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WDW Radio # 735 – Joining Forces:  The Powerful and Remarkable Relationship Between Disney and the Military

We take a dive deep into the untold stories, intriguing history, countless connections, and profound relationship between Disney and the military. Beginning with Walt, through wartime years, and special programs and discounts for members of the military and their families, Disney’s collaboration with the military has left an indelible mark on both American culture and the lives of those who serve.

Disney Programs and Offers for Military, Veterans, and Families

Thanks to R. Lee Stanley from Salute the Magic for joining me this week.

Have you, or anyone in your family, ever experienced any of Disney’s support of military in the Disney Parks, resorts, or through some of the programs they offer? Share your thoughts in the WDW Radio Clubhouse at WDWRadio.com/Clubhouse, or call the voicemail at 407-900-9391 (WDW1) and share your story on the show.

Comment and share your questions, thoughts, and tips in our WDW Radio Clubhouse Community on Facebook or call the Voicemail and be heard “On the Air” at 407-900-9391

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Click Here To Read The Full Podcast Episode Transcript

Lou Mongello: When you think of Disney, it conjures up images of beloved characters, enchanting theme parks, and countless and timeless stories that have captured our hearts and the hearts of millions of people over multiple generations. When you think of the military, your mind might be filled with thoughts of duty and honor and courage and defense of our nations.

But what if I told you that there was a connection, a lot of connections between what might seem like seemingly disparate realms, but there are connections that goes, that go back to Walt Disney and continue to this day. And in the past, we've looked at Walt Disney World from a military perspective back on show number 108..

Yes, that's back in 2009, as well as numerous blog posts that I will link to in the show notes this week. But this week and on this week's episode, we're gonna take a deep dive into some of the stories that you may have never heard before, and intriguing histories and surprising connections as we look at sort of.

Joining forces, right, the, the powerful and remarkable relationship between Disney and the military. And we're look at the magical roles that Disney has played in. Everything from boosting morale to fostering a sense of unity among military personnel and supporting the war efforts, sometimes serving as surprising inspiration and how Disney more importantly, continues to support members of the military and their families today.

And I obviously cannot do this alone. And to this week, I am joining forces with Lee Stanley. Lee, welcome to the show. Thank you, Lou. Thanks for having me. Thank you for reaching out listening and suggesting this topic. And I have to preface this segment and our conversation by saying that my and my family's sincerest gratitude and appreciation for you and those that serve and have served in the military and their families that gratitude runs very, very deep.

And the services and sacrifices of, of you and your families isn't just appreciated on holidays and but every single day. So thank you. I'm speaking to you, Lee, and you other family and friends of military personnel and, and veterans for all that you do. Oh,

R. Lee Stanley: thank you, Lou. I appreciate that. And if it wasn't for people like you, I mean, it's the people of this great country that make it worth serving.

Lou Mongello: Yes. Well, thank you. So, so tell me, so give me, let's give us a, a little bit of your origin story. We have, we've met once before, right? At a Yes. Surprising. It was around food. It was a, it was a, a pre cruise dessert party. But you have been, you've been with the Air Force for, for more than two decades.

Yeah. Yes.

R. Lee Stanley: I enlisted in January of 2001 right before nine 11, about nine months be prior. And went through, was, was serving in during nine 11 and, and kind of just kind of got locked. I was tending to go back to school full-time and be a traditional student, but I got wrapped up in, in serving our country and, and trying around the world and, and enjoying all the things that the military has to offer.

Lou Mongello: And that's great, and we'll talk about some of your personal connections as we go through this list including at Walt Disney World. And, and some of the, the ways that the military is, is honored there. You also, you've taken this passion for Disney and the military and wanting to support military families with a, with a true passion project that you and your wife set out to do.

Correct? Yes.

R. Lee Stanley: Me and my wife when we started have, after we had children, we decided we'd go to Walt Disney World. My wife was a huge Disney fan. I am now, but I, I had never been to a Disney world until I was an, an adult. And when we started doing the research as far as military discounts, what, what it entailed, there was a couple of websites, but it was a lot of.

A lot of Googling, a lot of fine print, a lot of hard to find information. So we decided we would start a, a YouTube channel just to try to make it something digestible and then compact, somebody could watch in five to 10 minutes and get what they needed to know the important information and, and then enjoy the trip instead of spending

Lou Mongello: time researching.

And that that channel on YouTube is called Salute the Magic. Yes. Yes it is. Great. We'll we'll, I'll certainly link to it in the show notes, but let's, let's sort of dig, dig into a topic that we were talking before we started recording. We did not realize to a certain degree just how deep this rabbit hole goes in terms of the connections to the military.

So I think what it makes most sense to start at the beginning and then work our way forward because it's really, I. It, it Disney's relationship to the military dates back to 1917, and not with Walt, but with Roy, because Disney and not just his brother Roy, but his entire family served in the military.

And we, so I think we, you know, know to a certain degree about Walt's sense of patriotism and love of his country. And if you could look into my eyes, you see, you know, the flag waving and red, white and blue goes up down my, you know, Liberty Square. You know, all, all of the things that, that his patriotism, how it was displayed in the parks, but it really goes back to his family and their service in the military as well.


R. Lee Stanley: Roy, her, all the brothers served and walked in, in, in on his own way in the Red Cross. I mean, that's one thing that's under overlooked is the, Service that Red Cross provides to the military during any operations is critical. So he, he may, he's wearing a different uniform, but it's still important.

But it goes from the very beginning.

Lou Mongello: Yes, right. Cuz Roy and again, who's one of Walt's older brothers served in the Navy back in World War I enlisted in 1917, was assigned to the u s s Lake boat number seven out of Norfolk, Virginia, and supported the war effort in a lot of administrative and logistical tasks.

And then after the war was over, he went back to. Business and then being obviously a very integral part of the Disney company. And I think when we think about Ro Walt's family, we think about, you know, Roy is the name that we hear, but you know, there's like the long lost brothers. So Ray Disney, who was another one of Walt's older brothers, served in the Army during World War I.

He joined the following year, was part of the 305th Field artillery regiment, part of the 77th Infantry as a chauffeur and mechanic maintaining vehicles and transporting troops. He then went back after the war to Chicago and worked as a mail carrier for many years. Herbert, another older brother also served in World War I as part of the 337th Field Artillery Regiment, part of the 88th Infantry.

