Deciding to push the boundaries of animation even further, Disney began production of his first feature-length animated film in 1934. Taking three years to complete, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, based upon the Grimm Brothers‘ fairy tale, premiered in December 1937 and became highest-grossing film of that time by 1939. Snow White was released through RKO Radio Pictures, which had assumed distribution of Disney’s product in July 1937, after United Artists attempted to attain future television rights to the Disney shorts.
Using the profits from Snow White, Disney financed the construction of a new 51-acre (210,000 m2) studio complex in Burbank, California. The new Walt Disney Studios, in which the company is headquartered to this day, was completed and open for business by the end of 1939. The following year, Walt Disney Productions had its initial public offering.
The studio continued releasing animated shorts and features, such as Pinocchio (1940), Fantasia (1940), Dumbo (1941), and Bambi (1942). After World War II began, box-office profits declined. When the United States entered the war after the attack on Pearl Harbor, many of Disney’s animators were drafted into the armed forces. The U.S. and Canadian governments commissioned the studio to produce training and propaganda films. By 1942 90% of its 550 employees were working on war-related films. Films such as the feature Victory Through Air Power and the short Education for Death (both 1943) were meant to increase public support for the war effort. Even the studio’s characters joined the effort, as Donald Duck appeared in a number of comical propaganda shorts, including the Academy Award-winning Der Fuehrer’s Face (1943).