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Director: Bill Justice & Bill Roberts
Release Date: November 5, 1943
Stars: The Seven Dwarfs
Rating: ★★★½
Review:

The Winged Scourge © Walt DisneyThis war time educational short tells us about public enemy no. 1. This turns out not to be Nazi Germany or Japan, but the Anopheles mosquito, which spreads malaria. The film is quite insightful in how malaria is spread and how one can prepare oneself against it.

The film features the seven dwarfs from ‘Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs’ (1937) as volunteers to give an example. Their precautionary actions are staged to an instrumental version of the song ‘Whistle While You Work’, which was originally associated with Snow White and some forest animals doing the household in ‘Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs’ (1937).

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 the precautionary methods against malaria are quite disturbing. They include spraying oil on ponds and the use of the poisonous gas Paris Green, methods with devastating results for the environment. Clearly, environmentalism was not yet on the agenda in the 1940s (in fact, it only hit the political agenda after the publishing of Rachel Carson’s book ‘Silent Spring’ in 1962).

The seven dwarfs were used earlier in the war propaganda short ‘7 Wise Dwarfs‘ (1941), but that consisted mainly of reused material. ‘The Winged Scourge’ has entirely new animation on the seven dwarfs. It was the last film to feature these happy little men.

‘The Winged Scourge’ was made for the Office of the Coordinator of Inter-American Affairs. It’s the first of a few educational health shorts made especially for the Latin American countries, other examples being ‘Defense Against Invasion‘ (1943), ‘Cleanliness Brings Health’ (1945), ‘What Is Disease’ (1945), and ‘Planning for Good Eating’ (1946).

Watch ‘The Winged Scourge’ yourself and tell me what you think:

Director: Friz Freleng
Release Date: August 25, 1965
Stars: The Pink Panther
Rating: ★★★★★
Review:

The Pink Tail Fly © DePatie-FrelengAfter a long evening of watching television, a tired Pink Panther tries to sleep, but he’s hindered by a small but annoying mosquito.

‘The Pink Tail Fly’ is one of the better entries in the Pink Panther series, and a worthy addition to the sleeplessness cartoon canon, being able to compete with cartoons like the Woody Woodpecker cartoon ‘Coo-Coo Bird’ and the Donald Duck cartoon ‘Sleepy Time Donald’ (both from 1947). It contains several good gags, which build up to a great finale. The highlight may be the gag in which the Pink Panther tries to kill the mosquito using karate.

‘The Pink Tail Fly’ was the last Pink Panther film to be directed by Friz Freleng himself.

Watch ‘The Pink Tail Fly’ yourself and tell me what you think:

Director: Winsor McCay
Release Date: January 1912
Rating: ★★★½
Review:

How A Mosquito Operates © Winsor McCayWinsor McCay’s second cartoon is about a giant mosquito who sucks a sleeping man until his body is a giant bulb. Then, suddenly aware of the audience, he performs some tricks on the man’s nose, sucks some more and explodes.

Unlike McCay’s first film, ‘Little Nemo‘, a long live action intro is absent, and more importantly, this one tells a real story. These are both great improvements on ‘Little Nemo’. Moreover, the mosquito is quite a character, arguably the first in animated history: he wears a tall hat and carries a suitcase. Besides, he’s not only a menace to the man, but also playful and a bit of a showoff. In ‘Before Mickey’ Donald Crafton tells us McCay even baptized the character ‘Steve’.

The film stands in the tradition of McCay’s ‘Dream of the Rarebit Fiend’ comics and is a rather peculiar combination of a sleeper’s nightmare and a bit of silliness. The mosquito is larger than life, and when he sticks in his long proboscis into the man’s head, it looks incredibly painful. This makes some of the action a discomforting watch, and this is perhaps the first time an animated film tries to draw on an audience’s emotions.

Unfortunately, the action is rather slow, and there’s a lot of reverse animation, in which McCay reuses the same drawings in reverse order. This may have spared drawings, but it doesn’t look convincing in its perfect symmetry of movement. Nevertheless, the realism with which the man is drawn and animated remains absolutely stunning.

Despite some flaws ‘How a Mosquito Operates’ remains an original and fresh film, and like all McCay’s films, very well animated.

Watch ‘How a Mosquito Operates’ yourself and tell me what you think:

This is Winsor McCay’s second film
To Winsor McCay’s first film: Little Nemo
To Winsor McCay’s third film: Gertie the Dinosaur

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