And it doesn't seem, I wasn't able to find a lot in terms of exactly what Herbert's role was during his time of military service. But afterwards he left and then worked as a machinist and carpenter. And you sort of mentioned Walt and, and the thing that I love about Walt's story about joining the military is that he wanted to, so desperately at the age of 16 is all of his brothers had gone in, excuse me, he wasn't old enough to enlist, so we lied about his age.

I know we don't wanna think about Walt being a liar, but this one we can understand. And that's how he joined. The American Red Corps red Cross Ambulance Corps to support you know, transportation for wounded soldiers, but he never was able to actually go and see active combat because the war ended before he could be deployed to the front lines.

But he was in France in a lot of non-combat tasks, in, in terms of driving Red Cross officials and transporting supplies. But I think Lee, it's really important to, to put a pin in pin in this because I think his experience in the ambulance core really had a significant impact on his life and his creative ca career because I think he was exposed to so much, and I don't just mean in terms of the devastating war efforts, but.

Going over to France and being exposed to different cultures and different stories it, it had to have, it not only helped him develop certain skills, but ones that would later influence his own storytelling abilities. Oh, without

R. Lee Stanley: a doubt. Anytime you get immersed into culture on a long, you know, when you're in France for months versus a couple of weeks, you've learned so much more and you pick up on these details that I'm, I know, found its way into Disney culture, you know, between th theme parks or, or the movies.

There's no way you can be exposed to that and not

Lou Mongello: creep in. And, you know, even when he was when he was younger, he, during, you know, during the First World War, he was drawing patriotic cartoons for his school newspaper, which. Really evidence at an early age, his passionate support for the troops. And he was even doing, he was even sort of incorporating into that efforts to encourage others to support the war efforts, like saving stamps and eating less so that more food could be sent overseas for the troops.

And he and Walt, you know, although he sort of felt somewhat helpless, but he also kind of felt guilty that he wasn't able to do. More in order to support the, the efforts. Even though his parents weren't happy about his plans to go overseas, you know, they sort of reluctantly had to allow him to go overseas.

When he said, he's like, look, I don't want my grandchildren to ask me, why weren't you in the war? Why were you a slacker? And I love that at such a young age, he had such an incredible sense of responsibility and duty and and, and service to his country.

R. Lee Stanley: No, it's just incredible. I mean, it's one of the things that carried over, not just in his young life. It carried over all the way throughout you know, at post World War i e even in heading into World War II, when he started working with not just the. American Air Force, but all or American military, but all Allied

Lou Mongello: forces.

Yeah. And, and we could sort of, I mean, there's a lot of, there's, there's more stories. And I know Jim Corcas, I think has, has a, a book and written articles about Walt and his time during World War I, but you're right, it, it's sort of moving forward to Disney as a company, really starting to be able to expand on that during the wartime efforts.

Because when the attack on Pearl Harbor took place on December 7th, 1941, that's obviously what, what propelled the US to enter World War ii, world War, sorry, in into World War II and. The entire country sort of mobilized their industries and resources to support the war efforts. About a quarter of the 600 Disney employees were drafted or volunteer voluntarily went into service.

And so this extension of Walt's personal obligation and, and love of country and sense of service and this nationwide rallying around the war effort immediately sort of translated into a very patriotic response from Walt, the individual and Walt Disney Studios, the company, to contribute to the war effort in any way possible.

And they did it in, in a lot of very significant ways. Yeah. If you look, it

R. Lee Stanley: was in every what between allowing and encouraging people to, to enlist. Between letting the Army come in and even occupy the studios to help protect a Lockheed factory the number of, of films and that, and projects that it worked on, insignias that they made, which we can go there.

It, it's,

Lou Mongello: it covers every span of the company. Yeah. And I think, and this is why I wanted to, to, this is why this, this topic, when you sent this to me, really intrigued me cuz I don't think the people understand just what the impact of the company was when this happened. So let's sort of go back in time, excuse me, it's early 1942.

The US government actually approaches Disney and says, how can you help us sort of collaborate on, let's just sort of use the, the talent and and service, you know, that you have, we want you to help produce some training and propaganda films for the military because they see the power of animation and, and films in a, in a communication medium.

And, and Disney obviously being a very valuable asset. And we'll talk about some of the films that they created, but she sort of mentioned it. It wasn't just the creation and utilization of resources, but in June of 1942, the studio in California really sort of transitioned into a war plant and it focused on producing wartime material.

So let's think about the time. It's 1942. Excuse me. The studio is reveling in the success of Snow White and the Seventh Dwarfs, and they are investing all of that money as Walt was want to do into making Pinocchio. And then on and December 8th, 1941, the animation studio gave half of their buildings to the US troops with one of the commanders actually taking up residence for a few days in Walt's office.

So when we talk about taking over the studio, this is not, you know, using sort of a sound stage or a warehouse. They really sort of occupied the studios and converted. To help meet the needs of the military. And this is when they started to create some of the things you talked about, those instructional films, the propaganda, the military insignias.

And this was a, excuse me, an almost an all in commitment by the studios to help support the military in any and every way that they had at their disposal.

R. Lee Stanley: Yeah. It, it, it's an incredible thing about that once the Army moved in, it, you know, the studio had to change, they had to have now security protocols that it had, they never had, they had to submit all the employees blur certificates and they had to be background checked and they had to have photo IDs made for everybody all the way, including Walt.

Lou Mongello: You had to have a photo ID to go

R. Lee Stanley: in certain places cuz they were working on some serious. Thank you know this, we're not making cartoons, we're making training videos. And some of this stuff was top secret at the time. They made for the, like bomb sites to know training how to use bomb sites. Things had not been done before by any studio.

Not, they also did some not so secret things like the four method, four methods of flush riveting, which is, I, I still love and I watch and I show it as in the background for filler time when I'm doing training classes. But it's amazing the different aspects that just took over

Lou Mongello: the studio. Right?

And taking over is really the operative term because 90% of the employees were devoted to the production of these training and propaganda films. So, you know, you think about it, the production of the output of the studio decreases in this massive way because the, the general public didn't get to see most of, excuse me, the top secret.

Or educated educational films, which amounted to about 93% of what the studio was putting out. And you're right, the think about the studio working on films like Snow White in the Seven Dwarfs, Mickey Mouse Shorts, animation. Now they're doing things like aircraft identification, precision bombing, and Pacific Islands slated for invasion, dental health, venereal disease.

