films being ‘Der Fuehrers Face’, and ‘Commando Duck’, both staring the famous Donald Duck. Walt Disney directed these short films so that he can help out the government in pushing for American support of the war. In these films, Disney used very common propaganda tactics to influence the American citizens, weather it is exaggerated physical features, hyperbolized images, and any other form of exaggeration.

In Walt Disney’s most famous film Der Fuehrers Face. It begins with 4 Nazi followers marching singing a song hailing Hitler. Early in this film Walt already begins to bring in his Disney magic by adding comedy all throughout the film, and he did this to not only draw attention to the bad but also bring joy to it. He starts out exaggerating all the qualities of the soldiers, all them looking like spin less, disformed, blind followers just marching per order. All throughout the film, Disney portrays the soldiers as very big fools who are from all of the Axis powers, those being Germans, Japanese, and Italians.

In this Donald Duck is the main character and he is a German factory worker and is dressed as a Nazi while working for Hitler. Walt Disney kept the characteristics of Donald the same however. Walt Disney directed this film to make fun of the Axis powers but, at the same time, shows the conditions that many of the workers had to deal with, showing how cruel Hitler and the Nazi’s were. Walt did this to show to the Americans how our Army soldiers were living and what they had to fight, and this led to Americans pushing to help end the war and end these harsh conditions all around. However, Walt still used his Disney magic to make the American citizens want to watch these films of such horrific events.

Der Fuehrer’s Face shows the struggles that went with living in such authoritarian state as Nazi Germany. Walt Disney really wanted to show to American citizens what it meant to be a German civilian while Hitler was in rule. This brought the American Audiences to realize how people were forced to live in those European countries. Walt Disney wanted the American citizens to see this so they would feel inclined to intervene in the war so that Hitler could be shut down and hopefully there could not be those horrible conditions as a norm in any place on the earth.

Another very influential film, is the other Donald Duck stared 10 minuet film, Commando Duck. This film follows a similar path as the Der Fuehrers Face. However, this film was focused more on the whole field part of the war, not just the conditions in the previous film. The film begins with Donald Duck being dropped into the enemy territory, and is forced to go find the enemy base and complete his mission. Donald goes through a whole journey where he is shot at by the Japanese enemy, and, by Walt Disney’s choice, is forced to run away, in a comedic process, from a water balloon that just keeps growing.

But by the end, the balloon pops, and it washes away the Japanese base and Donald Duck is left hanging on a tree where he writes to his officer “Contacted enemy, washed out same -Donald Duck”this referencing to some kind of payback for the bombing of Pear Harbor. Walt Disney really took a different approach compared to Der Fuehrers Face because this reference to Pearl Harbor, mixed with the shooting scene caused for the American citizens feel a sense of pride in destroying the Japanese base, while at the same time, pushing for the ending of the war and bringing back the soldiers that were forced to be shot at. Disney however, brings joy and comedy to this film so that every person in America can watch it and root for the United States and the Allied powers.

Conclusion

Starting from before the war even begun, Walt Disney needed a boost to help keep his company from bankruptcy. Along with this, the country needed a boost in support for our troops on the enemy lines, the American entrance into the war led to a better for both situations. It pulled Disney from its hole, and most importantly, it caused a shift in the citizen support for the war effort. The films that Walt Disney produced, while being as comedic as any other Disney produced short film, were very influential on the citizens by showing them what the war was like, and it pushed them to want to put an end to all the war and all conflict in Europe.

Works Cited

  1. Commando Duck. Directed by Walt Disney. Performed by Donald Duck. United States: Walt Disney Studios, 1944. Accessed September 12, 2018. https://archive.org/details/DonaldDuckCommandoDuck1944.
  2. Der Fuehrers Face. Directed by Walt Disney. Performed by Donald Duck. United States: Walt Disney Studios, 1943. Accessed September 12, 2018. https://archive.org/details/DerFuehrersFace.
  3. Cunningham, Amanda. Walt Disney and the Propaganda Complex: Government Funded Animation and Hollywood Complicity During WWII. Master’s thesis, University of Nevada Las Vegas, 2014. Las Vegas: University of Nevada, 2014. 1-99.
  4. Ribera, Robert. Between Patriotism and Pacifism: Jacob Lawrence, John Huston, Bill Mauldin, and Walt Disney during World War Two. Master’s thesis, Boston University, 2016. Boston: Boston University, 2016. 1-280.
  5. Winters, Jordan. Send in the Mouse: How American Politicians Used Walt Disney Productions to Safeguard the American Home Front in WWII. Master’s thesis, University of Washington Tacoma, 2014. Tacoma: UW Tacoma Digital Commons, 2014. 1-35.
  6. Gavin, Michael, et al. “Influencing America through Animation – WWII Propaganda Cartoons: Part Three: Walt Disney.” Inside the Magic, 21 Jan. 2017, insidethemagic.net/2017/01/influencing-america-through-animation-wwii-propaganda-cartoons-part-three-walt-disney/.
  7. Bemis, Bethanee. “Mickey Mouse Morale: Disney on the World War II Home Front.” National Museum of American History, 18 Oct. 2018, americanhistory.si.edu/blog/ww2-disney.
Walt Disney’s War Propaganda from 1939-1945? essay

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Walt Disney’s War Propaganda from 1939-1945?. (2021, Apr 27). Retrieved from https://samploon.com/walt-disneys-war-propaganda-from-1939-1945/

FAQ

Did Walt Disney support the war?
Between 1941 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.
How did Walt Disney contribute to war?
Throughout the early 1940s, Disney churned out military training films, educational shorts (provided to the U.S. government at cost), and military insignia for over 1,000 different units in the U.S. armed forces (provided free of charge).
How did Walt Disney use propaganda?
Disney took on the task of making propaganda more palatable to the American people through the use of cartoons . American public opinion on propaganda influenced the characteristics and themes of each cartoon. Disney utilized four methods to accomplish their purpose: the use of color, theme, humor, and music.
What did the Disney studios support during World War II?
For example: The most important contribution that the Disney Studios made to America during World War II was designing insignia that "appeared on planes, trucks, flight jackets, and other military equipment." The insignia was "morale-boosting," lifting the spirits of American troops.
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