Disney’s animated features in the 1940s was a bumpy ride, to say the least. It started with classics-to-be such as Pinocchio (1940) and Bambi (1942), while the rest of the decade saw a range of films sewn together from shorter animations without any real connection, for example Melody Time (1948). These latter are rarely released on video, but at least tend to be seen in lists of all Disney animated features. But there is one animated Disney feature which is normally left out of such lists, and which will never be included in the Walt Disney Diamonds line.
Victory through Air Power, released exactly 70 years ago the day after tomorrow, is forgotten today not because it is a bad movie. It is not. But its message is not exactly relevant to today’s fans.
This was a time when a good deal of the Disney production was war-time propaganda and information. Walt Disney had read a book by Russian-born Alexander de Seversky, where the author argues for the use of powerful strategic bombers as the most important strategy for winning the war. Disney was so impressed that he decided to make a film on the subject, and film critic Leonard Maltin has been quoted to the effect that the film made such an impact on Franklin D. Roosevelt that it changed the strategies used by the United States in the war (source: Wikipedia).
The film begins with a 20-minute history of aviation. This part stands well on its own, and is light enough in content that it could well be watched by kids. Even though this part is very different in style from the rest of the movie, the transition works well through a presentation of the career of Alexander de Seversky, who appears in live sequences throughout the rest of the film, arguing for the military strategical developments that were Disney’s rationale for making the film.
By Disney standards, the animation is a bit simplistic at times, but it is nevertheless very well done, and in its best moments extremely beautiful. The animators took every opportunity to appeal to the audience’s emotions, and the result is a film full of powerful imagery. Even though the final two thirds of the film basically consist of arguments and propaganda, the animations make it worth watching even for those who may not be very interested in the film’s historical implications.
There are two versions of this film at the Internet Archive. The “secondary” version, intended for internal use in the US Air Force, is slightly longer but all in black and white. They may have reasoned that a colour version did not appear serious enough, or it may have been a matter of cost reduction. I have not checked to see what the exact differences are, but probably only minor details; perhaps just title cards in between reels. If you are interested, here is a link to the black and white version.
This film is best enjoyed after having seen all the other Disney animated features (so that you can proudly say “Check!” when done), or if you are interested in military history. Every Disney fan should see it, though.
Victory through Air Power
Running time: 1 h 5 min
Directors: James Algar, Clyde Geronimi, Jack Kinney, H.C. Potter
Stars: Alexander de Seversky
Image quality: Excellent
Resolution: Medium (512×384)
Sound quality: Excellent
Best file format: Cinepack (396 M)