Walt Disney World can be an overwhelming experience of sights and sounds—even for the most seasoned Guest. With so much to see and do, it’s easy to miss the unique touches and backstories that are part of the history and magic of Walt Disney World.
Almost everyone is familiar with Panchito Pistoles, one of the Three Caballeros featured in the Mexico Pavilion’s Grand Fiesta Tour attraction at Disney’s Epcot. The Three Caballeros—Panchito, Donald, and José—are alsonthe stars of the 1944 animated film of the same name. Although Panchito is rarely without the other two Caballeros, he has a history that goes beyond Walt Disney World.
Panchito’s story goes back to World War II and the Allied powers who joined together to oppose the Axis powers. One of the Allied powers, Mexico, declared war on Germany in 1942 and formed the Escuadrón 201 of the Mexican Expeditionary Air Force. During a recent trip to the National Museum of the United States Air Force in Dayton, Ohio, I learned that Panchito Pistolas was, and still is, the mascot of Mexico’s Escuadrón 201. As the mascot, Panchito is featured on the unit’s insignia, flashing a smile and toting handguns.
But there’s more to the story. Between 1942 and 1945, Walt Disney World Productions created morale-boosting ephemera to support the war effort, including propaganda and war-themed films, home front poster art, military unit insignias, and aviation nose-art. Walt Disney Productions created approximately 1,200 designs for both American and Allied forces as a donation to the World War II effort.
For more information about Walt Disney and the Studio’s support in the Allied forces victory, you can read all about it in Disney During World War II: How the Walt Disney Studio Contributed to Victory in the War by John Baxter.
Photos from left to right: Panchito Pistoles and Escuadrón 201; Mickey Mouse nose art on a vintage war bird.
(Logo property of WDW Radio. Photos from the author’s personal collection.)
To learn more about KS Wicks and read some of her other posts on the WDW Radio Blog, visit her author page by clicking the link on her name above!