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2 years ago

The Winged Scourge | The Seven Dwarfs Against Malaria | 1943 | WW2 Era Cartoon

The Best Film Archives
"The Winged Scourge" is a World War II-era educational short produced by the Walt Disney Studios in 1943. It tells us about public enemy number 1. This turns out not to be Germany or Japan, but the Anopheles mosquito. The film provides an in-depth look into how mosquitos can spread malaria and which are the measures that the audience can put in place to avoid being infected. The film features the Seven Dwarfs from "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs" (1937) as volunteers to give an example.

Plot: A young female mosquito flies into a house and consumes the blood of an infected human. She then consumes the blood of a healthy human, transmitting the disease into him. It turns out that this is actually a film within a film and the Seven Dwarfs are watching it. The Dwarfs volunteer to get rid of the mosquito by eliminating her breeding grounds.

It’s a bit surreal to watch these happy-go-lucky fairy tale characters fighting a serious disease in a modern (South) American environment. Especially because some of their precautionary methods against malaria are questionable. They include pouring oil on pond water, spraying areas with the highly toxic gas Paris Green and burying tin cans into the ground, methods with devastating results for the environment. Clearly, environmentalism was not yet on the agenda in the 1940s. The Winged Scourge is, like many of the propaganda and educational shorts from the 1940s, reflective of its time and contains dated information.

The Winged Scourge is the first of a series of health-related educational short films that the Walt Disney Studios produced for the now-defunct US government agency "Office of the Coordinator of Inter-American Affairs." (It was also the only one to use established Disney characters.) The series was made as part of the good neighbor efforts by the US government implemented to combat Axis influence in Latin America. The shorts were released in Spanish and English. The Winged Scourge proved to be so popular that prints were requested by the US Armed Forces, Australia, and other allies affected by malaria. The film was also later dubbed into the Hindi, Tamil, Bengali, and Telugu languages for India.

The Winged Scourge is narrated by Art Baker, a prolific actor in film, television and radio from the 1920s through the early 1960s. We also have to name animators Bill Justice and Bill Roberts both as uncredited directors, with Disney legends (and members of “Disney's Nine Old Men”) Milt Kahl and Frank Thomas serving as animators.