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Tag Archives: World War II

August 30

August 30, 1943 – Walt Disney is Awarded the Order of the Aztec Eagle

On August 30, 1943, Walt Disney, along with MGM Studios co-founder Louis B. Mayer, was awarded the Order of the Aztec Eagle, Mexico’s highest honor. Disney received the award from Mexican president Manuel Ávila Camacho, honoring Disney’s efforts to create a strong relationship with Mexico through the Good Neighbor Program. Through this program, Walt and a group of animators, known as “El Grupo,” traveled through South America to research the countries and create animated features and short films. One such output was the film The Three Caballeros, which featured Mexican rooster Panchito as a lead character. This film was the beginning of a long relationship the Disney Studios had with Mexico.

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March 14

March 14, 1942 – Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck, Pluto, Dumbo, and Timothy Mouse Appear on the Cover of Liberty Magazine

“Last minute double check for your income tax.”

On March 14, 1942, the cover of Liberty magazine featured popular Disney characters Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck, Pluto, Dumbo, and Timothy Mouse. The characters were used to promote an article about filing income taxes that year, as a main message at the time was that Americans’ taxes would “beat the Axis” – a line from the Donald Duck short film The New Spirit. Disney character use was high at the time to help with the war effort, with their use ranging from military insignia to full-length goodwill films, such as Saludos Amigos.

December 17

December 17, 1943 – The Wartime Propaganda Short Film Chicken Little is Released to Theaters

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“As our story continues, we find all our fine feathered friends happy and contented. And why not? Didn’t they have a big strong fence protecting them?

On December 17, 1943, the wartime propaganda special short film Chicken Little premiered in theaters. The short was a piece about persuasion and falling under the sway of leaders with sinister agendas. Originally it was supposed to have explicit connotations of World War II, with Foxy Logy reading Mein Kampf, but was left generic to be used in potential future cases. The short was directed by Clyde Geronimi.

The story begins in a small peaceful farmyard, and introduces the characters: the mayor rooster Cocky Locky, local gossip Henny Penny, intellectual Turkey Lurkey, the carefree Jitterbirds, bar regulars Goosey Poosey and Ducky Lucky, and the main character Chicken Little. The entire community feels safe with a large fence protecting them, and don’t seem to notice Foxy Loxy taking an interest in the chickens. He decides to use psychology to get all of the chickens, and begins with Chicken Little, pegging him to be the least intelligent of the lot. He tricks Chicken Little into thinking the sky is falling with a bit of show and a piece of a sign. Chicken Little believes the lie Foxy Loxy told him, and it spreads like wildfire. Cocky Locky doesn’t believe it, and reassures the group that it was just a piece of wood that hit Chicken Little on the head. Undeterred, Foxy Loxy changes strategy to make the chickens lose faith in Cocky Locky. Through holes in the fence, Foxy Loxy manages to spread rumors and false information to each different group within the community, and again it spreads through the community. He then eggs on Chicken Little to assume the leadership, and through his whispers, he convinces Chicken Little to take the entire community to the cave – right where Foxy Loxy is lying in wait. Cocky Locky is left as the lone chicken in the yar, with Foxy Loxy devouring every last chicken.

 

November 19

November 19, 1941 – The Wartime Educational Film The Thrifty Pig is Delivered

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“You ought not to sing and dance while there’s danger all about. You should get your houses wolf-proof: bricks like these will keep him out.”

On November 19, 1941, the wartime educational film The Thrifty Pig was delivered to the National Film Board of Canada. It was the first of a series of films created by Disney for this particular project, with the goal of persuading Canadians to invest in war bonds. The short is similar to the Silly Symphony The Three Little Pigs, which was a huge success for the studio upon its release and deemed the perfect story to make the war bond case; this was also the first case of “cartoon recycling” for the studio in order to keep costs down.

