|By Keith Mahne|
The year was 1942, Walt Disney flew to Washington and met with defense and chemical warfare officials with another one of his great ideas. You see, Walt wanted to check the progress of a gas mask he’d recently designed. The mask, featuring large glass eyes, a snout and big, round ears, was designed like his signature character, Mickey Mouse. It was meant to calm terrified children during moments of crisis, but looking back at the mask, it appears it may have done the opposite. See for yourself what Walt created and decide whether you believe this could have been the world's creepiest gas masks ever created in today's new article...
After the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor in 1941, Americans feared the threat of the war coming to their own soil, namely in the form of chemical warfare. To protect against this threat, the government massed produced non-combative gas masks.
Among the masks made for children was a Walt Disney designed Mickey Mouse gas mask to reduce children’s potential fear of wearing the life-saving device. The mask, which looks like Mickey Mouse’s face attached to a branded air filter, was designed to fit children aged 18 months to 4 years old.
Major Robert D. Walk of the US Army Reserve Command wrote in his essay The Mickey Mouse Mask,
The mask was designed so children would carry it and wear it as part of a game. This would reduce the fear associated with wearing a gas mask and hopefully improve their wear time and, hence, survivability.
The production of the Disney gas masks began in 1942 by the Sun Rubber Company. Approximately 1,000 Mickey Mouse gas masks were produced by the company’s designer Dietrich Rempel and Walt’s stamp of approval.
Walt's civilian gas mask for children was not really a notable presence on the home front during World War II as, thankfully, no chemical warfare ever came to US shores. Many of the gas masks were distributed to senior war officials at the end of the war as keepsakes. Today, the few Disney gas masks that have survived over the years are all housed in museums across the country including the 45th Infantry Division Museum in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma and the US Army Chemical Museum in Fort McClellan, Alabama. A deconstructed mask is also on display at the Walt Disney Archives in Burbank, California.
Although the Mickey Mouse gas mask my come off today as a bit creepy, Walt did have a great idea to once again help out families... it's just a good thing that, unlike Disneyland or WDW, the world ended up not needing it.
What do you think of Walt's gas mask from 1942? Creepy or cute? Let us know in the comments below.
Keith Michael Mahne is the owner and editor of Disney Avenue and the host of the Disney Avenue Podcast. He has made countless trips to the Walt Disney World resort since his first trip in 1989 at the age of four. Keith has a strong passion and respect for Walt Disney, the parks and resorts, and the men and women who help create them. He started Disney Avenue as a way to inform and entertain readers and to repay all those who make dreams come true every day.