During the 1940s and at the start of World War II, Walt Disney Studios was not in a great place. As a business and financially they were under a lot of stress. They had enjoyed major successes with Snow White and the Seven Dwarves but they had a poorly implemented management structure which was causing too many problems. Even though they were critically acclaimed for being the studio that could bring animations to the big picture, it was well known that Disney Studios was on the brink of ruin.
Which was why it was a little strange that the US government wanted Walt Disney to play an important role in their Good Neighbour Program. They had set up a new section of the government called the CIAA which was in charge of coordinating with South American countries and to strengthen their relationship. The main concern was that at the time the Nazis had made quite a lot of progress in those regions during the 1930s.
The CIAA wanted Walt Disney to produce 12 animated short films to support their message, at the time the way Walt Disney operated was pretty much by going to a bank and getting a loan. Their financial strategy was pretty terrible at the time, it simply revolved around the fact that the film would make a profit and they would be able to pay the bank back. But banks were wary of Walt Disney due to their ever-growing debts, the CIAA told the banks not to worry and if no profit was made then they would guarantee the loan of the banks.
So during the summer of 1941, Walt Disney himself and 18 of his animators went on a trip through South America with all the expenses paid. He was very excited about discovering new songs, dances, and plots for cartoons. They went throughout the countries for 12 weeks, setting up workshops and collaborating with local artists. There was opposition because the Nazis had set up a strong power base already, but for the most part, the locals were simply too excited to meet Walt Disney – who was seen as a rockstar at the time.
In the end, Disney made countless animations of propaganda to support the West and spread misinformation about the Nazis it was quite brazen and savage. To the point that the animations created during this period have never been aired again. Once in peace, Walt Disney tried to distance the company massively from these propaganda animations, but the fact remains that they were the lifeline the company needed to survive.
In 1984, to celebrate his 50th birthday, Donald Duck was given the rank of sergeant to honor all of his efforts during the wartime. He was simultaneously discharged, but the fact remains that Donald Duck was an army sergeant!