#104 = Volume 35, Part 1 =
J. P. Telotte
Animating Space: Disney, Science, and Empowerment
One of the great appeals of animation, Michael O’Pray has argued, derives from its “objectification of our own desire for omnipotence” (200). It is an appeal, he explains, that arises not just from the sort of fantastic visions it lets us conjure up, from its ability to bring into being a world and its inhabitants unrestrained by the “laws” of reality or verisimilitude, but also from the way animation, in its best instances, works “to remind us that the skill and virtuosity involved in form is supreme” in achieving its fantasies—in effect, that this different means of representation imparts a sense of power or mastery over unruly or inchoate form (200). That principle of empowerment seems to be one that Walt Disney well understood, as we see in the Disney studio’s long history of successful short and feature-length animations, as well as the various lands the company has “imagineered” and offered to visitors, not simply as places to vacation, but also as wonders to appreciate and as triumphs over the disorder and unpredictability of life outside of its theme parks. In fact, Neal Gabler in his new biography of Disney argues that a “will to power” was the central driving principle behind Walt’s life (xvi). That principle, I would suggest, also underlies both the success and the problems involved in Disney’s early foray into the realms of science and science fiction—actually, its effort to straddle the boundary between the two—that is, the studio’s famous Man in Space productions, created for the Disneyland television series in the 1950s. These shows, produced against a backdrop of popular media science fiction colored by the Cold War’s many anxieties and uncertainties, employed animation in a way that sought to create a new context for these scientific issues, one that would reassure viewers and give them a sense of power over the obvious contingencies of their common experience.
In undertaking the Man in Space series, as well as other episodes planned for the “Tomorrowland” segment of Disney’s anthology show, the studio had little science background on which to draw. Its primary stock-in-trade at this point was the animated comedy, often taken from fairy and folktales, and the nature documentary, as exemplified by its series of “True-Life Adventure” films.1 And the still infant medium of television provided few significant models on which to draw. As Patrick Lucanio and Gary Coville observe, “the mix of science and fiction on television was constantly being tested much like a scientific formula” (American 6). In the early 1950s there was one science-oriented show, The Johns Hopkins Science Review, which was dedicated to presenting complex scientific concerns of the day in a rather dry lecture-and-demonstration fashion. The dominant science-oriented presence was the ubiquitous space opera, typified by shows such as Captain Video (1949-55), Space Patrol (1950-55), and Tom Corbett, Space Cadet (1950-55). All done on small budgets with minimal special effects, these series emphasized adventuring in outer space, implicated real-world concerns only in a broad, metaphoric manner, and were primarily aimed at an audience of children or adolescents—although, as one contemporary commentator offered, this “world-of-the-future stuff merely reflects the preoccupations of many of their elders” (Robinson 63).2 While the shows’ actions were, as Lucanio and Coville note, “played out before a milieu of scientific gadgetry” (Smokin’ 116), that element was typically little more than “a veneer of science” colored by “spotty applications of jargon” (American 7).
Of course, those real-world concerns—with international tensions, the depersonalization and alienation of modern life, and especially the threatening aspects of scientific development—were everywhere reflected in another sort of programming, the sf cinema of the day. This cinema, famously described by Susan Sontag as embodying “the imagination of disaster” (212), spectacularly visualized the era’s worst nightmares in narratives of alien invasion, as in The Thing (1951); of the loss of the self, as in Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956); and of nuclear holocaust, as in The Day the World Ended (1955). Through their peculiar “sensuous elaboration,” their fascination with an imagery of destruction, Sontag argues, these films provided a kind of satisfaction by allowing viewers “the fantasy of living through one’s own death and more ... the destruction of humanity itself” (215)—in effect, the loss of all power or control. Yet that sort of satisfaction could hardly be expected to play with the typical Disney audience, much less provide any real reassurance for anxious viewers. And given the enormous level of angst and even fear with which science and technology had become freighted, as these films spectacularly attest, Disney had to find a strategy for addressing those concerns, one that deployed another kind of “sensuous” power.
