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Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Disneyear: Victory Through Air Power (1943)

I'll be honest here, I had a hard time trying to decide whether or not to review this film. Why? Well because as a Disney film, it gets little to no mention by a lot of the books I have since it's purely war propaganda. That may also explain why I had a bitch of a time trying to find this on DVD. But hell, it's here. I now have it. Let's review it.

But first another history lesson: like how Saludos Amigos was developed, Walt Disney and his artists were asked by the government  to do a film strictly for the U.S. Air Force based on Major Alexander de Seversky's well-known book. That or it got an actual theatrical release. I'm not sure which. A proud patriot, Walt agreed to do the film. The result is a film that's really unlike most of the films I'm reviewing this year. It's educational, like Saludos, but it's dead serious due to this film being for WWII pilots. Well, half of it anyway.

The best summary I can give is that the film starts appropriately with the history of the airplane. We see the Wright Brothers invent the first airplane with success. We also get a look at how the plane developed over the years and saw uses for mail, exploration, transportation and today's subject: war. About 25 minutes in, de Seversky himself appears and discusses the influence of air warfare in WWII and gives his ideas on how the war could be won by the Allies with strategic air bombing in Germany and Japan. That's pretty much it.

Well, this certainly is an unusual film for Disney. It's really like an audio/visual version of the book itself. For good reasons, it's really mature about it's subject matter and it's obvious that Disney and de Seversky knew what they were talking about. If you're a WWII enthusiast, you aren't going to be bored by this film. It's surprisingly engaging for something educational. It's kind of like a little time capsule from 1943. Sadly, that's also part of the movie's problem. It'll be hard for a modern audience to truly appreciate it.

I think one of the reasons this movie is forgotten is that this part of the movie is greatly concerned with what will be and what may be. Futurism is interesting to talk about when the futurist got things dead wrong, or only partially right. Since most of what de Seversky was discussing proved to be accurate, there isn’t much to mock. One might almost forget the context under which this was produced and see any inaccuracies as simple mistakes in research. The animation is also pretty limited here, despite how Walt felt about limited animation itself. In fact, it's also hard to recommend this to anyone other than the die-hard Disney fan or WWII enthusiast. If you can find it, I'd say check it out. I think you'll be pleased with the visuals and historical aspect of it.

The coolest part of the movie has to be the ending scene where an eagle representing America attacks Japan represented by an octopus. It's an intense scene but awesome too. From what I saw in an interview, Woolie Reitherman animated that scene. Judging from his interview, he really had a knack for suspense and drama

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