Disney War Effort

Book Review: Service with Character: The Disney Studio & World War II by David Lesjak

Service with Character: The Disney Studios and World War II by David Lesjak.  Produced by ThemeParkPress. 

Service with Character: The Disney Studios and World War II by David Lesjak.  Produced by ThemeParkPress. 

If you're into military history AND you love Disney, you'll definitely want to read Service with Character: Disney Studio & World War II by David Lesjak.  I was fascinated to learn about Disney's involvement in World War II. 

Did you know that Disney produced a movie called "Victory Through Air Power" that probably contributed to the U.S. Air Force becoming its own branch of the military? 

Did you know that the Disney Studios housed military forces, created over 1200 military insignia, helped sell war bonds and even helped people to think of paying income taxes as their patriotic duty (Taxes to beat the Axis!)?  Click here for more on that. 

Did you know that the studios produced one edition of a magazine for their employees serving in the Armed Forces that even included hand-drawn pin-up girls?  Click here to read more about that. 

As a somewhat religious person, I found the section on propaganda films especially interesting in light of the current political climate.  The book includes a portion of a memo Disney Production Manager Robert Carr sent about WWII propaganda films produced by Disney Studios for South America.  He wrote, "Animation, being a magical medium has profound potentialities for evoking sentiment and awe. 'Ave Maria' in Fantasia was only a beginning. We should make full use of this quality in many of the 'big' subjects suggested, CREATING A DEEPLY RELIGIOUS FEELING, AND ASSOCIATING THIS WITH POLITICAL IDEALS (emphasis mine). We can have beautiful and reverent scenes in which The Christ of the Andes is seen in the background, or a huge cross fills the sky; or more subtly, when the voice, the music and the artist's style of painting suggests a religious atmosphere....as when we see the Spirit of Pan American, or of Victory, standing behind our weapons. This will put over certain ideas impossible to present otherwise." (source: Service with Character: The Disney Studio & World War II, by David Lesjak, pp. 177 & 178). Social media is a relatively new, and very visual, medium that we're all having to learn to navigate. The above memo struck me as a good reminder that we need to be wise when religious themes or imagery are being employed to influence us.

I am not affiliated with the author or publisher in any way.  The men in my family served in different branches of the military and I'm a Disney fan who found this book really interesting and thought you might too.  It would also make a great Christmas gift for the history buff in your family.   This book can be purchased on Amazon. 

More Disney Related Book Reviews: 

About the reviewer: Annette, with her husband Steve, owns BuildABetterMouseTrip.com and is an avid reader; so much so that, as a child, her parents made a rule that she could not read during daylight hours because they were concerned she was developing a pallor best suited for the Haunted Mansion!

How Disney Got People to Pay Their Income Taxes!

How Donald Duck and the Disney Studios convinced Americans that it was their patriot duty to pay their income taxes and pay them on time. Taxes to beat the Axis!

How Donald Duck and the Disney Studios convinced Americans that it was their patriot duty to pay their income taxes and pay them on time. Taxes to beat the Axis!

I learned something interesting in Service with Character - The Disney Studio & World War II by David Lesjak.   The expenses of World War II meant that 7-million American workers would need to pay income tax for the first time so the US Treasury Department contracted the Disney Studios to create a cartoon short to convince these people that it was their patriotic duty to pay their taxes and pay them on time.   Disney studios created the short film below, named "The New Spirit" with the slogan: Taxes to Fight the Axis which was distributed freely to theaters throughout the United States and was seen by an estimated 3.5-million people.   Disney Studios produced the film at cost but when the Treasury Department submitted the cost ($80,000) in an appropriations bill, Congress denied the funding saying that the taxpayers would not approve of having their money spent on cartoons when there was a war going on.   It was a very heated, very public debate that was covered widely in the news.  Despite the fact that The New Spirit was produced at a loss and the free distribution of this film was costing the Disney Studios  $50,000 to $60,000 in lost bookings for other cartoon shorts, the Disney Studios received hate mail accusing them of being war profiteers as a result of the negative press.  Congressional never did budge on their veto but the US Treasury Department did finally pay the Disney Studios out of funds on hand. 

A second film called The Spirit of 43 was created a bit later that encouraged people to set aside money to pay their taxes.   It had some new footage and reused a large portion from The New Spirit.   It is notable for being the first appearance of a prototype of the character that would later be named Scrooge McDuck. 

This post is lovingly dedicated to Monica and Laura, two of our hard working travel agents who are feeling the burn of tax day.   Chin up, my friends...your taxes will keep democracy on the march!

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