As Disney heads full-throttle into the streaming wars, the studio’s participation in another conflict is set to be honored. Next May, an exhibition titled “The Walt Disney Studios and World War II” will open at San Francisco’s Walt Disney Family Museum (which, as it happens, is housed on the grounds of a former U.S. military fort).
The exhibition is being pitched as “a remembrance of The Walt Disney Studios’ extensive contributions to the Allies’ World War II effort.” The official description runs as follows:
With the Disney studio lot in Burbank requisitioned as an Army anti-aircraft base after the bombing of Pearl Harbor in 1941, Walt and his staff pledged to support the war effort without hesitation, devoting over 90% of their wartime output to producing training, propaganda, entertainment, and public-service films, while also designing an extensive collection of insignia and print media. This original exhibition includes rarely-seen artwork, film clips, photos, literature, and other historical objects and ephemera from this unique period in animation history.
The exhibition is timed to coincide with the 75th anniversary of the war’s end. Disney’s contributions to the conflict were certainly significant: they dominated production at the studio for years, and some of the resulting films were widely seen. The short film Der Fuehrer’s Face, in which Donald Duck dreams of being forced to work for a Nazi munitions factory, won an Oscar. Yet the war remains a problematic chapter in Disney’s history. For instance, there’s currently no indication that the studio will include its propaganda films on its new streaming service Disney+.