Museum of Flight announce The Walt Disney Studios and World War II exhibition

SEATTLE – This summer The Museum of Flight opens the Northwest premiere of the exhibition, The Walt Disney Studios and World War II, a retrospective of The Walt Disney Studios’ extensive contributions to the Allies’ World War II effort. With hundreds of rare artifacts, illustrations and film clips on display, this immersive exhibition illuminates a remarkable period of the fabled studio. The exhibition was created in partnership with The Museum of Flight and The Walt Disney Family Museum in San Francisco, where it recently finished its inaugural 9-month presentation to rave reviews. The Walt Disney Studios and World War II will be on view from July 9, 2022 until Feb. 5, 2023, and is free with admission to the Museum.

Throughout the duration of the exhibition’s run the Museum will also offer public educational programs and lectures related to the World War II, plus private event experiences that are directly engaged with the exhibition.

The Story of a Studio Supporting the War Effort
When Walt Disney received word that the Disney studio lot in Burbank had been requisitioned for military use after the bombing of Pearl Harbor in 1941, he and his staff pledged to support the war effort without hesitation, and without profit. This exhibition illustrates how The Walt Disney Studios devoted over 90 percent of its wartime output to producing training, propaganda, entertainment, and public-service films, publicity and print campaigns, and over 1,200 insignia, while also deploying a group of talented artists, including Walt himself, to Latin America on a Goodwill Tour.

“This rarely-shared period in the Studios’ history offers insight into the creativity, innovation, and positivity that Walt and his team brought to the military leaders, troops, and civilians at home and abroad,” said Kirsten Komoroske, Executive Director of The Walt Disney Family Museum.

“Both then and now we find ourselves at an inflection point, questioning and challenging many traditional or conventional norms,” says The Museum of Flight President and CEO, Matt Hayes. “In the context of present day conversation many of the images represented in this exhibition will likely take you aback. Some may make you feel uncomfortable. Through the lens of yesterday’s social constructs we may use them to guide conversations with family and friends as we navigate many of the challenges that we, as an American society, are experiencing again today.”

During this unique era of animation history, The Walt Disney Studios functioned as a tremendous morale-builder for both the civilian public and deployed Allied troops. Walt knew that cartoons would be an ideal medium for communicating with the American people—in an amusing, uncomplicated manner—about war- related issues and anxieties. In addition to the short films and military insignia being produced, Disney characters appeared in a variety of homefront initiatives, from advertisements, magazines, and stamp books, to government posters promoting tax payment, food recycling, rationing, war bond sales, and farm production.

The Walt Disney Studios and World War II includes 550 examples of these rare, historical objects and film clips. Exhibition Curator Kent Ramsey explains, “I have a special interest in this exhibition because Disney’s insignia design team created two clever insignias for my uncle’s photo reconnaissance group. Unfortunately, my uncle was shot down and killed one month before the war ended in Europe, and for me, this exhibition serves as salute to his supreme sacrifice.”

The exhibition’s insignia was designed exclusively by Mike Gabriel and The Museum of Flight, and features Donald Duck dressed as a pilot holding onto the wings of a Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress with Mt. Rainier in the background. Many of America’s combat aircraft were flown into battle with Disney insignia painted on the nose, while the irascible Donald Duck was a favorite of the troops and was represented on more war time works than any other Disney character.

The Walt Disney Studios and World War II is organized by The Walt Disney Family Museum, San Francisco, California.

For Museum information, please call 206-764-5720 or visit www.museumofflight.org

Logo credit: Character artist Mike Gabriel (United States) and Background artist The Museum of Flight (Seattle, Washington) Donald Duck exhibition insignia for The Walt Disney Studios and World War II, 2022. Original artwork courtesy of Mike Gabriel, © 2022 Disney.

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