Disney’s Hidden Role: The Untold Story of WWII Propaganda Efforts

Converted into propaganda films during the Second World War, Disney studios released a whole series of Cartoons. Including a very dark “Education For Death”, which evokes the recruitment of children in the Hitler Youth.

Very conservative, Walt Disney publicly opposed American involvement in the Second World War in the early 1940s. But, like many companies in the country, it did not take long to contribute to the war effort after the United States entered the war.

Part of the Disney studio is thus monopolized by the government to turn it into an arms depot, or even a hospital, while Disney maintains a team in place responsible for continuing to make feature films, in very difficult conditions. , like Dumbo.

Disney when the company carried out propaganda during the Second

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Disney therefore continues to produce, but this time its work is not only intended to be distributed to the general public. In particular, he created propaganda films for the Americans, or tactical films to train the military, on the importance of aviation during the war, etc.

Among these works of propaganda, we find some gems, such as Der Fuehrer’s Face (1942), in which an obsessive Donald, enslaved in an arms factory like Charlot in Modern Times, repeats “Heil Hitler”…

Here it is again:

Victory by air

It is still in this logic that its studios released in theaters in July 1943 a feature-length propaganda film, Victory Through Air Power. Lasting 1 hour 10 minutes and produced for $788,000, mixing live action and animation, it is an adaptation of a book published in 1942 and written by a Russian-American major in the US Air Force. , Alexander P. de Seversky.

A work advocating the importance of the superiority of aerial bombardments which had a rather resounding echo: it was published barely six months after the attack on Pearl Harbor by the Japanese air force on December 7, 1941, which triggered the entry at war with the United States.

Until then, military commanders viewed air power as tactically useful, that is, primarily in support of the efforts of ground fighters; when it could be used on a much larger scale.

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A passionate reader and impressed by the work, Walt Disney himself supervised the construction of Victory by the Air, and the film was produced in 14 months. A record, given the context. For the record, the distributor of Disney films at the time, RKO Radio Pictures, refused to release it in theaters.

Walt Disney then decided to turn to United Artists, which distributed numerous shorts from the big-eared company between 1932 and 1937. Which made it the first and only Disney animated feature film to be distributed by a studio. cinema other than RKO or Walt Disney Studios.

Here it is, below. To do it complete justice, the work is supposed to be in Technicolor… The Disney studios also sent a copy of the film to Franklin D. Roosevelt, the President of the United States, who was said to be impressed .

Education For Death

Here is probably one of the strangest cartoons produced by the firm during the period. Certainly one of the darkest too, because Education For Death evokes the recruitment of children into the Hitler Youth, through the fate of a little boy named Hans.

Released in American theaters on January 15, 1943, Europe did not have access to it, being largely under the occupation of German troops. A narrator is present, the voices are German and Hitler’s dubbing was done from sound extracts in which his real voice appeared.

This is an adaptation of the book Education for Death : The Making of a Nazi written by Gregor Ziemer. An American educator, he had lived in Germany during the years from 1928 to 1939. Reader’s Digest published a condensed version and asked Disney Studios to produce a cartoon based on the book. A high quality cartoon, on which a famous animator from the house, Ward Kimball, worked.

See below..

Additional originality, this animated short film was developed jointly with a live adaptation this time of the book by Gregor Ziemer. It will be the film Hitler’s Children, released on January 6, 1943, and directed by a solid craftsman and Hollywood veteran, Edward Dmytryk. Distributed by RKO, the two works will benefit from cross-promotion.

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