Walt Disney On The Front Lines

September 5, 2010 at 5:59 PM | Posted in !Film reviews! | Leave a comment

Walt Disney on the Front Lines

Released: May 18, 2004
Running time: 215 minutes
Category: Cartoons/shorts

The movie industry was still quite young when America went to war in 1914. But even then, many people in the government and the armed forces understood the value of using film as a tool to educate, enlighten and stir an audience, be it military or civilian. As soon as President Franklin D. Roosevelt declared the U.S. entry into World War II, on December 8, 1941 Hollywood prepared to play its part in winning that war. No studio devoted more of its time and recources to wartime activity, than Walt Disney’s. The military virtually took over the Burbank lot. And Walt’s artists found themselves working on everything from aircraft insignias to highly technical training films to homeland propaganda. America had done everything it could to stay out of the war, so it was especially important that average citizens understood why they were fighting, whom they were fighting, and how they could help. No one did a better job of addressing those issues than Walt Disney.

This DVD is made up of 11 propaganda/entertainment shorts, meaning cartoons with Donald Duck, Goofy and Pluto, with a wartime theme. Following these shorts are 14 short eduacational shorts, in which the American citizens are being told how they could help win the war and how to maintain their health during these hard times. 4 shorts are added at the very end, in the ‘From The Vault’-section, meaning these cartoons might be a little too scary, too difficult or just not good for young children.
I really liked the entertainment shorts best of all, since Donald Duck is showed as being drafted. And ofcourse, he manages to destroy everything he touches. Sergeant Pete truly gets a big head ache from Donald! Pluto is drafted as well, first as an army mascot (he succeeded to scare off the old army mascot) and later as a private. Here he is in the army and he gets antagonized by two chipmunks. This is the cartoon that introduced Chip n’ Dale, although their names were not mentioned in this cartoon, and it’s soooo funny. Goofy gives us two ‘how to’ cartoons, as funny as ever. The Donald Duck and Goofy shorts are my definite favourites.
Although they might sound boring, the educational shorts are actually quite interesting, especially when you’re from a different country and time. It gave me a sneak peek in the hard times of the Americas, and how they had to save themselves and the rest of the people. Walt Disney did a great job in depicting Minnie Mouse, Pluto and Donald Duck as the average citizens. It makes these shorts way more interesting, and I loved the way they touched up the ‘Heigh-Ho’ segment from the 1937 film Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, to create the new short ‘7 Wise Dwarfs’, in which the seven swarfs show the Americans the use of war certificates (5 for 4).
Lastly, the ‘From the Vault’ shorts are four of the most grim shorts ever produced. The entire theme of the war can be seen. In ‘Der Fuehrer’s Face’ (1943), Donald has a nightmare of living in a country called Nutzi-land, and he has to make shells for the ‘Fuehrer’ until he dies. Luckily, he wakes up in the end, glad that he is a citizen of the United States. ‘Education for Death’ follows little German child Hans, as he is ‘prepared for death’ (a soldier working for Germany). The ending is so grim, it’s clearly not for children. ‘Reason and Emotion’ and ‘Chicken Little’ have their share of laughs, but the grim aspect is still seen either in the background or in a seperate scene.

I liked this DVD very much, because it’s interesting, educational and it’s not all grim stuff. The entertainment shorts really are entertaining, and I think Walt educated the Americans so well with his educational shorts. It might be weird for me to like this, I know, but it’s different when you see it than when you write about it. It can give you all kinds of emotions there are, from entertained to interested to frightened. It’s so strange, but I like it, and I can recommend it as well if you are interested in this subject and Walt Disney.


4½ stars


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