Last night, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences and the Academy Foundation presented special screenings of rare WWII propaganda films produced by Hollywood’s top animation studios. Among the offerings was a gorgeous 35mm print of Disney’s Victory Through Air Power, a mostly animated documentary based on Alexander P. de Seversky’s 1942 book of the same title. Those who missed the rare screening may soon get a chance to bring the amazing film home.
During a question-and-answer session that followed the film, animation historian Jerry Beck confirmed that a DVD release was in the works but said he couldn’t talk about it at this point. Special guest and fellow film historian Leonard Maltin commented on how extraordinary the release would be, noting, "The studios are very sensitive with their World War II material because they don’t want to offend anyone. And we live in a time when everyone is offended by everything."
In his introduction of Victory Through Air Power, Beck commented on what a gamble the film was for Walt Disney, who took it on as a personal project after reading Seversky’s book. While it didn’t pay off at the box office, the film did play a part in changing the course of the war when Truman reportedly saw it and was persuaded to rethink the importance of aircraft in warfare.
Another remarkable aspect of the film is its rushed production schedule. The film was completed in one year with a workforce borrowed from other Disney animated works in production at the time. While they used limited animation and re-purposed footage where they could, Walt didn’t want to skimp on production values and that resolve is evident in the finished product.