Walt Disney Creates a Frank Animation That Teaches High School Kids All About VD (1973)

The com­i­cal­ly plain­spo­ken, tough-guy sergeant is a heav­en sent assign­ment for char­ac­ter actors.

Think R. Lee Ermey in Full Met­al Jack­et

Louis Gos­set Jr. in An Offi­cer and a Gen­tle­man

Even Stripes’  War­ren Oates.

Keenan Wynn, who strove to keep Amer­i­ca safe from “devi­at­ed pre­verts” in 1964’s Dr. Strangelove, was award­ed the role of a life­time nine years lat­er, when Dis­ney Stu­dios was seek­ing vocal tal­ent for VD Attack Plan, above, a 16-minute ani­ma­tion intend­ed to teach high school­ers about the scourge of vene­re­al dis­ease.

Wynn (son of Ed) threw him­self into the part with gus­to, imbu­ing his bad­ly-com­plect­ed, Kaiser-hel­met­ed germ com­man­der with the sort of straight-talk­ing charis­ma rarely seen in high school Health class.

A risky maneu­ver, giv­en that Viet­nam-era teens did not share their parent’s generation’s respect for mil­i­tary author­i­ty and VD Attack Plan was the first edu­ca­tion­al short specif­i­cal­ly aimed at the high school audi­ence. Pri­or to that, such films were geared toward sol­diers. (Dis­ney wad­ed into those waters in 1944, with the train­ing film, A Few Quick Facts No. 7—Venereal Dis­ease, the same year Mick­ey Mouse appeared in LOOK mag­a­zine, wag­ing war on gon­or­rhea with sul­fa drugs.

Gon­or­rhea was well rep­re­sent­ed in the Wynn’s Con­ta­gion Corps. The ranks were fur­ther swelled by Syphilis. Both pla­toons were out­fit­ted with para­mil­i­tary style berets.

The Sarge pumped them up for the com­ing sneak attack by urg­ing them to maim or bet­ter yet, kill their human ene­my. Shaky recruits were reas­sured that Igno­rance, Fear, and Shame would have their backs.

Scriptwriter Bill Bosche had quite the knack for iden­ti­fy­ing what sort of sug­ar would make the med­i­cine go down. The Sarge inti­mates that only a few of the afflict­ed are “man enough” to inform their part­ners, and while Igno­rance and Shame cause the major­i­ty to put their faith in inef­fec­tu­al folk reme­dies, the “smart ones” seek treat­ment.

Ele­men­tary psy­chol­o­gy, but effec­tu­al nonethe­less.

Today’s view­ers can’t help but note that HIV and AIDS had yet to assert their fear­some hold.

On the oth­er hand, the Sarge’s mat­ter of fact deliv­ery regard­ing the poten­tial for same sex trans­mis­sion comes as a pleas­ant sur­prise. His pri­ma­ry objec­tive is to set the record straight. No, birth con­trol pills won’t pro­tect you from con­tract­ing the clap. But don’t waste time wor­ry­ing about pick­ing it up from pub­lic toi­let seats, either.

A word of cau­tion to those plan­ning to watch the film over break­fast, there are some tru­ly gnarly graph­ic pho­tos of rash­es, sores, and skin erup­tions. Help­ful to teens seek­ing straight dope on their wor­ri­some symp­toms. Less so for any­one try­ing to enjoy their break­fast links sans the specter of burn­ing uri­na­tion.

So here’s to the sergeants of the sil­ver screen, and the hard­work­ing actors who embod­ied them, even those whose cre­ations resem­bled Pillsbury’s Fun­ny Face drink mix mas­cots. Let’s do as the Sarge says, and make every day V‑D Day!

VD Attack Plan will be added to the ani­ma­tion sec­tion of our col­lec­tion, 4,000+ Free Movies Online: Great Clas­sics, Indies, Noir, West­erns, Doc­u­men­taries & More.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Watch Fam­i­ly Plan­ning, Walt Disney’s 1967 Sex Ed Pro­duc­tion, Star­ring Don­ald Duck

The Sto­ry Of Men­stru­a­tion: Watch Walt Disney’s Sex Ed Film from 1946

Sal­vador Dalí Cre­ates a Chill­ing Anti-Vene­re­al Dis­ease Poster Dur­ing World War II

Ayun Hal­l­i­day is an author, illus­tra­tor, the­ater mak­er and Chief Pri­ma­tol­o­gist of the East Vil­lage Inky zine.  Her play Zam­boni Godot is open­ing in New York City next week. Fol­low her @AyunHalliday.

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