The concept of education has been of the utmost important since humans have existed. Specifically, the idea that knowledge is pivotal to humans furtherment and development throughout time. For most of human’s existence, education was spread through word of mouth as well as the written word until the invention of animation. I will argue that animation has served as a key element for spreading education both through direct and indirect means.
The spread of education directly can be seen in any animation where a message is conveyed to a person without further interpretation. Modern examples of such shows would be Dora the Explorer or Hello, Kai-lan. Both shows teach children how to learn different languages, Spanish and Chinese respectively, and utilize animation for their purpose. Studies have shown that incorporating animation into language learning programs has greatly increased a child’s ability to learn said new language. In recent animation, the target audience has largely been children but this was not always the case. During World War II, animation was often used to educate men about the benefits of joining the armed forces and requirements for different positions within the military branches. An example is Donald Duck (the common spokesperson for war-cartoons in WWII animation) who is in love with the ideal of being in the war effort. Donald first has to pass a physical test that is shown to be extremely vigorous thus promoting well-abled men to only apply for these positions. In a different animation, Donald is interested in being an air force fighter pilot and so he is given to various tests required for each candidate. The tests are very difficult and the message here is that knuckleheads should not apply for this position. There are many other representations of education being spread directly but the importance of all of them is that they are easy to understand for any viewer.
The spread of education indirectly is seen in animations where the messages are implied through actions (either verbal or non-verbal) of the character (s). A modern example of this is the movie “The Secret Life of Arriety” that was contracted by Disney in the United States. The main character, Arriety, often explored on her own and even lied to her parents so that she could further her knowledge of the human world. The human boy, Sean, furthers Arriety’s interest by providing her with knowledge of his life. Hideo Miyazaki is targeting children and encouraging them to think like Arriety and explore life to its fullest. In a classical example, Walt Disney’s “Snow White” uses both imagery and music to convey gender roles to the audience. The scene were Snow White is cleaning the dwarves house while singing “Whistle While You Work” (see attached video clip) is installing the belief that a woman’s most important role is in the house. When this film was originally produced in 1937, it indirectly educated boys and girls on their respective roles in society.http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gOL0rMBdNKw
Overall, animation as a means of education has been highly effective in American society as evidenced through the aforementioned examples. Direct examples such as Dora the Explorer and Donald Duck provide essential knowledge that would immediately benefit the viewer’s life if implemented. The indirect examples provide knowledge to help one to better understand/fit in to the society in which they are living. Both representations of education through animation illustrates why Animation needed in our society.