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Recommended Reading for all you "Disney Goes to War" fans

Recommended Reading for all you "Disney Goes to War" fans

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With tomorrow's release of the "On the Front Lines" DVD from the "Walt Disney Treasures" series, I just know that -- once they get through this two disc set -- many JHM readers will be anxious to get their hands on even more information about this important era in Walt Disney Studios' history. Luckily, there are many magazines out there from that time period that feature illustrated articles about Disney involvement. But most people have no knowledge -- other than infrequent eBay postings -- of how to track down that information.

Over the years, there have been some books that have shone some attention on the subject including Walton Rawls' "Disney Dosn Dogtags" (Abbeville 1992) which was a full color look at military insignia that Disney artists designed for the troops during World War II. Most astute Disney historians already know of Richard Shale's scholarly and ground breaking book, "Donald Duck Joins Up: The Walt Disney Studio during World War II," which was originally published in 1976 (and reprinted in 1982 by UMI Research Press). An extensive twenty-four page excerpt from that book appeared in Michael Barrier's "Funnyworld" #17. (Over the years, Disney fans have struggled to obtain a copy of the book for their collections.)

Like every other Disney historian, I have been waiting for years for my next subscription copy of Paul Anderson's "Persistence of Vision." Just this month, Paul wrote to me to say:

" After a long delay, I am happy to report that the War Issue of 'Persistence of Vision' is coming along nicely. This book-length piece, in the works for four years, will cover Walt Disney's contributions to World War II in great detail. Some chapters include:

  • The Studio -- The Effects of the War on the Studio; December 8, 1941; The Drafting of Disney Employees; Disney Employees Contributions to the War; Camp Shows (Written by famed Disney Archivist, Dave Smith); and more
  • Training Films -- Four Methods of Flush Riveting; United States Navy films; Secret Training Films; US Army films; Controversies; and More!
  • The Home Front -- Canada-The Breaking of Neutrality; Victory Gardens; Rationing; Posters; Treasury Department work; Agriculture Department work; Disney Shorts; Disney Comic Strips; Help for England; and More
  • Heraldry Reborn -- Unit Insignia History; Commercial Insignia; Insignia Stories; and More
  • Propaganda Films -- The great propaganda films from Disney and their history: Reason and Emotion, Chicken Little, Education for Death, Der Fuehrer's Face
  • South of the Border -- A wonderful article co-written by Paul F Anderson and the prominent Disney Historian J.B. Kaufman, covering the work Disney did to help win the War in South America. Saludos Amigos, Three Caballeros, and the host of South American short films
  • Gremlins -- An extensive history of this ill-fated project, written by famed Disney historian Jim Korkis
  • Victory Through Air Power -- An extensive piece covering the entire history of this fascinating film. Including numerous stories that have never been told. Learn of the controversy with the Army and Navy, and how Disney almost lost his studio to make this film. Find out how the film helped to shorten the War and save thousands of Allied lives. Subscribers can now see two small excerpts from this chapter on the Subscribers Only page.
  • Patriot Walt -- This features the story of what Walt personally did to help win the War)
  • Postwar Epilogue -- The profound effects that this monumental 20th Century event had on Disney and his work for years to come. Also the contributions that Walt and his crew made to help win the War. The impact they had and their legacy."

Paul also said:

"Over the last four years I have been very busy on the research and writing of this piece. This magnum opus is coming in at a book and a half (approximately 150,000 words). I've spent four exhaustive weeks at the Walt Disney Archives going through every scrap of paper I could find from the War era (including all of Walt's Correspondence, clippings, campaign manuals, production notes, story meetings, etc.) and am happy to report that there is a great deal of new information on the Disney War effort. I have also searched numerous other libraries and archives in the search for new information on Disney and the War. Some of these insitutions include: Franklin D. Roosevelt Library; United States Air Force Academy Archives; National Archives; Cradle of Aviation Museum; Air & Space Museum; and many more. Furthermore, I have conducted a good number of interviews (and have more planned) on people's memories, stories, and anecdotes from the War era. In years to come this issue's contribution to the written knowledge on Disney's War will be the final word! You'll love it! "

I can hardly wait...and probably neither can you. So to fill that gap, Paul contributed some of the material he had gathered during his early research to another publication that is currently in print and covers Disney's involvement in World War II. For only twenty dollars plus postage, you can get a copy of David Lesjak's "Toons at war." You can get further information on how to order by credit card or by check at this website.

Disney historian Jim Korkis helped me to discover this book several years ago which I suspect he still highly recommends since he had high praise at the time for Lesjak's scholarship. I second that recommendation just as highly.

This well researched spiral bound guide is almost 200 pages in length and features over 175 pictures of rare, and in some cases, never-before-seen pieces of World War Two related Disneyana. The guide also contains a four-page spread of color photographs highlighting some of the rarest World War Two Disneyana to be found.

"Toons at Wars" chapters include:

  • The Studio
  • The Home Front
  • The Military
  • War Films & Related
  • Print Media: Magazines & Comics
  • Gremlins
  • Insignia
  • Postwar Epilogue.

Not only will you read about the Disney Studio's involvement in World War Two, but you will also see an archive of related collectibles including many I had never known existed.

Reportedly Lesjak spent nearly five years gathering material from a variety of private collections and it is very evident in his detailed listings of specific dates and titles and extensive footnotes which have helped me track down many magazines for my collection. However, don't think that is merely stuffy scholarship because the book is a lot of fun to flip through to just about any page and find concise yet detailed descriptions of all sorts of oddities.

I know David's book will be at my side for reference when I watch my own copy of "Walt Disney Treasures" new collectible DVD, "On the Front Lines." But not even the best book in the world can tell you everything. As you sit there enjoying "Victory Through Air Power" you might have the nagging feeling that you've seen it somewhere before even if you were born long after its initial release.

The animated history portion of this film was later released as an educational film -- "History of Aviation" -- in 1952 and ran for at almost two decades in school classrooms. That section was also included in the Disney television show, "Man In Flight" (Which originally aired on March 6th, 1957) and was later reused in the Disney television show, "Fly With Von Drake" (Which originally aired on October 13th, 1963). Both of the latter two shows were run several times on the Disney Channel when it used to cater to the Disney family audience rather than just 'tweens. And one of my favorite films of all time, "The Rocketeer," did an homage animation segment which was inspired by an animated segment in "Victory Through Air Power."

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