Walt Disney Educational Media released many Disney shorts as ‘Educational’, and produced quite a few films as well that were meant only for the educational market; several of these are somewhat rare, and this is one of them.
Family Planning (1967), produced by Walt Disney productions for the Population Council, is perhaps the second oddest of the films that the studio produced for this market. VD Attack Plan (1968) is probably the winner in this particular category, with an especially graphic ending featuring real photos. It’s a jarring switch from the overall goofy and modern designed characters that otherwise populate that short.
It’s interesting to see somewhat extravagant production given to a minor educational short in both of these cases, especially considering the animation quality that was appearing in other educational shorts of the same vintage. While not to a feature standard, it’s certainly not an inexpensive short. I guess that was the Disney way.
The film is director by veteran Disney animator Les Clark. Art Direction by Ken O’Connor, Music by Buddy Baker. credited for animation are Cliff Nordberg, Art Stevens and Jack Boyd; with backgrounds by Bill Layne.
A very misplaced Donald Duck introduces the idea is his usual frantic, kid friendly way. it seems as if Donald isn’t even aware of the production he’s in, or at least no idea of what he’s presenting. His presence is there of course to bring us into the film and establish some familiarity, and he interrupts throughout out with ‘humorous’ interludes. Thes include the hilarity of being splashed in the face with paint. Maybe his star power worked well many years earlier in the War shorts The New Spirit and Spirit of ’43, but here it seems at odds with the rest of the film.
Early on, the film tries really tries hard to be ethnically sensitive and easy for people of many cultures to understand by combining people of all sorts of ethnicities into a single couple- resulting in what looks like an Indian couple. The character design feels to me as if they’re designed for children, as if they could appear in an ‘It’s a Small World’ storybook. The woman character doesn’t speak- whispering into her husband’s ear rather than addressing our unseen narrator. Around three minutes in, this non-threatening cartoons universe is interrupted by realistic Illustrations that look like they’re from a religious pamphlet rather than a Disney short. The first of these, featuring a dead woman lying in the street among the nearly dead, is disturbing at best, and it’s followed by a child in nearly the same position.
The film seems to be aimed at rural population in third world countries in some respects, with a simple message basically explaining how to have less children. Although I don’t have the information as to where it was shown, my guess would be it was dubbed in many languages and shown around the world to introduce the ideas of family planning in various ways.
There was a beautiful IB Technicolor print of this short in the ‘retired’ cabinet at the University of Michigan Film and Video Library, where I worked when I was in collage in the late 80s (and for some years after). Clearly the U of M at least realized how dated this film became fast. Disney’s continued use of Technicolor prints until the end of the process in 1974.
Have a good week everyone!