Part of the strategy for the Tomorrowland shows followed from the choice of subject matter somewhere between the popular sf cinema and a dry educational matter such as Science Review. Walt Disney’s directive in a staff conference underscores: “there are two sides to go on this—comedy interest and factual interest. Both of them are vital to keep the show from becoming dry” (qtd. Watts 310). The suggestion by animator Ward Kimball that Disney consider adapting a series of articles on space exploration that had recently appeared in Collier’s magazine quickly found approval, in part because the material had already stirred some popular interest, but also because, despite its highly speculative nature, it represented a shift away from the common stuff of sf cinema, while also readily lending itself to Disney’s interest in that sort of mixed treatment.3 Eventually, the series would incorporate some of that science-fictional imagery and even introduce some of the more discomfiting issues surrounding science, technology, and space exploration. The Tomorrowland segments, however, would generally approach their subject matter from the sort of compromise vantage implicit in Walt’s initial directive.4
To further this part of the studio’s strategy, Kimball suggested that they both follow the Collier’s series and bring in some of the key rocket and space scientists of the era—Willy Ley, Heinz Haber, Ernst Stuhlinger, and especially Wernher von Braun, most of whom had been involved in the magazine project—to serve as technical consultants and even as on-air commentators. Their participation allowed Kimball to trumpet the plans for the Man in Space series on the first episode of the new Disneyland television show, where he announced that this program would reflect “the latest plans our scientists have made for the conquest of space.” And that sense of authority had an obvious impact, giving the series far more than a “veneer” of science. In fact, the initial show in the series not only received high ratings and critical praise—resulting in its being broadcast three times during the 1954-55 season and then released as a theatrical short—but also drew the attention of President Eisenhower, who requested a copy to be screened for his rocket experts in the Pentagon (Cotter 64). There was a similar request from Leonid Sedov, chair of the Soviet commission for space flight programs, for a copy (Piskiewicz 88).
Just as important as this marshaling of scientific expertise was another, as yet unexplored, element in the series’ success: the role of animation, particularly Kimball’s work. Animation was, of course, the field in which the studio had begun. It was the form Disney did best and the form in which Kimball, a veteran animator and animation director who produced the Man in Space series, was most adept. In fact, the combination of live action and animation that would be used in several of the Man in Space shows and other Tomorrowland segments over the years closely follows a hybrid pattern that Disney had developed during the World War II era and had used effectively in such feature films as Victory through Air Power (1943), The Three Caballeros (1945), Song of the South (1946), and Fun and Fancy Free (1947), among others. Here, though, Disney would employ not a single style in combination with live-action segments, but rather a telling range of animation styles to frame the series’ scientific themes, illustrate the ideas of the authorities employed, and gradually build that sense of power we earlier noted, to satisfy the “desire for omnipotence.”
“Man in Space,” the first episode of the Tomorrowland shows, quickly established the pattern that would hold for subsequent programs. Walt Disney, in introducing the show, strikes a note that clearly hints at the world of science fiction, at least at one of the genre’s major attractions, as he speculates that “many of the things that seem impossible now will become reality tomorrow.” What follows is a series of experts—Ley, Haber, and von Braun—each lecturing on a different element of space exploration and each establishing a pointedly factual tone.5 Along with their respective comments on the history of rocketry and rocket engines, on the problems of space medicine, and on the sort of rockets that would eventually take humanity into outer space, however, there are lengthy animated sequences, not only to visualize their comments—in a new twist on Sontag’s notion of “sensuous elaboration”—but also to render the technical subject matter and the “impossible” developments it portends less troubling. The animated segments do so through two strategies—first, by distancing us from those elements that were usually linked to a sensationalistic science fiction, and second, by underscoring the possibility of those that were part of current space planning.
While the Disney studio was by this time widely noted for its highly realistic animation style, commonly referred to as “illusion of life,” the animation employed for much of this program is anything but realistic.6 Rather, it is what long-time Disney animators Frank Thomas and Ollie Johnston term “styled animation,” an approach that is not meant to function naturalistically but is “particularly well suited to satire and commentary on the world we live in” (518). Through techniques such as formal exaggeration, flattening out, and the disappearance of perspective, as they explain, it can produce a sense of distance and detachment from the real and it was employed to particular effect in the wartime feature Victory through Air Power. In that case, by “removing the realism of aerial warfare” through the strategic use of such “styled” animation, the propaganda film also, they suggest, “removed the horror and was able to bring about a humorous treatment” of an otherwise troubling subject (518). And as Thomas and Johnston note, at the Disney studio Kimball was particularly noted for his abilities in this area, as his work on the Academy Award-winning cartoon Toot, Whistle, Plunk, and Boom (1953) well illustrates. In fact, Amid Amini decribes him as a “graphic iconoclast within the studio,” noting how his test footage for Disney’s animated feature Lady and the Tramp (1955) had been rejected “for being too experimental and unrealistic” (149).
