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Museum of Flight Disney

Logo credit: Character artist Mike Gabriel; background, The Museum of Flight.

Museum of Flight exhibit highlights Disney’s role in U.S. WWII effort

See artifacts, illustrations and film clips from Disney's efforts

Lovers of all things Disney can learn about a lesser-known chapter in its history by seeing a new exhibit at Seattle’s Museum of Flight.

“The Walt Disney Studios and World War II” is an immersive exhibition telling of The Walt Disney Studios’ extraordinary involvement in the United States World War II effort.

More than 500 artifacts, illustrations and film clips show how the studio functioned as a morale booster both for U.S. troops and the public at home.

Exhibit organizers explain that the Disney studio lot in Burbank was requisitioned for military use after the bombing of Pearl Harbor in 1941. At this point, Walt Disney pledged to support the war effort, dedicating more than 90% of its output to it. Disney produced training, propaganda, entertainment and public-service films, along with publicity and print campaigns, and more than 1,200 insignia.

Disney cartoons talked to the American people about war-related issues and anxieties. In addition, Disney characters appeared in advertisements, magazines and stamp books. They also were seen on posters promoting food recycling, rationing, war bond sales and farm production.

Northwest connections: Take a close look at the exhibition’s insignia, designed by Mike Gabriel and The Museum of Flight. That’s Donald Duck dressed as a pilot. He’s holding onto the wings of a Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress — with Mount Rainier in the background.

Many American aircraft had Disney insignia painted on the nose. Donald Duck was a particular favorite of the troops.

The Museum of Flight, which has extensive permanent displays about World War II and other chapters in American history. Additionally, it will feature educational programs and historical lectures to complement the Disney exhibit.

The exhibition was created in partnership with The Walt Disney Family Museum in San Francisco, where it was on display for nine months.

“The Walt Disney Studios and World War II” opens Saturday, July 9. It will be on view through Feb. 5, 2023, and is included with admission to the Museum of Flight.

The Museum of Flight is open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily; admission is free on one Thursday evenings per month through the popular Free First Thursday program.


Important to note:

The exhibit contains some images that might be offensive. Anti-Japanese sentiment, in particular, was high during World War II. Museum of Flight President and CEO Matt Hayes addresses the content: “Both then and now we find ourselves at an inflection point, questioning and challenging many traditional or conventional norms. 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.”

Published July 7, 2022

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About the Author

Julie Hanson

Julie Hanson is a longtime journalist, South King County resident and mom to a 15-year-old girl.