Like, there's a lot of very, like, strange, you know, there, there's there's a, one of the films is called Winged Scourge, where the shows the, the Seven Dwarfs Show How to Combat Malaria. New Spirit is Donald Duck demonstrating the importance of paying income taxes. So it wasn't just training for the military, but things for, and these are obviously the ones that, that the public was able to, to help sort of.

Rally the public around the, the war efforts. And you know, and, and there really were only two that had any sort of significant public showings. And one of 'em, which is Victory through Air Power, which was the only film of that time that Walt controlled completely from start to finish. It generated, you know, no money for the studio, but really was a, a demonstration of the commitment of Disney.

But some of the other propaganda films, Lee, were, were interesting to say the least. Let's just say you're never gonna see these on Disney Plus. So, you know, there's a film called Education for Death and Dre's face again meant to boost morale, promote patriotism, educate audiences about the various aspects of war.

But to fur's face from 1943 is this satirical look at, at Nazi Germany starring Donald Duck, which really was meant to not just sort of poke fun, but really sort of advocated for the strategic importance of air power in warfare.

R. Lee Stanley: Yeah. Also the Furious Space. One Academy of

Lou Mongello: War, best animated short film.

R. Lee Stanley: I'm kind of glad we don't have to. Vote on Academy Awards based on how

Lou Mongello: they manipulate 'em. But it show, but it shows the importance and the significance. You know, we sort of laugh about it now, but think about the time and what is going on, just how powerful that film must have been. And for the Academy to recognize that I, I, I think speaks volumes.

No, it definitely

R. Lee Stanley: does. And you mentioned victory through air power being significant of that. Walt paid for that personally because he read the, the book Victory through Air, power Power, and he thought that the message in it n needed to be broadcast to not just quote the book reading public. Walt wanted that message to be.

Everybody. And matter of fact, Churchill Winston Churchill viewed it and told FDR R President Roosevelt, you need to watch Walt's movie three through air power. And it actually changed the s some of the strategic planning of, of the military at the time. I mean, actually influence,

Lou Mongello: yeah, the war itself. Yeah, that's what I mean.

Like I, I really wanna sort of stress, you know, we're sort of laughing about it and they think, well, well they're making sort of these propaganda cartoons. It had impact and influence, not just on the military, but on. I think the public as well too. I mean in terms of disseminating information and, and, and helping to instill a sense of patriotism.

There were sort of the, the two sides of what the studio was doing in terms of the animation that they were producing. Again, you know, at, at, at, this was not a sort of profit making. We'll talk about that aspect of it too, but this was not sort of an effort to, to make money. This was an effort to sort of help the country in the most meaningful way possible.

But even in addition to the animation and again, starting with Walt Disney did a lot in terms of emblem and insignia design and there's a good chance you've probably have seen the, some of these, whether it is in you know, sort of retro advertisements. If you've been to Castaway Key, you've seen some of the nose type art.

But again, going back to Walt, when he is serving as this Red Cross ambulance driver, he embellished his ambulance and other vehicles with drawings and different. Cartoon figures understanding, I think the importance of adding a little bit of humor to the insignias to, you know, help a, a sense of morale.

And so it's not surprising that they're in the second World War. Disney used this same type of inspiration and talents to design military insignia and elements to specific squadrons and battalions and other military divisions. A lot of aircraft nose art that had characters and illustrations and personalized designs.

And some of the, the notable artists, Hank Porter and, and Roy Williams did a lot of those for the American Eagle Squadron and the Royal Air Force and the Flying Tiger Insignia for the 14th Air Force. He later became the inventor of the Mickey Mouse Ears work on the Mickey Mouse Club. They did work on military vehicles as well too.

They also did a lot on tanks and, and really not just worked for, but collaborated with the different military units to help them understand the identity of the units and their history and the designs and the themes for the insignias and vehicle artwork. Yeah.

R. Lee Stanley: Over the course of, of the war period, they made over 1200 different Insignia for different units, and they used all the characters.

I, from what I can recall, what the only character that was not used, the di only Disney character was Bambi, which ironically, Bambi was voiced by a military member himself.

Lou Mongello: But yeah.

R. Lee Stanley: And there, the unit insignia is something very special. That's one thing among you trade, you know, when you meet somebody from, from another unit and you want you to build a camaraderie, a lot of times you'll trade your patch with each other as just kind of a, you know, keepsake or you know, oh, hey, I got that from that, or I got, I was working with him and, you know, the, that's this unit out in Kansas at, you know, but it, it's something that the.

Every per service member identifies with, cuz they are part of that unit and it is very morale boosting and it's kind of hard. You, you can't. It's, it's special for Disney to have done all those for free. And a lot of 'em, I, I really like, I wish I could, there was a, I'd love to have a, a display of reproduction in my house.

Lou Mongello: Yeah. And, and I think it's really important that all the artwork was done by the studios free of charge as a donation to the war effort. But I have to imagine, Lee, it also helped to instill a sense of unique identity and pride and probably helped, like you said, with the trading of the patches. Forming a sense of, of uplifted morale and camaraderie between members of units and battalions, as well as sort of across the, the war effort as well.

And they did this not just for the us they also did it for the UK and Canada and France and New Zealand. I mean, a number of other countries as well. Cause I think they saw just how much, how important it was to the members of the military as well.

R. Lee Stanley: Yeah, I, the, all the allied forces, I believe use, and it shows how popular Disney was at the time, but it also extended all the way into p o w camps.

Walt was receiving letters from from A P O W and then, Because they kind of form their own little unit while they're in prisoner of war within themselves. And they, a letter got to 'em and he signed an insignia for a group of

Lou Mongello: POWs. Wow. And the interesting thing too is that when we're talking about some of these insignias, these are not ones that have an image of, you know, a bird and a lion.

They're using Disney characters in all of these logos. And the most requested one was not Mickey Mouse, but Donald Duck. Donald Duck was in about 220 different unit designs. Mickey wasn't second. Pluto was with 45. Goofy was third at 38. Dumbo was fourth at 20 no, sorry. Mickey Mouse was fourth at at 37, and Dumbo was fifth with 20.

And then Snow White was used only once for a medical unit. So I love the fact that he wasn't worried about, you know, the, the preservation of the integrity of the character. He was willing to allow them to be portrayed in ways that normally we know how productive, how protective Disney is of their characters and their ip.

He was willing to forego that in an effort to help the war effort. Yeah, I mean,

R. Lee Stanley: I, as far as I know, he, there was no holding back. Matter of fact, he actually dedicated at least a team of six from what I heard, could find six of his animators pulled aside. You are drawing insignias for the troops and just such a morale booster for these guys.

Lou Mongello: And it was a, a morale booster for those who were serving. It was a morale and patriotism booster for those people who were at home. Right. So, and, and, and to not just entertain, but to inform, and I think more importantly, mobilize the civilian population. Right? So we talked about things like not just sort of supporting the war effort in, in a general sense, but rationing and scrap collecting and guidance on, you know, paying your income taxes because not that you have an obligation to, but when you frame it in a sense of you paying your income taxes helps to support the war effort, helps to help end the war and bring these men home, I have to imagine was very, very compelling for for, for the public at large in the us.

R. Lee Stanley: Yeah. And it shows the scope. I mean if, how successful was he, he, he got people to agree to want to pay income tax. They said the studies that 37% people, 37% of the people wanted to pay income tax after watching the film. It just,

Lou Mongello: yeah, and you, you know, it's, it's, it's interesting too, because Walt did this.

Not for the money, but because he wanted to help. But obviously, you know, he had to, they, they, the government was willing to pay, albeit slowly. Some you know, some payment to the studios. But Walt had to go to Congress in order to get paid because the government was not necessarily the fastest to pay and not necessarily paying on time.

So, you know, even though there was this promise to pay for work, Walt had to sort of go to Congress and make these extra efforts because you have to also think about it too. While this is going on, the Disney Studio is really the only studio that has put its productions of things like Pinocchio, for all intents and purposes.

On pause, right? They're, they're barely breaking even. They're, they're creating, you know, literally hundreds of, and hundreds and thousands of feet of animation film, right? They're normally would be doing about 37,000 feet per year. They're doing 220,000 feet of film per year. So you see that the output is not just not for the public, but the output is increased wildly.

Other studios are producing little films like Citizen Kane, Casablanca, my, you know, going My Way Double In. All of these other studios are cranking out blockbuster hits while Disney is very much on pause. The, the, the movie industry as a whole in the mid forties and fifties is having their best year, best Years yet.

But there, there was a lot of sort of negative effects. On the studio at this time too, remember, the war also came right on the heels of the animator strike that almost brought the studio to a halt in 41. Right? And again, the studio strike is a, a separate topic for a separate day, but there was a very tumultuous time.

You know, Walt felt sort of betrayed and hurt by the artists. The al the artists also felt that they were you know, u underappreciated. And, and he, I, I think this was probably a very difficult time for Walt as well. He wasn't necessarily doing a lot of the day-to-day hands-on stuff. There's a financial, creative, psychological impact that led to, I, I think, Possibly, I think it had a, had a, a domino effect on some of the motion pictures and even short films that came out afterwards because, you know, there, there's a, a number of years literally that were

not productive for, you know, not just because of the strike, but because of the war effort. And Walt had to do a lot of things to try and just keep his studio afloat.

R. Lee Stanley: Yeah, he, he definitely started looking around and I think that was also, One of the key things was I think it allowed the studio to kind of come together. Now the strike is over. We have a common goal, though in, in winning this war is it did allow everybody to kind of congeal and become a team again.

But there it definitely come at a cost. And while also he did, he made it a point, he did not wanna make a profit. He did not want to be profiting off of the war cause it was such a terrible thing. He didn't necessarily, he doesn't wanna make money off the suffering of others. But luckily everybody stuck together and came through in the end.

So we continue to make movies again. But yeah, everything went paused. I got literally hit the pause button. There were animators that left the, they were working on projects. Enlisted, fought the duration of the war, come home, and they started right back where they left off in the studio. We're on exact same project.

Lou Mongello: Yeah, it's it, it would be interesting to, to sort of take a deeper dive into the effect of the war efforts combined with the strike and sort of how it, it, it not only impacted Walt, but the, the trajectory of the company itself. And look, you know, when we talk about Disney and, and collaborating with the military for the war effort as well, we should also mention too, they didn't just collaborate with the military.

They also collaborate with Frank, Frank kra to, to create a series of films called Why We Fight to Educate and Motivate Troops During World War ii. I think there was seven films that they created between like 42 and 45 to help explain. Some of the causes and significance of the war to the troops and the public.

And again, Lee, they're talking about very heavy topics. The rise of fascism, the attack on Pearl Harbor, the need to defend democracy. But Disney, Disney animators did a lot because it was a lot of sort of groundbreaking animation and these beautifully detailed and elegant visual representations of these maps.

And what these films ended up being were, were very, very powerful educational tools to help explain complex military strategies and geopolitical situations, troop movements and, and battlefronts, because you can, you can use words, but, but the visual medium is processed, you know, 60,000 times faster than anything that we can read.

And by making them. Compelling and easy to understand. I think made it much more accessible to the public. They were very, very successful. They were very highly praised. They got a lot of critical acclaim. But I think what it did too was demonstrate the, the power of animation, not just for entertainment, but for education and, and during wartime for its persuasiveness because of what you were able to convey there that you couldn't necessarily do on film.

R. Lee Stanley: Oh, without a doubt. And I think that this is really where I believe Walt Disney cut his teeth on the whole edge entertainment. Fact of, you know, we, I don't think we wouldn't have, in my opinion, we wouldn't have Epcot and we wouldn't have all this edutainment that Disney app offers if it wasn't for this period where he had to take a any topic and not topics you normally talk about.

And then di break it down and package it so anybody could understand.

Lou Mongello: And if, if the name, by the way, if the name Frank Kra sounds familiar and it should to you movies, like it happened one night Mr. Deeds goes to town, you can't take it with you. And it's a wonderful life, obviously Best Picture, best director is probably the one that's most recognizable to people.

But again, yeah, you're right. These, these, when we talk about these, the impact of the military on Walt and on the studio, and look, I, I think. I think that starts to, again, it, it's a snowball effectively because I think in, in the context of World War II and, and the war efforts even that, the Goodwill tour to South America with El Grupo, again, it was a way for Walt to help support this country that he loved so much.

By expanding diplomatic efforts to strengthen relationships with Latin American countries and building positive relationships with some of those nations was also strategically important to ensure stability and support for, you know, the ongoing Allied cause. In this, you know, in this Goodwill tour that Yes, was primarily focused on cultural exchange, but I think also had some underlying military objectives as well.


R. Lee Stanley: without a doubt. All those goodwill tours, they have a, you know, They have a diplomacy aspect is huge. I mean we call 'em hearts and minds trips a lot of times. I've been on a few of these where you, you're there and you get immersed into the, the local culture and it's a great exchange between your culture and you get to know people one-on-one and, and how they live.

But it's so critical to, you know, at the time it was us versus Germany trying to kind of win the hearts and minds of South America and who better to send over to win hearts and minds than, than Walton his team. And, and they did very successful. One writer wrote that, that they did more in three months, in a few months than the State Department could do in

Lou Mongello: five years.

Well, and I think what people, you know, we hear about the L group or. Trip, but we don't sometimes realize that military leaders also accompanied a groupo. So that allowed for interactions and exchanges that could facilitate some future military collaboration. Right? So there's a sense of unity, there's a sense of shared values between the US and these South American countries.

And I think the military recognized the power of this cultural exchange in enhancing cooperation, aligning the interest, and I think more importantly, building a sense of trust as they, you know, in from a, from a global sort of 30,000 mile perspective, sort of strengthens this hemispheric defense, right?

From a, from a, you know, military pretense by increasing the, the, the depth of these very positive relationships.

R. Lee Stanley: Oh, without a doubt. And it's a good thing we did, cuz otherwise I don't know if we would have Jose.

Lou Mongello: So we

R. Lee Stanley: we're, we're still benefiting from that

Lou Mongello: trip. Yeah. And again, I, we, we, we, we think about things like, and you know, we even sort of watch like Walton Al Groupo, which you should watch. I believe it's still on, on Disney Plus when you look at it from a military perspective and sort of the, the long-term benefits and, and some of the underlying intentions of it.

I think it gives new, new, new perspective on that trip. But look, the, the, the, the century long relationship between Disney and the military continues and it continues to. Evolve. The studio still coordinates film productions with the military. And obviously you know, if we look at it from a, a perspective of today, service members and their families are also not just appreciated, but really I think embraced by Disney and from a, a theme park perspective.

Also welcomed in with very much open arms. So let's take a look, Lee at, you know, Disney, the military today, because I think we're gonna talk about things that I'm sure people have heard about, about before. We'll touch on things like discounts and, and shades of green, but I think there's a lot of other programs that are currently in place that don't necessarily get the attention that they deserve.

R. Lee Stanley: Oh, without a doubt. There's definitely a lot of programs. Especially a lot of veteran programs. Disney started a lot of initiatives built with between the Heroes Work here program. And there's several major ones. And then also while you're visiting the parks, there's the, the flag retreat ceremonies.

Lou Mongello: So let's, let's sort of, let's sort of hit these individually, right? Just to sort of let's, and let's talk about, we'll, we'll sort of start wide and sort of work our way in because I think when I, when I think of Disney from a military perspective, and I know we covered it, you know, a number of years ago on the show, the first thing that comes to mind.

Is Disney's Shades of Green Resort, which is exclusively dedicated to providing a combinations and services too to members of the military and their families. Anybody who is active and retired, including national guards and reservists certain civilian employees of the Department of Events, I think are also eligible, but it is not just this exclusive reward, but there are special discounted rates significantly lower than other hotels in the area.

The resort itself has rooms and huge suites. You can probably speak to this more than I have. It's the only resort I have not stayed in yet. A a lot of different amenities and dining options and fitness center and pools and recreational activities right across from Magic Kingdom. But they also, I.

Provide a lot of support services including, you know, tickets and helping planning military related events and ceremonies and, and some of the programs and reunions and, and gatherings. Can you talk a little bit, do you have any experience with, with Shades of Green? Yeah.

R. Lee Stanley: Me and my family, we've stayed at Shades

Lou Mongello: several times.

Well, he is wearing his shades of green shirt right now, by the way. Just for those.

R. Lee Stanley: I am yeah, I'm, I, I love going shades. It's, it's a very nice resort. It, the building, the facility itself was originally built. I Disney, and I think you covered a lot of this in episode 1 0 8, I believe so. I don't want to rehash too much, but.

The rooms are, are great. They recently were renovated for the Invictus Games, I believe in 2016. I believe. You can Google check me on that, somebody out there. But they anything that a normal resort has, they have at shades, they have a spa. They have, it's right next to the golf courses.

They have they have Dough Whip now, actually. But it, it's a great service and the, the, the staff is super friendly. It is everything you would expect from a Disney resort. Even though it's not a Disney resort, it is operated by the Department of Defense, but dis, you know, Disney has allowed them to, to have that facility there.

And it's just a great asset and it is a great place for your family to go and, and relax and get away.

Lou Mongello: And I like in general, and I like the fact that it is exclusive to members of the military and their families. You know, part and parcel and hand in hand with that is there's also, also in addition to the resort.

Disney offers significant dish discounts on tickets to Walt Disney World Disneyland and Disneyland Paris, which if you have not listened recently, I'm very much in love with, again, a way to sort of recognize and I think honor the, the sacrifices made by military families, by providing them with additional opportunities through these military salute tickets, whether you are active or retired.

You mentioned the flag retreats at the US Parks. We talked about those a little bit. I think it is something that every single person needs to not just sort of happen to see on their way in or way out, but really should make an effort at least once to see. Lee, why don't you just talk about quickly your experience with, with the flag retreat.

Oh, the flag

R. Lee Stanley: retreat. Talking about that is probably one of my favorite moments at Disney World, without a doubt. Just because it's just amazing cuz you get wrapped up in, in this whole. You know, you're, you're go, you know, you're at Disney and you maximize your time. You get pulled aside from a cast member saying, Hey, we have this ceremony.

Would you like to participate? And it's like, well, of course I

Lou Mongello: would. But

R. Lee Stanley: any, you are literally standing in front of the train station on show center, essentially you are staring at the castle and part of this ceremony and you have all the emotions. It, it's you, you're a little bit nervous, you pride, gratitude.

It just what everything right. In one end, it is literally one of them moments where you, you've have chills run up down your spine and it's like, I couldn't believe I was part of it.

Lou Mongello: So you, so just quickly, for those who were interested in, in, well I'd love to do this, you know, for my husband, wife, my son, how do I, is it something where you have to apply early on?

Is it, does it take place, you know, in that morning? Do you have to go to be asked or do you go and volunteer at, at town hall? So there's no, like

R. Lee Stanley: Disney has not published how you get involved in it necessarily. How I was selected was, me and my wife were on a, he's a Kingdom tour, and at lunch we were eating lunch and I just, a cast member stopped and, and asked me, you know, if I, if I'm in the military and I, yeah, I still in and I time, I think I was at 18 years and.

Then she went on and talked about the flag ceremony and asked if I would be interested in participating. And I was like, well, of course I would. But

Lou Mongello: I believe it.

R. Lee Stanley: They've, from what I could tell, they look for someone who has the military look, we've heard about the Disney look and there's a, a look that a lot of times military people project and I think they have cast members that just kind of keep their eyes open for a guest that has the look, if you will, and ask them there.

From what I understand, there used to be a list you could sign up for at town hall, but it just got to be so long when when you have a hundred people Yeah. Every day asking are they gonna be part of their flag retreat ceremony? You only pick one.

Lou Mongello: Right. I think they just

R. Lee Stanley: had the alter the

Lou Mongello: way sometimes and it's a beau.

It is, it is an absolutely. Solemn and reverent and beautiful. And and I think if, if you are an American, it, it is very emotional because there is this procession with the color guard that, that carries the flag with patriotic music and, and the bugle. And it's, the flag is, is very slowly and, and reverently lowered.

And there's the, the national anthem and there's this wonderful sense of participation and respect and paying tribute to the flag. And I think as a way to, in, in a very symbolic way. Show their appreciation for the military. It happens right around sunset, right? Just before sunset. Every single day, even during Covid, they did the flag retreat ceremony every single day.

Which I love because it is the only flag in Magic Kingdom. Those others that you see on tops of the buildings and, and bunting, those are penance. They're not actually flags, which is how and why they stay up at night. But Lee, As we started to to talk about this via email, and then as I started to do the research, I was amazed and impressed at just how much more Disney does for the military.

That I think does not necessarily get the attention. That, that it should. You mentioned in passing one of the, the programs is called Heroes Work here, and back in 2012 the company announced this program, this company-wide initiative to hire, train, and support returning veterans. And it was a way to sort of honor and support veterans and military personnel and, and recognize that the skills and experiences and, and contributions that they have.

So this veterans hiring initiative took place across the entire company, not just in in theme parks and resorts, but in corporate offices. And they were actively going out to recruit veterans and look to see. What their unique skill sets and talents were. Talents were and are, and, and leadership qualities, obviously a dedication to a sense of service and then affording them a, a lot of different a very vast spectrum, I think, of employment opportunities that were tailored to those skills.

And what I love about this program is this idea of, of transitioning, right? Transitioning out of the military and then training to help them transition into a civilian career with the companies. And again, Disney collaborates and partners with various government agencies and, and veterans organizations to enhance that impact.

Like the Veterans Institute hiring our heroes and the Department of Veterans Affair. So, They provide veterans these opportunities with the program. They do a lot of community outreach and support initiatives and, and helping to support a lot of the nonprofit organizations as a way to not just recognize and honor in a symbolic way, but in a meaningful way, help with that transition and lead them to a career beyond the military.

R. Lee Stanley: Yeah, that's been a great benefit. You know, it's great to give discounts on tickets and, which I enjoy. Thank you. Keep doing it. Please. But, you know, once your, your military service is, is over, you need to transition back into what I quote unquote normal life, the civilian life. And it, it's hard for lot of service members cuz you're locked this different world almost sometimes.

You know, we have our own language amongst each other. And to get back into, to the groove, you know, Of civilian employment. It, it can be difficult. But yeah, they launched a program in 2012 and they, they've hired over 11,000 veterans since and it's continued. And then, then Disney took it a step further and started the Veteran Institute and not where, not just them hiring service member or, and veterans, but teaching other companies, Hey, here is how you find them and here's how you plug them into your company and be, you get, are successful and they're successful and, and, you know, working together.

And it's a great, great thing. And as long also they does, he participates in the Skill Bridge program, which is a unique program in itself where it allows a service member towards the very end of their career To kind of step away from their military duties and shadow somebody else in the, in the company before they're, even, while they're still transitioning or before the transition even starts.

And it's just a great thing that they've done. They also there's a also a, a, a Heroes Supply here program where they're buying goods from veteran-owned companies and disabled veteran owned companies.

Lou Mongello: Yeah. I, I, and I love how, you know, we're talking about a, a decade ago there really was this very focused, very intense effort to support the military.

Like we said, not just symbolically, but in a way that is going to be beneficial in, in their Social and economic. So you mentioned that that Veterans Institute Summit, which I think again, we don't really hear a lot about, which is it's, it was a free event that started in 2013 that was over, I think it was over a weekend or over two days at ESPN Wide World of Sports.

And this summit was a way to provide education and training and resources to help organizations better understand and support veterans in the workforce. Right? So they collaborated with all these veterans advocacy groups and government agencies and businesses to offer free training and workshops and presentations about how right and best practices on recruiting and hiring and, and I think very importantly, retaining veterans in the workplace.

It's one thing to, to do a hire and then it's a short term, but being able to understand. The military culture and translating some of those military skills into civilian job roles and creating an, an environment that is supportive and very inclusive, I think really helped to provide a lot of practical advice for these companies into how to integrate veterans into the workforce and promote their personal growth as well.

Right? It's not just for the benefit of the companies, but by sharing best practices and gaining some of these practical insights. And then I think not just creating this, this summit, but providing ongoing support to the companies and to the veterans in the workplace with resources and research and, and expertise really makes that very, very significant.

And it allows Disney to sort of, you know, there's this ripple effect of what they're doing, not just in the, the four corners of the Disney company. But to other companies and, and you know, it, it, it was obviously shut down during Covid, but I know has, has come back over the past few years and, and I think it's now presented by the Disney Institute, the Veterans Institute Summit, and the Wounded Warrior Project when it takes place in Walt Disney World.

You mentioned Skill Bridge. And for, for, again, if you, if you're not familiar with Skill Bridge, it's a d o d, it's, right, it's, it's a Department of Events program that provides civilian job training for, again, these, these transitioning service members. So as long as you are. Eligible under the Skill Bridge program, it provides fellowship opportunities and, and the ability to get hands-on experience and, and field work on real world pro projects in a, in a wide spectrum of aspects of the company operations and management and entertainment and technology in an, in an effort to help again, sort of build on and, and build up a skillset.

And I think too, Lee, it it also helps them network having and have access to a network of people and executives within the company that helps to, it doesn't necessarily guarantee them employment within the company, but it helps give them the opportunity to apply for permanent positions and give them the skills, experiences.

And I think that the connections that will help support the transition to civilian careers.

R. Lee Stanley: Yeah, it's definitely you, you nailed on the head. It is a great, it's a great program, but it does allow trans transition service members into a, a kind of a foot in a door, so to speak. And, you know, not only you network and you also get to, you know, you get to pick what color shirt you wear in the morning.

Lou Mongello: I mean, we, you know, we laugh, but, but that's something that, you know, we don't think about. Right. Sort of take it for granted that we have, you know, a closet of colors to choose from. And, and there is, there is a transition that that has to pla take place and, and a mindset which is not necessarily easy for everyone.

Yeah, it, it is

R. Lee Stanley: definitely something I look forward to doing here. Some future, but yeah. Yeah. There's, there's just these little different aspects. You, you just don't occur to you until you have the opportunity. And it, it is great that Disney works with the Department of Defense and, and is a partner in that and in all these initiatives it, it is just wonderful and it does, it's, it's very much appreciated by the veteran and service community.

Lou Mongello: Yeah. And I think too, Lee, I mean, I think there's other, there, there's, there's a lot of other ways that Disney not only works with the, the military, but helps to support the military. I, I think, bring attention to the military so that, for example, the company has a long-standing tradition of entertaining military personnel through USO shows.

The United Service Organization shows they'll send performers, they'll send characters around the world to help, again, not just boost morale, but I think. Give a connection to and a sense of home. They continue to collaborate with the, the military. We talked about some of the different mil military appreciation events.

The volunteer, the volunteers program, which encourages employees cast members to engage in community service often supports a lot of military related initiative initiatives like Care packages for deployed troops and events for military families. I know that from working with Make-A-Wish they have a, a partnership with Make-A-Wish that extends to military families and, you know, creating moments and experiences for children who are, are connected to the, the military world.

And, and we were even talking be beforehand. I think people sometimes don't realize, you know, there's, there's a number of tributes and museums around the country dedicated to the military. We were talking about one that we had both I i I visited a couple years ago. You most recently visited where these military history exhibits, including the New Orleans World War II Museum exhibit.

Yeah, I w

R. Lee Stanley: was fortunate enough to actually go there yesterday with the World War II exhibit. With that, the Disney Family Museum has actually set up a, a Disney in World War ii and it just, it's mind blowing. Just the different aspects of Disney has, is had it during the war for then and even continues today.

You know, Throughout history, you see that they were making children's books, of course, back then. And even now, today they with the Blue Star Book program, they're giving books to military children for free, you know, the service member. It is just, it never ends. And, and it, it is great to see that the Disney company is continuing these efforts and ha is kind of still doing what Wood Walk do and one of the things to support the military.

And they're still doing that. And

Lou Mongello: it's great to see. Yeah. And, and, and I, you know, it's interesting because I, I said there's sometimes not a lot of attention that's brought to it, and I think that's, it's like a double-edged sword. Like it's, it's a catch 22 because I love the fact that Disney does this and is continuing to be so all in on it.

But they don't do it in a way like, Hey, look at us, look at what we're doing. They do it relatively quietly. They don't sort of, they promote it only in a sense of making people aware of it as opposed to, you know, Like going back to Walt, Walt wasn't doing it for the pr, he wasn't doing it to sort of pat himself on the back.

He was doing it out of a sense of obligation. And I loved, I love that the company continues that, that legacy of, of why, of why they do what they do. Even and I even see you know, on places like the Disney Parks blog or at events, Disney continue on, continues to honor some of their cast members especially around, you know, veterans Day and, and some of the holidays honoring cast members who are former military or children of military and, and recognizing them in the parks, not just to their peers, but to guests as well and, and bringing attention to them as well.

And. To that point, you know, the, we could do a top 10 Disney cast members who had a connection to the military. Because, you know, going through, look, we can start at Walt Disney World, right? General Joe Potter, A key figure in the development of Disneyland and Walt Disney World was a, you know helped sort of the, a lot of the technical aspects of, of Disneyland and the planning and development of Florida, helping to acquire some of the land as well.

Like General Joe Potter was, you know, in the Admiral Joe Fowler, same thing. You know, joined Disney back in the fifties. Had a lot of key roles in the development, certainly here in, in Walt Disney World, which is why there are so many things named after them. But there's a number of other figures too that.

You would, would know from Disney that, that have other connections to the military as well. Let's just sort of quickly hit on a couple of the ones that, that I know we were chatting about earlier. Yeah.

R. Lee Stanley: It, it goes on and on like this. Disney well is so deep. You have Xavier atten who, who was a, a photo interpreter for us Army Air Forces.

You know, looking at the, the pictures taken as from aerial photography and, and that they turned into strategic planning. You know, the, the, it just goes on and on.

Lou Mongello: I would say, I think one of the one, I think one of the ones that that is, is interesting to me is Major Donny Dunnigan. And I'm sure a lot of people, you know, might not necessarily know that name.

It's not necessarily one that you hear about all the time. Very, very highly decorated Marine veteran of the, the Vietnam War, served for more than a quarter of a century, retired as a major. But he has a very direct connection, not just to Disney, but also to Walt, because he was chosen by Walt to be the voice.

And you're waiting for this, like, who is this big tough military guy that he's voice? Donny Dun Dunnigan was the voice of Bambi. Which he kept as a secret, right? He kept as a secret from obviously, you know, his fellow Marines who maybe don't wanna, he's afraid of, of the, the blowback that he got. But he even kept it a secret from his wife.

Like he kept it, he kept his His past as Bambi a secret because he didn't wanna be, you know, known as sort of major Bambi. Well, and before he

R. Lee Stanley: was a major, he was a drill instructor, he was a marine drill instructor and known to be one of the youngest marine drill

Lou Mongello: instructors. Can you imagine being a boot camp?

Right? How would you take Vandy yelling at you? Seriously?

R. Lee Stanley: So I understand why he could maybe kind of kept that on the down low, but, you know, he was a war hero on his own right. You know, he earned a Bronze Star three Purple Hearts. I mean, he, he was a, a, a hard Marine, but

Lou Mongello: also Bambi. Right? Well, look, look at Dean Jones is another one, right?

That Darn Cat, the Love Bug and the Herbie Film series. Oh. He was in the US Navy during World War ii. Again, lied about his age. They corrected his service records later on, but he was in the Pacific Theater a border of destroyer during the war, and then afterwards starts this, this career in acting and this partnership with, with Disney.

But same thing too. He's this lovable, charismatic, comedic guy who had this, you know, very serious career in the military as well. Oh, without a doubt.

R. Lee Stanley: You have, I mean, you have two

Lou Mongello: of Walt's, nine old men that left two goat

R. Lee Stanley: serving World War War ii. It's just. The, they have these, it's almost a separate It is, and I, I understand it.

When you go off to war, you kind of compartmentalize. Mm-hmm. That aspect. You, you go, you leave whatever you go, you go do what you ever what you need to do and try to come back and have a, a normal life. But the, there's a, I mean, most people don't know how many legitimate war heroes that are cast members or, or animators or, or actors

Lou Mongello: I get it.

Like Don Knotz. Don Don Knotz. Listen, you know, I whether you know him from the, the as Barney Feifer from the Apple Dumpling gang, Don Knotz served in the Army during the Second World War as well, enlist. He enlisted in 1943 and what was known as the special services branch. So he was there, not he was on the front lines, but he was there and entertaining troops and performing in, in comedy shows.

And then obviously went on to have a, a long career with, with Disney as well. But you know, like you said, that list sort of goes on and on and, and I think the point of this is when we talk about Disney and the military, people's minds might go, well, yeah, of course they do. Shades of Green, or, yes, I know they did, you know, some of the propaganda films, but they don't realize.

Just how wide and extensive those threads go and those connections go, not just in the past and history going back to Walt Disney, but continuing on to this day in very significant and many meaningful types of, of ways as well. Yeah, I mean,

R. Lee Stanley: it's, it's been never ending. I mean, you, you have Buddy Hackett, you have James Earl Jones, you have Vin driver.

You, you know, there's like, there's some like, you know, fairly recent to the Disney World.

Lou Mongello: And some of, exactly when we say, when we say about actors, I started thinking about people like Arlie Erie, right? Who, who name like you. Like wait, I think I know if you heard his voice, you know exactly who we are, we're we're talking about.

And you might know him as a sort of the leader of the Green Army Men in, in Toy Story and obviously as a very extensive film career. Not all of them Disney, but very, very extensive film career as well. But there are so many of these large and small touch points to and through the military and this, this type of, of you know, magic in the military connection and, and then, and this idea of, of joining forces, not sort of just tangentially, but in, in ways that, that continue to make a real and significant difference.

And, and that's one of the reasons why I really wanted to, to talk about this, Lee, because I think it's significant and whether you. A family member, a friend that you know is in the military or, or not. I think it's just important that, that people are aware of not just the history and the legacy, but the efforts that Disney taking part in today.


R. Lee Stanley: Without and I just keep looking over these notes and I keep finding the Sherman

Lou Mongello: brothers. Yeah. Oh God. How we, yeah. How do we, how have we not

R. Lee Stanley: touched on their military service? I mean, Robert Sherman, I earned a purple heart. They wound up having to walk with a cane rest his life because being

Lou Mongello: shot in the knee.

Yeah, I, I'm, I'm, now, I'm embarrassed that I sort of forgot about the Sherman Brothers because like you said, we, we just, there's, there's, there are so many people that, that have that connection currently or, or had that connection in the past. And it, it, it's, like I said, it's why I appreciate you so much.

Not just because of your service and sacrifice, but the fact that you and your wife are continuing to try and share a lot of these stories and more importantly, help with other people especially military families that wanna come to Disney and wanna experience that, that you know, we, we get to enjoy.

Lee, thank you so much for, again, your service, your sacrifice for suggesting this, for listening to the show. Tell people where they can find you and, and where they can find your channel.

R. Lee Stanley: We are on. Pretty much all the social medias, but mostly YouTube. But my wife, she does she does a little bit of TikTok, she and Instagram.

I'm on Twitter. It's all under Salute The Magic on YouTube if you search salute the Magic on any other platforms, you, you should be able to find it. But yeah, our only goal is just to try to help the families instead of wasting, not wasting time, but spending so much time trying to find out how they can save their money on at Disney and other theme parks.

Just to try to condense it, to make it quicker. And if you have any questions, just shoot us an email or a comment depending on whatever platform you're on. We try to respond as quickly as we can. We both still have full-time job, so this is just a we, something we do in our, on the side. But yeah, our just try to help the other families so they can.

Spend more time

Lou Mongello: with their family. And I'll I'll, I'll obviously put a link to this in the show notes. And I'll also put this in the clubhouse at ww radio.com/clubhouse. We can continue this conversation there. And, and, and I'd love for you to participate and, and answer some questions that people can sort of see and chime in on as a group in in the clubhouse.

Lee Stanley. Lee, thank you again so very much. I sincerely appreciate you, not just for your time today, but in your service to our country and, and for me and my family. I wanna say thank you.

R. Lee Stanley: No, well, thanks. Thanks for having me. It was a great it was a pleasure. Kind of a dream. I've been a fan of you for a few years and it's like, I, I can't believe he is emailing.

He asked me to

Lou Mongello: be on the show. I, I, wait, I have one last question for you. I. This is, and this is I think is the most important question of the day. It's not really, but I'm saying this half jokingly. There's only one restaurant I've never been to in Walt Disney World. Just how good is the Veal piccata from Man Gino's, the Italian restaurant at Shades of Green?

I enjoyed it a lot.

R. Lee Stanley: It's been a while since I had that because we wind up eating at the park. But it is definitely, and I'll tell you what, next time I'm there, I will shoot you. Actually, I'll, I'll shoot you an email and when we'll be there, if you wanna check it out for yourself you can be my

Lou Mongello: guest.

I would love it, man. Thank you so much.

R. Lee Stanley: Thank you.