Walter Mencken 6:15 p.m., Feb. 28
Watch Walt Disney's The Story of Menstruation (1946)
I know what you're thinking: 'Disney' and 'menstruation' in the same headline means Marks is making funny again with a Jib-Jab video of Jiminy Cricket singing When You Wish Upon a Knish.
Maybe there will be a mild attempt at wit like, "directed by Gone With the Wind production designer, William 'Scanty' Menzies." Whatever it is, there's a good chance it will end with some lame PhotoShopped ads.
Guilty as charged, at least when it comes to the latter accusation, but as far as this seldom-seen Disney period piece is concerned, what follows is true!
Yes, Virginia, there is a Walt Disney cartoon called The Story of Menstruation. I saw it in 1973 when the film premiered in my Sex Ed class at Chicago's Mather High School. Now, thanks to the miracle of YouTube, you can, too!
At first the title didn't connect. After all, it's been over 40 years since my gym teacher/Sex Ed instructor Chester 'Chet' Ziemba wheeled the 16mm Bell and Howell AutoLoad into my sophomore gym class.
Obviously, the short was intended for teenage girls. It also gave dupa football coaches, forced by the city to moonlight as sex educators and at a complete loss when it came to the art of verbal foreplay, a chance to tack ten extra minutes onto their lunch hour.
Mr. Ziemba was not the guy you wanted instructing your kids on the language of love. Judging by his portentous demeanor, Mr. Ziemba's idea of foreplay was popping open an Old Style and wooing the little woman with two words: "Bend over." Her idea of pillow talk was, "Aren't you done yet?"
Ziemba could sooner land a Boeing 707 than figure out how to work an idiot-proof 16mm projector. It was an AutoLoad, for the love of Mike. How hard could it be? "Marks," he barked while waving a finger. "Get over here and do this."
I owe my knowledge of and passion for projection all to Mr. Ziemba.
His introduction to the film consisted of two words: "Watch this." The shades were drawn, the lights dimmed, and Mr. Ziemba made a mad dash for the cafeteria, leaving behind a room filled with 25 horny teenage boys and a Disney cartoon about menstruation.
Even if I were able to summon a few of the ensuing catcalls to mind, it's certain that none of them would be printable.
Much of what I know about the history behind the short (and several hilarious lines I dare not steal) came from this terrific Film Threat article by Phil Hall.
Disney fell on hard-times during the war years. Walt spent a fortune producing his features and with a war raging, revenue from foreign markets we were enemies with dried up. The Story of Menstruation was conceived as part of a series of films that Disney produced for the American public school system between 1945 -1951.
In truth, it's a 10-minute commercial for Kotex. The short was commissioned by the International Cello-Cotton Company (now Kimberly-Clark). Teachers and students where handed booklets called Very Personally Yours.
The handout was nothing more than a series of ads for Kotex products with no mention of the "t" word. Tampax tampons were the work of the devil, aka rivals Procter & Gamble.
Much of the short is designed in the studio's style of limited animation conceived for the Baby Weems sequence of The Reluctant Dragon released the same year. There are numerous charts and anatomical drawings, none of them even the least bit pandering or salacious, even though the cartoon is credited with being the first to use the word "vagina" on film.
Once the instructional material is dispensed with, the short is overrun by hydrocephalic pixies doing everything from riding horses and swimming to asking, "Mirror, mirror on the wall, Why am I at my bitchiest when my period comes to call?"
The matronly-sounding narrator (no credit is given) reminds viewers, "To most girls, the menstrual period should bring no severe discomfort," maybe "a little less pep or a touch of nerves." If what some of my exes displayed was a "touch," I'd hate to have been slapped by them.
Si (left) and Am perform We are Ovaries.
Watch it if for no other reason than to experience a rare example of a Disney film from this period where the mother figure doesn't die.
As promised, I was going through my personal wing of the Disney Vault and unearthed some of these early attempts to tie-in with feminine hygiene and safety products.
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