From the very beginning of the “Man in Space” episode, though, Kimball establishes that unrealistic approach by employing an extreme version of “styled animation” to illustrate the history and science of rocketry and space flight. Early Chinese efforts are depicted through a stylized account of an ancient battle, as flat, perspective-less drawings show a squat, smiling Chinese figure facing the camera while lighting primitive rockets, aimed at another Chinese, who in turn fires a rocket from the opposite side of the frame. As each rocket explodes upon hitting its nearby target, the individual appears comically singed but otherwise unhurt, as we see when he, still smiling, fires a rocket in response. And with this seemingly painless violence established, the pattern then repeats. Such comic depiction, one clearly intent on “removing the realism”—and pain—of battle, while also suggesting the inefficacy of these early efforts, recurs in the following animated accounts of steam rockets, rocket guns, and other rocket inventions, all of which are shown as fantastic and rather laughable conceptions. In the process, these stylized animations also effectively situate science and technology in a new context for 1950s audiences, not as authoritative accounts but as what we today term “technoscience,” that is, as a historically and culturally shaped—or misshaped—version of science and technology.7 And that vision of these efforts not as real science, but rather as comic culturally-bound notions, further allows the sort of detachment and empowerment that contemporary audiences, beset as they were by the various cinematic visions we have already described, sorely needed.
Heinz Haber’s introduction to the new field of science medicine is similarly accompanied by a “styled” visualization, in this instance centered on an animated comic figure, labeled “homo sapiens extra terrestrialis,” who is used to demonstrate the physical problems of life in the conditions of outer space. Demonstrating another of Kimball’s strengths—he was also well known at Disney as a “caricaturist” (Barrier 312)—this figure with its outsized head, bulbous nose, stick arms and legs, and minimal features is first projected onto a grid, as if he had been drawn on graph paper. Once placed in that “scientific” context, he seems to come alive, to become rather more realistic as he is then subjected to all manner of experimentation, showing the problems of moving in a weightless environment, of eating and drinking in that condition, of being bombarded with cosmic rays and meteorites, of breathing in a vacuum, and of surviving the intense conditions of cold and heat in space. At the end of the various experiments depicted in this sequence, homo sapiens extra terrestrialis emerges, a bit more human than the Chinese rocketeers of the earlier sequence, if similarly worn and beaten, as the fuzzy edges of his outline underscore, but apparently ready for space flight. While the flat and simple line-drawn and unshaded nature of the figure again produces distance, detachment, and comic effect, his naturalistic human actions and reactions lend authority to Haber’s commentary and remind us that this sequence is not meant to serve as an account of scientific misconceptions about the conditions of life in space, but rather as a demonstration of the reality of such conditions, with the “common man” functioning, as such comic characters so often do, as a figure with whom we, as the subjects of Haber’s address, can identify at the same time as we can enjoy a feeling of superiority.
With von Braun’s discussion of the sort of rocket that will be needed to take us into outer space and eventually to the moon, the next animated sequence approaches the sort of lecture audiences might well have seen on an episode of The Johns Hopkins Science Review, one accompanied by models and schematic drawings as our authority explains how “a potential passenger rocket could be built within ten years.” Given that context, the supporting animation adopts a decidedly different style and tone; it is pointedly realistic, even dramatically so, and suggests the style of famed space illustrator Chesley Bonestell, who had provided most of the illustrations for the original Collier’s magazine series and who had a reputation for detailed and naturalistic visual art, also demonstrated in his contributions to the semi-documentary sf films Destination Moon (1950) and Conquest of Space (1955). This uninterrupted sequence detailing the preparation of a rocket, its launching into orbital flight, the conducting of various experiments in space, and the safe return to Earth is shot very much like a live-action narrative, starting with an establishing shot showing, as a narrator intones, “a small atoll of coral islands in the Pacific where man is dedicated to just one aim—the conquest of space.” To detail the action at this base, the animation simulates a number of fundamental techniques of realist cinema: a constantly tracking camera, long takes, cuts on action, and effective layering to produce a three-dimensional effect. This latter effect is especially enhanced by the use of one of the technological pillars for Disney’s illusion-of-life aesthetic, the multiplane camera. First developed in 1937, the camera allowed for the layering of multiple animation cels, the separate lighting of each cel, and carefully controlled camera movement across and even seemingly into each image, thereby producing a realistic sense of depth and a natural parallax effect unavailable in traditional animation. Here the multiplane effect is most obvious and most effectively used when the rocket is first rolled out of its hanger, dwarfing everything and everyone around it; when we tour the command and control bunker and observe the various scientists at work; when we look down from the rocket on its gantry at the various pre-launch activities in the background; and in the images of space activity shown from within the orbital vehicle. Together with the pointedly realistic style of the images and the dramatic lighting employed throughout the sequence, these effects combine to produce a stark contrast to the earlier animated segments.
