Walt Disney's Fascinating WWII-Era Films (NEW BOOK)

November 6, 2014 1:42 PM

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Walt Disney's Fascinating WWII-Era Films (NEW BOOK)

Stop That Tank! was a very straightforward training film that used live-action footage of soldiers demonstrating the proper use of the Boys antitank rifle, and animated cutaway views of the gun’s interior to display its inner workings for better overall understanding. But before the instruction begins, the film opens with a cartoon sequence pitting hitler and his tanks against some concealed canadian soldiers armed with the weapon. The german tanks are rickety affairs that clank across the battlefields like toys, and when the hidden gunners open fire at close range, the tanks flee the scene. hitler’s tank gets blown to kingdom come, and he ends up in hades, ranting at the feet of Satan about the unfair advantage provided by the Boys antitank rifle. Ub Iwerks directed and the animators included Freddie Moore and Ward Kimball, who said of the supposedly fearsome weapon, “it looked like a BB gun to me.” Indeed, it had limited tactical worth on the battlefield at the time, but Disney’s job was to explain the gun’s workings and proper use, and to extol its virtues, regardless of its manifest obsolescence. The resulting film was exactly what the canadian government had bargained for, and it remained a standard teaching tool until the Boys gun was replaced by the Piat (Projector, infantry, anti-tank) in 1943.

The first series of training films produced was intended to teach pilots, air gunners, antiaircraft units, and ground observers how to quickly distinguish enemy planes from allied aircraft. It was called WEFT, a mnemonic abbreviation of “Wings, engine, Fuselage, and tail.” As the name suggests, the ...

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