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Commandments for Health (5 film series)
1945 / 5:00–6:00 min.
Hugh Harman Productions for the U.S. Navy
Voices: Mel Blanc. Composer: Carl Stallings
Sound, black-and-white.

Disclaimer: These films depict ethnic, gender and racial stereotypes that were once commonplace in American society. We present them here as historical artifacts, valuable documents of the cultural practices of their time. Viewer discretion advised.

In 1945 the U.S. Navy commissioned Hugh Harman Productions to create an entertaining cartoon series for troops at war, patterned on the Private Snafu series, but dealing solely with health issues. Harman was a veteran animator who had worked in 1920s in Kansas City with the (pre-Mickey Mouse) Walt Disney Laugh-O-Gram studio, and in the 1930s in Hollywood on the Warner Brothers’ Merrie Melodies series. The McGillicuddy cartoons had a smaller budget than the Snafu series—the producers saved time and money by using fewer drawings and less precise sound synchronization, which made for jagged animation and a greater reliance on voiceover narration—but the talent was top flight. Like Snafu, McGillicuddy featured the voice of Mel Blanc and music by Carl Stallings. While the director/animator is not identified, the artwork and direction has a distinctively Warner Brothers feel.

The series is formulaic: each episode takes place on a South Pacific island where the dim-witted Marine Private McGillicuddy ignores a different “Commandment for Health,” suffers the bodily consequences, and jeopardizes the war effort. Aimed at a male audience of young soldiers and sailors, the gags are corny and mildly risqué; shopworn racial, gender and social stereotypes abound. Flies that contaminate food are depicted as buck-toothed Japanese soldiers wearing thick glasses; South Sea islanders are given exaggerated African features and depicted as cannibals; doctors are sadists; and so forth.

The Five Commandments
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