Disney showed how to beat malaria in the Americas, without DDT

February 26, 2017

Still photo from Walt Disney's "Winged Scourge," a wanted poster for "Anopheles, alias Malaria Mosquito." The 1943 film short suggested ways to cut populations of the malaria-spreading mosquitoes of the genus Anopheles. Disease prevention would aid the war effort in 1943, it was hoped.

Still photo from Walt Disney’s “Winged Scourge,” a wanted poster for “Anopheles, alias Malaria Mosquito.” The 1943 film short suggested ways to cut populations of the malaria-spreading mosquitoes of the genus Anopheles. Disease prevention would aid the war effort in 1943, it was hoped.

Malaria’s scourge hobbled economic progress across the Americas, and critically in World War II, that hobbled the war effort to defeat the Axis powers, Germany and Japan.

U.S. government recruiting of Hollywood film makers to produce propaganda films hit a zenith in the war. Even animated characters joined in. Cartoonists produced short subject cartoons on seeveral topics.

In 1943 the Disney studios distributed this film starring the Seven Dwarfs, among the biggest Disney stars of the time. The film was aimed at Mexico, Central America and South America, suggesting ways people could actually fight malaria. Versions were made in Spanish and English (I have found no Portuguese version for Brazil, but I’m still looking.)

the lost Disney described the film:

The first of a series of health-related educational shorts produced by the Disney studios and the Coordinator of Inter-American Affairs for showing in Latin America. It was also the only one to use established Disney characters (the Seven Dwarfs).

In this propaganda short, the viewers are taught about how the mosquito can spread malaria. A young 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 Dwarves are watching it. They volunteer to get rid of the mosquito by destroying her breeding grounds.

A Spanish-language version of the film:

Fighting malaria in the U.S. became a grand campaign in Franklin Roosevelt’s administration. Roosevelt administration officials saw malaria as a sapper of wealth, especially in the rural south. Part of the charge of the Tennessee Valley Authority was to wipe out malaria. By 1932, public health agencies in malaria-affected counties were beefed up to be able to promptly diagnose and treat human victims of malaria. TVA taught methods of drying up mosquito breeding places around homes and outdoor work areas. Sustained campaigns urged people to make their homes tighter, against weather, and to install screens on windows and doors to prevent mosquito entry especially at peak biting periods, dusk to after midnight.

U.S. malaria deaths and infections plunged by 90% between 1933 and 1942 — just in time to allow southern military bases to be used for training activities for World War II. After the war, the malaria-fighting forces of the government became the foundation for the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). With the introduction of DDT after 1945, CDC had another weapon to completely wipe out the remaining 10% of malaria cases and deaths.

It’s worth noting that in the end, it is the disease malaria that is eradicated, not the mosquitoes. In most places in the world, eradication of a local population of disease carriers is a temporary thing. A few remaining, resistant-to-pesticide-or-method mosquitoes can and do quickly breed a new population of hardier insects, and often surrounding populations will contribute new genetic material. Eradication of a vector-borne disease requires curing the disease in humans, so that when the mosquitoes come roaring back, they have no well of disease from which to draw new infection.

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60 years ago this month: Disneyland, a gleam in Walt’s eye

December 3, 2014

Let’s check the archives.

From the Orange County Archives: Walt Disney shows Disneyland plans to Orange County officials, Dec. 1954  The men in the front row (left to right) are Anaheim Mayor Charles Pearson, Orange County Supervisor Willis Warner, Walt Disney, Supervisor Willard Smith, and Orange County Planning Commission Chairman Dr. W. L. Bigham. The photo was taken at Disney Studios in Burbank. Photo from the Orange County Archives' Willard Smith Collection.

From the Orange County Archives: Walt Disney shows Disneyland plans to Orange County officials, December 1954.
The men in the front row (left to right) are Anaheim Mayor Charles Pearson, Orange County Supervisor Willis Warner, Walt Disney, Supervisor Willard Smith, and Orange County Planning Commission Chairman Dr. W. L. Bigham. The photo was taken at Disney Studios in Burbank. Photo courtesy the Orange County Archives’ Willard Smith Collection.

Newspaper and public relations photography relied heavily on posed images such as this one, through most of the 20th century.  Cameras often were bulky.  For a good image, film was slow, with a lot of light needed.  Public groups often were taken out of an office or auditorium and posed in the sun, as here, just to get enough light.

By the end of the 1950s, faster films and smaller cameras encouraged more spontaneous photos of events.  Especially after the Kennedy presidential campaign hired a photographer to take candid shots, which showed up everywhere, candid photos started to take over newspapers.

Posing these photographs was an art itself, an art mostly lost these days.

These posed photographs still beat most selfies.

More:

  • Early History of Disneyland in Pictures, slideshow at the Orange County Register; that site suggests an alternative caption for the photo above:
    July 21, 1954 – Race against time
    Walt Disney visited Anaheim often to oversee every detail of the construction. On July 21, 1954, the park held its official groundbreaking – starting a race against time to build Disneyland in one year. Shown here, Anaheim Mayor Charles Pearson, left, with O.C. Supervisor William Warner, Walt Disney, O.C. Supervisor Willard Smith and O.C. Planning Commission Chair W.L. Bigham look at plans for what would soon be called The Happiest Place on Earth.
    REGISTER ARCHIVE PHOTO, TEXT BY TOM BERG, THE ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER

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