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On December 8, 1941, the Disney Studio was taken over by the military as part of the war effort. Making the most of the talent that hadn't shipped out yet, Walt Disney spent the next four years creating and producing training, propaganda, and educational films for the Armed Forces. In addition to these films, this extraordinary volume also includes the full-length feature "Victory Through Air Power." Released theatrically in 1943, this powerful propaganda film has never been reissued until now. You'll also see recently discovered on-the-set footage, and get rare firsthand accounts about the work and culture at the Disney Studio in interviews with Disney Legends Joe Grant, John Hench, and Roy Disney. Featuring exclusive introductions by film historian Leonard Maltin, this is a timeless collection from generations past for generations to come.
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World War II transformed the Disney Studio. Although nearly one-third of the artists had been drafted, production quintupled, up to 95% of it for military and government uses. Some of the films included in On the Front Lines have not been seen since their initial release; others were never shown to the general public. Anticipating the importance of animated training films, Disney produced the studio's first educational film, "Four Methods of Flush Riveting" (1941), using limited animation to train riveters at Lockheed. Decades later, "Four Methods" and the excerpts from military training films remain models of how to present information clearly and concisely.
Many of the wartime entertainment shorts are largely propaganda. Donald's nightmare of working on a Nazi assembly line in "Der Fuehrer's Face" is still hilarious slapstick. The grimmer "Education for Death" and "Chicken Little" have aged less gracefully. Disney's oddest wartime project was Victory Through Air Power (1943), a live action/animation feature based on Major Alex de Seversky's controversial book that called for the adoption of long-range bombers. By the time it was finished, air power was a reality.
Front Lines also includes several health films made for the Office of Inter-American Affairs, and bond-buying shorts for Canada that reuse animation from Snow White and "Three Little Pigs." This collection of genuine rarities is a must-have for anyone interested in the history of animation, the Disney Studio, or America during WWII. (Rated G, suitable for ages 10 and older: violence, ethnic stereotypes, tobacco use) --Charles Solomon
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