Disney propaganda during the WW2

Disney propaganda

World war two is considered the worst out of the two World Wars. Well, can you not guess, the world was facing the worst dictator of the time.

So, during World War 2, America wanted every help it could get. At the same time, the media was becoming more popular by the day. It was the era of the technological revolution.

The American army ensured that every sector was involved with them during these challenging times.

They took over a lot of car assembly plants of major car companies like general motors and converted them into their army vehicle assemblies. These large assembly lines were churning out large amounts of jeeps, tanks, airplanes, and battleships.

What was the role of the media in World War 2?

To help fund these operations, the American government wanted the help of the media. That is where Marvel, Warner Brothers, and Walt Disney played their roles.

These prominent media tycoons played a significant role in this War. They helped collect the funds and promote war bonds, and motivated the soldiers and general public during these challenging times.

A large number of these artists and story writers were ready to help the American government in this War. They used their most popular characters to promote the government schemes during the War.

The government was also funding these studios to produce more content than usual. Disney saw an increase of tenfold in their production, from 30,000 to 300,000. They created a tone of skits showing different views during the War.

Walt Disney was not keen on using his media to promote propaganda. He understood that the government was using their facilities for their schemes.

During one of the interviews, Walt said, “I do not like this profit during the war. When people are out there giving their lives”. After the War, Disney tried its best to forget these cheesy skits and leave them in the past.

What did the Disney studios support during World War 2?

When the War began, Disney developed a one-sided relationship with the U.S. Disney’s studio in Burbank, California, which was converted to a military base. The U.S government issued an order to make room for 500 units with personnel and vehicles combined.

Nearly 700 units showed up at the studio with multiple war vehicles, ample ammunition, and communication gear. Along with space for an army base, Disney contracted with the government to make short films supporting the American army.

It is a classical strategy to sympathize with your allies and demonize your enemies to gain maximum support. By 1943, more than 90% of Disney films were based on war efforts and related topics.

Source: Smithsonian

Commander Donald Duck

Donald Duck was the most famous Disney character at that time. He was used to the fullest in this propaganda. A lot of episodes of Donald Duck were based on the War.

In an episode named Der Fuehrer’s Face, Donald was in a dream where he was in a Nazi camp. Multiple recruits were seen praising the German leader Hitler.

It showed how awfully the camps treated their soldiers. They made them work throughout the day until they were utterly worn out. Even Donald, enjoying hailing the Nazi sign, was burned out at the end. There was a lot of footage of him hailing Hitler whenever his face popped up.

Tired of the work in the factory, Donald was utterly sick of it when suddenly he woke up from the dream and realized he was a proud and independent American citizen.

He was also used in selling war bonds and promoting tax schemes. In another episode, Donald Duck was seen as a happy American citizen willing to help the army in these dire times.

Donald taught the whole procedure of how you could submit the war tax in this episode of Donald Duck. It was encouraged to play its part in the War by contributing money that government would use in making armor and weaponry.

There were also some racist attempts in this propaganda. Disney made a lot of silly adaptations of the Japanese to demean them in the view of Americans. How they always wait to attack their enemies from the back. And a lot of references to their accent and facial features.

We all get that studios made most of these films to show patriotism during hard times.

But many of these films straight up caused racial stereotypes and demonized these enemies, which the public may have received with pride at the time, but it was not good for the company’s longevity.

The Disney studio acknowledged their mistake and commented, “Negative stereotypes of people and cultures, as well as other offensive imagery, were used as part of the United States’ propaganda efforts during World War II.

We acknowledge its harmful impact and hope to encourage mindful discussion about misrepresentation and negative stereotypes, and use these lessons from the past to create a more inclusive future.”

Was Mickey Mouse used as propaganda?

Bullets were not the only weapon that armies used in World War 2. Mustard gas was also one of the most famous weapons during this War. It could be easily deployed in a city and could cause some severe damage to the citizens.

To protect the public, the government issued gas masks that they gave to every citizen in case of a poisonous gas attack.

The problem with the traditional gas masks was that they were a little bit intimidating for the children. I mean, who wouldn’t get scared of them. I know I would.

So, for the kids, the government ordered Walt Disney himself to develop a gas mask that kids would use in the War.

The mask was made similar to the Mickey Mouse, so kids would carry it willingly and wear it without any concern in case of gas since Mickey Mouse was one of the most well-known cartoon characters at the time.

But the efforts were in vain. Only about 100 of these masks were ever made. And not many were distributed among the children since there was no gas attack in the populated areas. Nowadays, some museums consider these gas masks a rare collectible item.

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