Unlike most of the insignia-related characters created by Disney artists during World War II, the Beechcraft Busy Bee was very much a homefront hero. Beechcraft was founded in 1932 by husband and wife partners Walter H. Beech and Olive Ann Mellor Beech. With designer Ted Wells, they created the Model 17 Staggerwing, a civilian plane that was manufactured in their Wichita, Kansas factory.
|Walter and Olive Ann Beech in the Wichita factory, 1942.|
In 1942, the U.S. Army Air Forces ordered the first of 270 modified Staggerwings for service in World War II. It was at the same time that Beech commissioned Walt Disney to create a company mascot that would encourage productivity and improve morale among his employees. The result was the Beechcraft Busy Bee. A company publication provided the following background:
Beechcraft would be awarded the coveted Army-Navy E Award in 1942 and subsequent followup awards through the end of the war. The E Award was given to companies as a reward for excellence in the production of war materials. The spirit and determination of the Busy Bee was certainly reflected in the Beechcraft workforce.Created by Walt Disney especially for Beechcraft as a badge of merit and honor to be awarded to employees of any rank or station. To qualify for the award an employee must have demonstrated, by performance, the qualities of high efficiency, interest in his work and in training for further advancement, cheerful cooperation with others, and the constant determination to "Kill 'em with Production."
The Beechcraft Busy Bee, rampant on a field of blueprint paper shaped in the form of a Beech leaf, embodies these qualities. Although this Beechcraft Busy Bee is busy as can be, he's not too busy to look aside to see, if instead of two jobs, he can't do three. His flaunted Beechcraft wing insigne and his cheerful grin are indicative of his high morale, but his determination is written all over his face.
Most Beechcrafters will qualify for this Award. With willing spirit and determination they are pushing production rates ever upward.
The Bee was featured in numerous company publications, and employees were awarded patches, pins and certificates of merit that all showcased the Disney-created design.