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New exhibition in Tukwila showcases surprising connection between Walt Disney and World War II

The Museum of Flight is hosting the exhibition, featuring 550 never-before-seen Disney artifacts produced in support of American troops and war efforts.

TUKWILA, Wash. — A new exhibition at the Museum of Flight in Tukwila showcases the surprising relationship between World War II and The Walt Disney Studios.

More than 90% of production at the studio was dedicated to creating animation, education, entertainment and propaganda films, and insignia designs, during the war.

"As a studio, they made a huge contribution to winning the war, and to me that's a compelling story to share with everybody,” said curator Kent Ramsey, who spent 20 years researching and collecting the items on display. "There are people coming in from all across the country to see this because it's never been assembled before."

"The Walt Disney Studios and World War II" includes 550 objects illustrating the company’s support of American troops.

"Most of these objects have never seen the light of day before,” Ramsey said.

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He procured them from private collectors, the Walt Disney Family and the Walt Disney Company’s animation research and film libraries. Roughly ¼ of the objects are from his own collection.

"Basically, I'm a World War II and a Disney history nut,” he said. "I was a keelboat skipper at Walt Disney World in my college years, and so I break into corny jokes — that's just how they trained me. I'm refraining from doing that today."

Guests can also learn untold stories of animators who enlisted and fought in the war, women who served, and Japanese-American animators who were interned and later re-hired by the studio.

Credit: Kim Holcomb
Curator Kent Ramsey spent two decades researching and acquiring the artifacts for the exhibition.

Ramsey’s own family story is also told — in fact, it served as inspiration for the exhibition.

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"I created this in memory of my uncle. He was in the war,” he said. “Disney designed both his group and squadron's insignias, and unfortunately he was killed at the end of the war. This is my quest as far as trying to keep his spirit alive."

The exhibition is free with admission to the museum and runs through Feb. 5, 2023.

"It's something you'll never see again,” Ramsey said.

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