Sunday, October 18, 2009

The darkness of Disney 5: Victory Through Air Power

When the USA entered World War II, the government enlisted the help of Hollywood studios to act not only as morale boosters for troops and civilians, but also as massive propaganda machines. Disney was no exception to this, and the studio produced many films commissioned by the government, mostly for military training purposes. However, Walt Disney himself went a step further by creating an animated feature film of Alexander P. de Seversky’s book, Victory Through Air Power. The book put forth the then-new idea of combat primarily via aircraft, and argued for the formation of an air force as a separate branch of the military. Walt Disney felt that the book’s message was so important that he financed the entire film adaptation out of his own pocket. The movie cost nearly as much to produce as Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs had – a considerable sum for the time. Disney’s efforts ultimately paid off, however. Not only did the film allegedly influence Franklin Roosevelt’s approach to the war, it heralded Disney’s entrance into the educational film market, which proved to be quite lucrative for the studio in the coming decades.

Released in 1943, Victory Through Air Power doesn’t pretend to be anything other than a war film promoting a strategy for defeating the Axis powers of World War II. The film is technically an animated feature film, though it contains live-action segments of Seversky himself describing some of the ideas from his book. These days, the film is treated mostly as a curiosity – a piece of WWII Hollywood history. Disney has released the movie on home video, packaged with the studio’s WWII theatrical cartoons. The most famous part of the film is the climax, an animated sequence of the bombing of Japan (though not in the way that it ended up really happening). Animated by Marc Davis, the USA and Japan are symbolically depicted as an eagle and an octopus engaged in a dramatic battle.

No comments: