Pacific Aviation Museum is honoring the famed World War II-era B17 “Flying Fortress,” affectionately named “Swamp Ghost,” with Disney artists Mike Gabriel (director, “Pocahontas,” “The Rescuers Down Under” and the Oscar-nominated short, “Lorenzo”) and Klay Hall (director, Disneytoon Studios “Planes”) worked together to create original nose art, to be exclusively displayed at the Museum.
During the war, The Walt Disney Studios made over 1200 insignia for the US and Allied forces, many of which featured iconic characters, including Donald Duck. Disney characters were often painted onto the nose section of aircraft during this era. “Walt Disney’s “Donald Duck” was one of the most iconic and likable characters during the 1940′s,” said Hall. “He was very popular amongst servicemen, possessing a feistiness with a “can do” attitude. He seemed like a natural fit for the Swamp Ghost nose art.”
The history of Swamp Ghost, the airplane, is a unique one; no lives were lost in the crash. The plane, aB17 “Flying Fortress” ran critically low on fuel during a mission and had to be ditched in a jungle swamp in the Papua New Guinea area in 1942. All the men walked away from the plane unharmed. It was thought lost until 1972, when it was spotted by a Royal Australian Air Force helicopter, completely intact, resting in a swamp. The plane never received an honorary name or piece of nose art (that usually happened after a few missions). The plane gained the name “Swamp Ghost” because of where it was found. The plane was then carefully extracted from the swamp and ultimately moved to the Pacific Aviation Museum, where it has been exhibited in its “as is” condition since 2014. The exhibition of Swamp Ghost and its nose art joins a collection of more than 40 aircraft within the museum.
Added Gabriel: “My fervent hope was to do honor to the insignia and nose artwork that the Disney artists created back in the 1940s during the war, by doing a Swamp Ghost design that was totally convincing to the time in which the Swamp Ghost was flying. Klay and I analyzed every aspect of the nose art designs that were created to try and convincingly capture the look, feel, and colors of the time, in order to authentically transport the viewer back to the time. I hope when people see the nose art Klay and I have created, they sense the deep attachment and commitment we have to this excitingproject.”