BOOZE, tobacco prevalent in G-rated films, study suggests

Monday, June 4th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

CHICAGO (AP) _ A study of 81 G-rated animated features from 1937 to 2000 found that nearly half show characters using alcohol or tobacco _ sometimes to excess.

The analysis by Kimberly Thompson and Fumie Yokota of the Harvard School of Public Health was published in the June issue of the journal Pediatrics. The authors said the review is not meant to suggest that such films should be avoided, but it could be used by parents to discuss the dangers of alcohol and tobacco as their children watch.

The researchers reviewed G-rated, animated features first released in movie theaters, at least an hour long and available on video before Oct. 31, 2000. The authors included many more recent films than a similar survey published in 1999.

The review suggests that the use of alcohol and tobacco in animated films may be declining. Of 20 recently made films, 12 contained no tobacco use, compared with nine in the earliest 20 films. Eleven showed no alcohol use vs. nine in the earlier bunch.

``It's a relief to know that in at least our analysis, we notice a downward trend,'' Yokota said.

Still, she said, parents should know that a significant portion of the movies available on video do not portray the long-term consequences of using tobacco and alcohol.

In the review, 15 of the 38 films showing alcohol use (40 percent) suggested excessive use or abuse through hiccups, staggering or flushed faces. Thirteen of the 35 films showing tobacco use (37 percent) showed a physical effect such as coughing or turning green.

The films ranged from ``Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs'' in 1937 to ``The Tigger Movie'' last year. Included were such films as ``The Hunchback of Notre Dame (26 seconds of alcohol use and 23 seconds of tobacco use); ``One Hundred and One Dalmatians'' (26 seconds alcohol, 6 minutes and 27 seconds tobacco); and ``The Little Mermaid'' (7 seconds of tobacco).

Walt Disney Co. and the Motion Picture Association of America did not immediately return calls seeking comment.

Some critics might think it is overkill to get worked up over a pipe-toting rodent Sherlock Holmes in the ``Great Mouse Detective'' or canine characters drinking at a bar in ``All Dogs Go to Heaven.''

But David Walsh, executive director of the National Institute on Media and the Family, said the media have a powerful influence.

``As certain behaviors get portrayed, that seems to normalize them,'' he said.