To honor the World War II-era B17 Flying Fortress, “Swamp Ghost,” artists Mike Gabriel (director, “Pocahontas,” “The Rescuers Down Under” and the Oscar-nominated short, “Lorenzo”) and Klay Hall (director, Disneytoon Studios “Planes”) worked to create original nose art, to be exclusively displayed at the museum.
“We hope that the creation and display of the Swamp Ghost nose art serves as a tribute to aviation history and to all those who serve,” said Greg Coleman, VP, Walt Disney Animation Studios and Disneytoon Studios Worldwide Marketing.
During the war, The Walt Disney Studios made more than 1,200 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,” says Klay 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. The B17 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 at the museum.
“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,” said Gabriel. “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 exciting project.”
“This is not only an honor for us to be a part of, personally,” said Klay Hall, “it is in remembrance and tribute to our fathers and grandfathers who served their country during that time and those that serve today.”