Sunday, August 31, 2008

Disney's Victory Gardens

Posting simultaneously on our sister blog Boom-Pop! is a feature on Victory Gardens, a home front initiative that encouraged citizens to cultivate vegetable gardens to help alleviate food shortages and reduce the need for rationing during World War II. The Victory Garden emerged as one of the more prominent aspects of mid-1940s popular culture, and so it was inevitable that the Walt Disney Studios would in some ways intersect with this pastime of patriotic seed sowing.

Although the Disney Studio never produced a Victory Garden themed cartoon, Walt did lend out two of his biggest stars to participate in Victory Garden promotional efforts. Mickey Mouse was featured on materials for a Green Thumb Contest sponsored by the National Victory Garden Institute in 1944. State war councils sponsored the contest locally. Illinois Mobilizes, the newsletter of the Illinois War Council, noted in their July 1, 1944 issue, "Each entrant receives a contest record book, with a cover especially designed by Walt Disney to be used for keeping a record of planting and harvesting."

Donald Duck was licensed for use on a Victory Garden sign, produced by W. L. Stensgaard. According to World War II historian and Disneyana expert David Lesjak, the sign came in two different types. A fiberboard version retailed for $1.00 while a sturdier one made of masonite board cost $1.69. Lesjak reported that a promotional flier sent to retailers advertised that, "Everybody will want to identify their victory garden with this colorful, durable, outdoor marker. Creates a new spirit for gardens. Thousands will buy for own use, also gifts and prizes."

Donald Duck planted his own Victory Garden in the comic book Walt Disney's Comics and Stories #31, published in April 1943. In "Donald Duck's Victory Garden," Donald and nephews Huey, Dewey and Louie square off against a trio of hungry crows, out to pilfer freshly planted Victory seeds. The comic was written and drawn by Disney Legend Carl Barks and was his first Donald Duck story published for the Walt Disney Comics and Stories title.

In the mid-1990s, Disney Imagineers planted a Victory Garden just off of Sunset Boulevard in the then Disney-MGM Studios at Walt Disney World. That particular area of the park evokes a strong World War II-era atmosphere and a Victory Garden is a natural extension of that theming. Set adjacent to Rosie's All-American Cafe (playing tribute to another war-era pop culture icon, Rosie the Riveter) is Rosie's Victory Garden.

Be sure to visit Boom-Pop! for the companion piece to this post, Gardening for Victory.


Anonymous said...

Disney did do somewhat of a animated cartoon about Victory Gardens. It was the 1942 Donald Duck cartoon, "Donald's Garden".

Anonymous said...

Side note to last post: Athough the cartoon didn't dirctly mention Victory Gardens, we can assume that what the duck was planting as this was released during the begining of America's involvement in WWII.

Jeffrey Pepper said...

Donald's Garden was produced prior to the launch of the Victory Garden program in 1943. Victory Gardens were heavily promoted during the years 1943-1945 and it was then that most media tie-ins happened. It was during that time that Walter Lantz, MGM and Warner Brothers all produced Victory Garden related cartoons.

The closest thing I could find to Victory Gardens in a Disney cartoon were a couple of backyard plots that flash by very quickly in the background of the Goofy short Victory Vehicles which was released during the summer of 1943.

Anonymous said...

Oh, I see. Thanks for the information.

Jeffrey Pepper said...

I need to make a correction to my prior comment. Even though it wasn't until 1943 that the government launched a Victory Garden program, there were private initiatives in the years before. Victory Gardens historically go back to World War I.

I was mistaken in the statement about VG-related cartoons--Warner Brothers Tale of Two Kitties is listed with a release date of November 1942.