Practical Pig is working on his house while his brothers tease him. He warns them that they should make their houses “wolf-proof”, which he is doing with war bonds. His brothers sing that they aren’t afraid of the wolf, and while they do, the wolf – now in Nazi regalia – shows up to try and capture them. He blows down Fifer Pig’s house first, then goes after Fiddler Pig’s house. Fifer and Fiddler Pig escape to Practical Pig’s house, with the wolf hot on their trail. When he tries to blow down Practical Pig’s house, all he does is blow away the top layer to reveal multiple Canadian savings bonds; Practical Pig then uses some extra bond bricks to chase the wolf away. In the end, the pigs all sing about protecting themselves from the wolf by lending their savings. An animated plea for Canadians to do their part to stop the Axis is then presented at the end of the short.

July 30

July 30, 1943 – The Goofy Wartime Short Film Victory Vehicles is Released to Theaters

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“Who needs a limousine that’s always out of gasoline? Hop on your pogo stick and laugh your cares away!”

On July 30, 1943, the Goofy wartime short film Victory Vehicles premiered in theaters. The short takes a humorous look at rationing and shortages during wartime; it also spawned a song “Hop On Your Pogo Stick,” complete with sheet music, which was written by Ned Washington and Oliver Wallace. It also features a small cameo by Pluto in one of the early scenes. The short was directed by Jack Kinney.

The short begins with an explanation of why cars were necessary. When the gasoline and rubber shortage was started, the use of cars was limited significantly. Many citizens created their own versions of transportation, flooding the patent office with their (not-so-bright) ideas. The ideas span a variety of hobbies and work activities to help people get from point A to point B. Suddenly, the solution to this problem is made clear: the pogo stick. We then see Goofy, a defense contractor, heading to work via pogo stick, with a giant smile on his face. The narrator then talks about all the benefits of having pogo sticks instead of cars, and how it works in any condition. The short ends with everyone in town using a variety of pogo sticks.

May 1

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May 1, 1942 – The Donald Duck Wartime Short Film Donald Gets Drafted is Released to Theaters

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“Hi General, I wanna be a flier!”

On May 1, 1942, the Donald Duck wartime short film Donald Gets Drafted premiered in theaters. It was the first of the series of wartime propaganda shorts that sought to use the Disney stars to tell a relatable story about how wartime was affecting citizens, adding levity to a very tense situation. The short provides several gags in the draft selection process, with a slight nod to the sarcasm of the Depression-weary public. The short was directed by Jack King.

The short begins with a rendition of the song “The Army’s Not the Army Anymore” while showing Donald’s orders to report for induction (also revealing that Donald’s middle name is “Fauntleroy”). Donald reports with gusto, admiring the posters in front of the recruiting station. After seeing a poster with a woman on it, Donald is determined to become a pilot. After Donald signs a paper, he is sent to a physical exam of a more humorous nature than anything else. He is then fitted for his uniform, which they shrink to his size. Soon after, Donald is sent to his base, but he is frustrated that he only marches, as he still wants to fly. He manages to anger his drill sergeant, who is none other than Pete. Pete gives Donald “special training,” which he manages to fail over and over again. When Donald threatens to quit, Pete responds that Donald must learn discipline. While Donald is ordered to stand still, a group of ants starts crawling out of their hole and up Donald’s legs, making standing still quite a challenge for the duck. Unable to take it anymore, Donald goes crazy, and his gun goes off, shooting at every angle. Finally, Donald is placed on kitchen duty, peeling spuds, and peels off the word “phooey” in response to the opening song.

April 4

April4, 1944 – Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs is Reissued to Theaters

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Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs is more than a great picture, it’s an experience in happiness.”

On April 4, 1944, Disney’s first full-length animated feature film Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs was reissued to theaters for the first time. Almost seven years after its first release, the rerelease was a gamble taken by the studios as they tried to make some money during the war years. Pinocchio and Fantasia had not been as financially successful as Walt Disney had hoped, though Dumbo managed to be another smash for the studio; unfortunately, shortly after its release was the attack on Pearl Harbor, and the entrance of the United States into World War II. The loss of the European markets hurt the Disney Studios deeply, with the war instructionals and propaganda films not providing enough income to keep the studios in business. The film has since been reissued seven times since.