Walt Disney and World War II

His classic mid-century characters return in shorts that back the American war effort
Donald Duck
Photo: courtesy Walt Disney Productions (© 1942 Disney)

War has been almost a constant presence for today's children and young adults in America, but most have little idea what it was like when the country was more united behind a war effort.

Believe it or not, mid-century cartoon favorites Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck, and other Walt Disney characters pitched in, in their own way, with the rest of the country as active partners in support of America's war effort in World War II, during the 1940s.

How did they do it? You can relive some of Disney's greatest patriotic WWII contributions with 'Disney and World War II,' a full month of animated shorts at San Francisco's Walt Disney Family Museum during November.

"In November it's Veteran's Day, and we are located in an old Army barrack," says Andi Wang, communications manager for the Disney Museum, at the S.F. Presidio. "We thought it would be great to screen stuff that is relevant to the Presidio and also Veteran's Day.

"Part of it was propaganda. Some of it was boosters to support the war effort," says Wang of the nine shorts produced by Disney in the early 1940s to be featured every day in November at the museum (except Tuesdays, when the museum is closed; November 8; and Thanksgiving). "In the '40s, the studio was basically occupied by the Army."

Titles include 'Private Pluto' and 'Donald Gets Drafted,' the latter being the longest piece of the series at nearly nine minutes. Most are about seven minutes long and address topics such as transportation, food conservation, and the war itself, though Wang added, "They do not feature Hitler or any other Nazi propaganda."

For more information about the museum and the 'Disney and World War II' screenings, click on waltdisney.org