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Movie Mom

Doc McStuffins Teaches Kids About Being Healthy on Disney

posted by Nell Minow

Disney’s delightful animated series, “Doc McStuffins,” is about a little girl who is inspired by her doctor mother to open up a “clinic” for her stuffed animals and toys. That gives the show a chance to talk to kids about making healthy choices.  Kids can interact with the show and learn more with online activities and coloring sheets.

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What makes this series especially welcome is the race of the lead character — she is African-American.  The New York Times noted:

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Despite a surge in multicultural cartoons, like Nickelodeon’s “Ni Hao, Kai-Lan,” designed to introduce Mandarin vocabulary words to preschoolers, and 40 years after Bill Cosby’s “Fat Albert,” black cartoon characters in leading roles are still rare. It’s considered an on-screen risk to make your main character a member of a minority, even in this post-“Dora the Explorer” age. Networks want to attract the broadest possible audience, but the real peril is in the toy aisle. From a business perspective, Disney and its rivals ultimately make most of these shows in the hope that they spawn mass-appeal toy lines. White dolls are the proven formula.

Encouraged by the reaction to multicultural casting in its live-action shows (“A.N.T. Farm”), Disney figured it was a risk worth taking. The company also spotted a hole in the market. The last major preschool cartoon to have a black focus was Mr. Cosby’s “Little Bill,” which ended five years ago on Nickelodeon. Race may have factored into Disney’s thinking in other ways. “Doc McStuffins” is mostly designed to entertain, a minus for parents of preschoolers, who typically want educational components (like the way Dora teaches Spanish and problem solving). A positive message about racial diversity helps fix that problem, as do messages about health and hygiene.

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