The NAMES project is a quilt memorializing those lost to HIV/AIDS. HIV/AIDS was at epidemic levels in the 1980s and had been seen as the gay disease. It had become a very depersonalized disease with people being seen more as statistics than real people. The NAMES project was created to give names to the statistics as it can be hard to really understand a disease’s effect until you see specific examples. People memorialize family, friends, or people that influenced them by creating a 3’x6′ piece called a panel (about the size of a human grave). The panels are then put together geographically into 12’x12′ larger sections called blocks, often eight panels per block. These blocks can be sent around the country to be used in parades and other displays. According to the FAQs on the official NAMES project foundation website, as of June 2016 there are more than 49000 panels on 5956 blocks.
The quilt panels seen are all memorializing Howard Ashman. Howard Ashman, along with Alen Menken, wrote the lyrics to songs in the Disney animated movies: The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, and Aladdin. Beauty and the Beast is dedicated to Ashman as he died of AIDS before the movie was released. I chose to study the panels because I am a Disney fan and there were characters on the panels that were a part of my childhood. Disney has been a part of my life for as long as I can remember from the animated movies to visiting family at Disney World this past February. There are ten panels in total for Howard Ashman which helped to inspire the idea that maybe the fandom around all things Disney might have a connection to the AIDS epidemic.
These quilt panels offer insight about the relationship between Disney Fandom and the HIV/AIDS epidemic. We can learn about how the Disney fandom helped those affected by the HIV/AIDS epidemic to express their emotions through their love for Disney.