Disney’s 1940s sanitation and hygiene promotion films

Still from Disney short film "Cleanliness Brings Health"

In the 1940s, the Walt Disney Studios produced a series of educational films on sanitation and hygiene promotion for developing countries. The films, in the Health for the Americas series, were aimed at Latin America. They were commissioned by the now defunct Office of the Coordinator of Inter-American Affairs (CIAA), which was later renamed Office of Inter-American Affairs (OIAA).

The U.S. State Department had sent Walt Disney and a group of animators to South America in 1941 as part of its Good Neighbor policy, and guaranteed financing for the resulting movie, Saludos Amigos. Disney’s popularity was seen to bolster US communication efforts to counter the influence of Nazi Germany, which had established close ties with several Latin American governments.

Several of the films in the Health for the Americas series feature Careless Charlie and his family to portray poor hygienic behaviour as in Cleanliness Brings Health – available on Youtube and the Internet Aechive.

In the Unseen Enemy, Careless Charlie is attacked by microbes in dirty water and carried by flies and mosquitoes. One of the recommendations he gets to build a latrine instead of defecating in his corn field.

In Insects as Carriers of Disease, typhoid-carrying lice have joined the flies and mosquitoes to make Careless Charlie’s life miserable. Available in English and Spanish on the Internet Archive and in Spanish on Youtube.

The film Water – Friend or Enemy can be seen on A/V Geeks. It shows techniques for spring and well protection.

Careless Charlie is absent in the final film listed here, as Environmental Sanitation is about urban rather than rural water and sanitation. It introduces technical solutions like piped water distribution, sewerage, communal laundry facilities, stormwater drainage and garbage collection.

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One response to “Disney’s 1940s sanitation and hygiene promotion films

  1. Great trouvaille!

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