The Story of Menstruation is a ten-minute short from the Walt Disney Corporation, (yes, really,) produced in 1946, directed by Jack Kinney.
Commissioned by the good folks at Kotex, it is Exactly What It Says on the Tin. This short was not exhibited in theaters, but was produced to be shown in public health classes. There it was used to explain to pubescent girls the physical process behind menstruation. The film talks about pituitary glands and hormones, then gives a basic diagram of the female reproductive system, showing the ovaries and the Fallopian tubes, explaining the process of ovulation and how menstruation follows if a woman does not become pregnant. The narrator then explains that girls should keep a calendar so they know when their cycle will happen and can track any changes. Animation also shows a little girl growing into womanhood, as the film talks about how you can carry on a perfectly normal daily life while having your cycle—go bicycling! Go dancing! But don't let yourself get constipated!
Believed to be the first film of any sort that used the word "vagina" in the screenplay. Also probably a safe bet that it was the first use of "rectum" as well. Used in classrooms for decades, believed to have been shown to over a hundred million schoolgirls.
- Barbie Doll Anatomy: The film shows a girl showering to dispel the old myth that girls shouldn't bathe during their cycle (did people really believe this?). The girl in question has a distinct lack of nipples.
- Educational Short: When menstruation usually starts, why it happens, how girls can manage it while going about their daily lives. Offers up helpful advice as well as sexist Values Dissonance, like when the film advises fighting mood swings by primping up to look pretty.
- Interactive Narrator: Pretty much the only joke in the movie, as the narrator is explaining how girls should handle their periods.Narrator: You can do practically everything you normally do.
(The waltzing couple transition into dancing the jitterbug, their clothing changing appropriately.)
Narrator: Oh, come now! We said practically everything.
(Everything goes back to waltz abruptly.)
- The Man in the Mirror Talks Back: The film shows a young girl made moody by hormones sitting in front of her mirror, burying her face in her hands. As the narration advises girls basically to cheer up and power through it, the reflection in the mirror gets up and walks away.
- Narrator: Actress Gloria Blondell, providing a cheerful and unembarrassed narration track. (Blondell had a more regular job with Disney as the voice of Daisy Duck.)
- Product Placement: A rather subtle instance. The film mentions that a pamphlet called "Very Personally Yours", handed out at screenings of the movie, would give girls further guidance on hygienic products. The film does not explain that said pamphlet advertised Kotex sanitary napkins, and did not mention tampons, a market that was dominated by Kotex rival Tampax.
- Time Passes Montage: The film starts by showing a baby in the cradle as the narrator muses about why we say "Mother Nature". We then see the baby grow to a toddler playing with blocks, to a child, and then to a teen girl as the narration talks about the circle of life.
- What Happened to the Mouse?: The film says nothing about sexuality. The closest it comes is when talking about ovulation, when the film explains that the egg implants in the lining of the womb during impregnation, which is "when a woman is going to have a baby." That's it.