Legendary Animator Chuck Jones Creates an Oscar-Winning Animation About the Virtues of Universal Health Care (1949)

While our coun­try looks like it might be com­ing apart at the seams, it’s good to revis­it, every once in a while, moments when it did work. And that’s not so that we can feel nos­tal­gic about a lost time, but so that we can remind our­selves how, giv­en the right con­di­tions, things could work well once again.

One exam­ple from his­to­ry (and recent­ly redis­cov­ered by a num­ber of blogs dur­ing the AHCA deba­cle in Con­gress) is this gov­ern­ment pro­pa­gan­da film from 1949—the Har­ry S. Tru­man era—that pro­motes the idea of cra­dle-to-grave health care, and all for three cents a week. This mon­ey went to school nurs­es, nutri­tion­ists, fam­i­ly doc­tors, and neigh­bor­hood health depart­ments.

Direct­ed by Chuck Jones, bet­ter known for ani­mat­ing Bugs Bun­ny, Porky Pig, Daffy Duck, and the Road Run­ner, “So Much for So Lit­tle” fol­lows our main char­ac­ter from infancy—where doc­tors help immu­nize babies against whoop­ing cough, diph­the­ria, rheumat­ic fever, and smallpox—through school to dat­ing, mar­riage, becom­ing par­ents, and set­tling into a nice, healthy retire­ment. Along the way, the gov­ern­ment has made sure that health care is noth­ing to wor­ry about.

The film won an Acad­e­my Award in 1950 for Doc­u­men­tary Short Subject—not best sci-fi, despite how rad­i­cal this all sounds.

So what hap­pened? John Maher at the blog Dot and Line puts it this way:

Par­ti­san­ship and cap­i­tal­ism and racist zon­ing poli­cies shat­tered its ide­al­is­tic dream that Amer­i­cans might actu­al­ly pay com­mu­nal­ly for their health as well as that of their neigh­bors and fel­low cit­i­zens.

Three cents per Amer­i­can per week wouldn’t cut it now in terms of uni­ver­sal health cov­er­age. But accord­ing to Maher, quot­ing a 2009 Kingsepp study on the orig­i­nal Afford­able Care Act, tax­pay­ers would have to pay $3.61 a week.

So folks, don’t get despon­dent, get ide­al­is­tic. The Great­est Gen­er­a­tion came back from WWII with a grand ide­al­ism. Maybe this cur­rent gen­er­a­tion just needs to fight and defeat Nazis all over again…

Relat­ed Con­tent:

The Evo­lu­tion of Chuck Jones, the Artist Behind Bugs Bun­ny, Daffy Duck & Oth­er Looney Tunes Leg­ends: A Video Essay

How to Draw Bugs Bun­ny: A Primer by Leg­endary Ani­ma­tor Chuck Jones

This Amer­i­can Life Demys­ti­fies the Amer­i­can Health­care Sys­tem

Ted Mills is a free­lance writer on the arts who cur­rent­ly hosts the FunkZone Pod­cast. You can also fol­low him on Twit­ter at @tedmills, read his oth­er arts writ­ing at tedmills.com and/or watch his films here.

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Comments (7)
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  • Sergej says:

    How inspi­ra­tional! We will make Great Leaps and bounds striv­ing for the great ideals of the per­fect soci­ety, and we will slay those Nazis that pol­lute our land!

    Ever onward, com­rades!

  • GregH says:


    But hell, all the ads on this page want me to wor­ry about my cred­it score, so infant mor­tal­i­ty can’t be very impor­tant.

  • GregH says:

    How’s your com­mu­ni­ty health care doing in Rus­sia, com­rade?

  • MikeS says:

    Ah yes, the oblig­a­tory com­ments from Trump­ies, whose only inter­est in this site (since “cul­ture” is a for­eign word to them) is wait­ing until it dares express an opin­ion to the left of the John Birch Soci­ety.

  • Randy says:

    Uni­ver­sal health is a nec­es­sary, but not a suf­fi­cient, con­di­tion for improv­ing the health of the pop­u­la­tion.

    Canada’s health care sys­tem is crum­bling, which you quick­ly dis­cov­er if you have to actu­al­ly use it for some­thing beyond the flu. And for peo­ple with incomes, it’s expen­sive. And it’s slow. And you’ll be stored in a clos­et or hall­way. And it does­n’t cov­er drugs or den­tal or vision or ther­a­py. So it’s even more expen­sive.

    Look­ing south, you can see that for their dol­lars, US res­i­dents at least get some­thing for their thou­sands. And often they’re even treat­ed like human beings.

  • Louis says:

    Yeah, we get some­thing for our thou­sands.
    Right up until the point that those thou­sands are gone, and then You had bet­ter die quick, or else you won’t just lose YOUR house, but you’ll lose your Kids’ hous­es too.
    And your Grand­kids will have to pay off your stu­dent loans to boot.

  • Bob Waring says:

    I can respond with just three let­ters NHS (pro­vid­ed me with peace of mind and occa­sion­al treat­ment for the past 70 years).

    Hap­pi­ly for me I have had far less back than I have paid in but what I have paid has gone to sup­port or treat some­one in greater need. No one in Britain los­es sleep, or fears bank­rupt­cy through ill health and the trans­ac­tion costs of a pub­lic and uni­ver­sal health ser­vice are sig­nif­i­cant­ly low­er than a sys­tem which needs to pro­duce invoic­es and bills at every stage. You can pay for pri­vate health­care here, but few both­er.

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