“The weather outside is frightful but the Spandules are so delightful”
Not familiar with that wintery tune? Not surprising really. But it is good advice during the frosty frigid months of the year to “beware the Spandules. Still not sure what this is all about and what it has to do with Walt Disney? That’s OK,  just pull up a chair by the fireplace and lets open up our Disney History book for a few minutes.

The pages of Disney history are filled with the unknown, unfamiliar, and often lost treasures that surprise us all when we discover them for the first time. Most have never heard of the Disney created booklet, “Winter Draws On : Meet the Spandules.” If you somehow missed it, don’t worry, you haven’t missed a Disney classic…instead, what you have missed is a 28 page booklet created for the United States Air Force in 1943.

Walt was asked to create the book by the Air Force to teach pilots about cold-weather flying. The term “Spandules” is the word used in the booklet to bring to life the dangers pilots can encounter when the conditions get dangerously icy. These creatures were created by Disney and they have been described as “horn-helmeted Viking ghosts”

How did Disney describe them?
The introduction of the booklet states: “In this book for the first time is pictured a close relative of the Gremlin, the ‘Spandule’. These little fellows inhabit the air space above 30,000 feet except in the winter time, when they come down to lower altitudes and have been known to play around on the ground. Although not mean at heart, these little guys are forced by their very nature to do a lot of things to get a pilot in trouble. Whenever an airplane enters their domain they pounce aboard. They like to test a guy out. If he is on his toes they probably won’t bother him much, but if he looks sound asleep or a little thick between the ears they are almost sure to plaster his wings with ice, load down his propeller, and do all sorts of tricks that can be real serious. If you know where to look for Spandules and if you keep a close watch for the first evidence of their handiwork, you can usually avoid a run-in with them. This book will help you do that. The life-like pictures of Spandules which appear in this book were created by Walt Disney at the invitation of the Flight Control Command.”

The reason that Walt created these is because he knew the subject matter was important but also knew that instruction manuals could be dull, hard to read, and as a result not keep the readers attention…no matter who the reader might be.

So he crawled into the imaginary world of fairies and leprechauns and came up with Spandules in order to explain the dangers that pilots faced but also as way to keep the readers interested and engaged.

The booklet itself consists of twenty warnings. Each warning is accompanied by a Disney cartoon. For instance, the warning “Avoid icy and slushy spots when taxying. You may skid. Be easy with your brakes” is illustrated by a Spandule pulling on the wheel, another Spandule grabbing that Spandule’s horns and pulling on him and yet another Spandule blowing frosty breath on the spinning tire. Simple, creative, funny, cute, and memorable.

Did he have to do this? No, of course not. Did he need to do this? Well, that depends on your definition of need. Was it wise to do this? Yes it was. The Disney touch took a mundane approach to cover an important subject and brought it to life in a way that was informative, educational, and entertaining.

Sometimes in life the way we deliver the messages we try to communicate makes all the difference. Deliver the message poorly, even if it is important… and no one listens. Deliver it well, and people not only listen but the remember it…maybe forever.

Learning to communicate and adding your own creative, personal touch makes the message come alive. Communicate well and create moments that people will never forget.

Jeff Dixon is an author, teacher, and transformational architect who lives in the shadow of the Magic Kingdom in Central Florida. He is the author of a series of mystery thrillers set in and around Walt Disney World that are loaded with Disney history, trivia, little known facts, and the trivia is never trivial. Discover more at www.DixonOnDisney.com (The Key to the Kingdom and Unlocking the Kingdom are available from booksellers everywhere)


Some research information for this article comes from : Walt Disney: A Biography  By Louise Krasniewicz & Jim Hill Media