Destinations: The Museum of Flight's new exhibit - The Walt Disney Studios and World War II

Sunday, July 10, 2022

A new insignia was designed exclusively for The Museum of Flight’s display of the exhibition by Mike Gabriel and The Museum of Flight. It features Donald Duck dressed as a pilot holding onto the wings of a B-17 while soaring over the Pacific Northwest. B-17 Flying Fortresses were built at The Boeing Company plant in Seattle, Washington.

The Museum of Flight on East Marginal Way S has opened a new exhibit in conjunction with Disney Studios: The Walt Disney Studios and World War II

Photo by Steven H. Robinson

During this unique period in animation history, The Walt Disney Studios functioned as a morale-builder for both the civilian public and deployed Allied troops. 

Walt knew that cartoons would provide a direct yet amusing way to communicate with the American people about war-related issues and anxieties. 

Disney characters appeared in short films and military insignia, advertisements, magazines and stamp books. Government posters promoting tax payment, food recycling, rationing, war bond sales and farm production also used Disney cartoon personalities. 

Photo by Steven H. Robinson

The exhibition includes 550 examples of these rare historical objects and film clips.

The Museum of Flight, 9404 E. Marginal Way South, Seattle, WA 98108-4097
Tickets (free with museum membership) here

Photo by Steven H. Robinson

Matt Hayes, CEO + President of The Museum of Flight 

When America entered WWII The Walt Disney Studios immediately supported and promoted the war effort. The Studios and the U.S. government had a history of collaboration and cooperation starting in 1939, when Walt and his artists began designing squadron and unit insignia. 

It was not surprising then that in 1941, after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, Walt Disney and his staff pledged to fully support the war effort without hesitation or the potential for profit. 

Mickey Mouse and the other Disney cartoon characters were already beloved, and the irascible Donald Duck was a special favorite among the troops.

No matter how serious the subject, the “Disney touch” helped calm anxieties while powerfully cutting to the essence of the Allied experience.

When asked why The Museum of Flight is hosting this exhibition and why now, I was struck by the parallels that are cautionary, instructive, and inspiring. So many themes inherent in the material mirror so much of what we are experiencing today, as a museum and as a society-adapting to a new way of life, juggling priorities amid challenging circumstances, learning new skills-conversations that are being led by the experiences of women and other minorities. 


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