A Gremlin on Sunset Boulevard

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Part of the “Sunset Ranch Market” food court complex at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, “Rosie’s All-American Café” serves up American comfort food such as cheeseburgers and chicken nuggets. The establishment takes its name from Rosie the Riveter, an icon inspired by working women on the home front during World War II. The wartime theme caries over into the restaurant’s decoration including a look at one of the ways Walt Disney’s studio helped the war effort during the 1940’s.

In addition to producing propaganda and military training films for the U.S. Government, Disney’s artists also created many insignias for the various branches of the armed forces. A few of these designs can be seen on display behind the counter at “Rose’s All-American Café,” Some feature instantly recognizable Disney stars like Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck while other feature more obscure characters and original designs. However, one of the insignias at “Rosie’s” references a Disney film that never made it past the drawing board.

During World War II, British Royal Air Force pilots would occasionally experience unexplainable technical difficulties with their aircraft. By this time, folklore had developed among those in the R.A.F. that these occurrences were acts of sabotage committed by tiny creatures known as gremlins. In 1942, these stories were brought to Walt Disney’s attention by author Roald Dahl, a former R.A.F. pilot who would later go on to write classic children’s books including Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, James and the Giant Peach, and The BFG.

While Disney and Dahl collaborated on plans to create an animated feature about gremlins, that project never made it beyond early development. However, a popular book written by Roald Dahl and illustrated by Disney artists called The Gremlins was released in 1943 based on the scrapped film’s story. Many years later, Gremlin Gus and his fellow gremlins would find new life as video game characters, playing an important role in the “Epic Mickey” game series. While they may never have gotten their chance to shine on the big screen, the insignia at “Rosie’s All-American Café” hints that these Disney creations clearly had a life beyond the cutting room floor.

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