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CFP: Disney's Health Education Films

An author is sought for an essay on Walt Disney Studios’ short health-education films, to complete an edited volume with the working title Beyond the Mouse: Disney's Edutainment Films, which is under contract to McFarland. Disney Studios began producing such films immediately after World War II, and continued into the 1980s.  Designed to be shown in institutional settings—such as schools—rather than to paying audiences, titles such as “The Story of Menstruation,” “Hookworm,” “Insects as Carriers of Disease,” and “VD Attack Plan” are departures from Disney’s family-friendly public image. The essay should go beyond factual descriptions of the films’ production history and reception, addressing larger issues such as their narrative strategies, intended audiences, and messages (both implicit and explicit) about health, disease, and medicine.  It should be analytically rigorous, but free from jargon, written in a straightforward style, and accessible to non-academic readers.

The essay should pay particular attention to “The Story of Menstruation” and “VD Attack Plan,” along with other short films that are representative of Disney Studios’ work in the area (access to DVD copies of some of the films can be arranged for the chosen author).  It should specifically discuss:

* The ways in which the films use humor, fantasy, anthropromorphization, and other elements characteristic of Disney’s better-known entertainment films to educate the audience about serious issues

* The films’ approach to handling sensitive or potentially disturbing concepts 
* How the films reflect, or run counter to, larger trends in post-WWII public health and health-education programs

Other potential themes that could be explored in the essay, depending on the author’s interest, include: 

* Portrayals of doctors, nurses, and the medical establishment in general

* Themes, such as personal responsibility, that cut across the films

* The films as reflections of the state of medical and public health knowledge  

* The films as self-consciously educational, “fact-packed” documents  

The essay should be in the 3000-4000-word range, and is due by 1 April 2010. Please send an abstract and a note about your qualifications by 25 February 2010, to:

A. Bowdoin Van Riper
Social and International Studies Department
Southern Polytechnic State University
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