This final sequence of “Man in Space” not only convincingly visualizes what “might be accomplished,” as von Braun puts it in his narration, it also effectively places viewers within this new world of heroic scientific achievement. Our easy movement through the very real space afforded by the multiplane compositions and carefully detailed artist renderings nicely parallels the movement of space flight and exploration described here, making that movement seem both possible and inviting to the audience. Moreover, it completes a pattern of visual development in the episode, as “Man in Space” moves from the flat, highly stylized animation of the opening, to the comic but more realistic antics of homo sapiens extra terrestrialis, to the starkly realized and fully dimensional rendering of space flight here—a development that reinforces the note of possibility that von Braun strikes and, in the process, suggests the kind of power that apparently already lies in the hands of the audience.
The second entry in this series, “Man and the Moon,” would generally follow the visual formula set out by “Man in Space,” although it would rely far less on experts to introduce and accompany its visuals and give much more emphasis to the work of animation. In fact, animation takes over for a majority of the narrative, with early conceptions of mankind’s relation to the moon again depicted with highly stylized, exaggerated, and decidedly comic images. And as Ward Kimball recounts how “the moon is the source of many odd beliefs and superstitions,” a line-drawn figure, even more of a Kimball-style caricature than the previous episode’s homo sapiens extra terrestrialis, illustrates those beliefs against a blank background. There is far more of an effort to “cartoon” our historical/cultural conceptions of the moon and space travel by drawing on that “styled” approach for approximately half of the program, thereby further playing up the sort of comic distance that the “Man in Space” episode had so effectively managed.
As if in an effort at balancing these comic elements, the final two sequences of “Man and the Moon” give a bit more emphasis to factual and realistic presentation. First, von Braun, using large models and schematic drawings, describes how a space station might be constructed. That presentation is then supported with what is termed “limited animation,” that is, with a series of largely still scenes, again done in the highly realistic fashion of Chesley Bonestell. Finally, von Braun’s description of what a first, exploratory moon trip might be like gives way to an extensive dramatization using hybrid animation—the combination of models, live action, and traditional animation. Here too supported by the depth effects of the multiplane camera, this combination effectively places audiences within the space of the imagined moon expedition, making it seem quite possible, showing the difficulties involved—such as a strike by a meteorite—to be easily anticipated and overcome, and situating it as just a small step in the larger human destiny of space conquest. And that destiny is underscored with the final animated image, showing the construction of another sort of craft, intended, as a narrator intones, for the future exploration of Mars.
With the final episode in this series, “Mars and Beyond,” however, Kimball would effectively test the limits of this approach. For in this case, while a “styled” animation would be employed in a very similar fashion, the realist imagery would, because of the very subject matter, have to function in a way that would strain—even undermine—some of its empowering potential. Part of the problem here is that “Mars and Beyond” depends far more on animation than the other episodes—and for that reason would prove the most expensive entry of the Man in Space series. Apart from Walt Disney’s brief episode introduction, the first half of the show is almost entirely animated, and the second half only supplements the animation with a brief live-action commentary by astronomer E.C. Slipher on scientific theories about the Martian environment (Slipher’s commentary concludes with the warning that we “cannot draw too many definite conclusions about Mars”) along with some stock footage showing von Braun and Ernst Stuhlinger examining a model of their proposed Mars explorer. The dominance of animation, along with its quality and variety, would help make this episode the most entertaining and humorous entry in the series, but it would also affect the overall tone and result in a show that produces less the sense of empowerment noted in the other episodes and more the sort of uncertainty and speculation already hinted at in Slipher’s comment.
The animation style here follows the general pattern noted in the other episodes. Much of the first half is done in the overtly stylized fashion we have observed, as Kimball and the other Disney artists provide a brief account of human fascination with the planets and stars, a sampling of the more fantastic theories about life on other planets, and, echoing contemporary sf literature and film, even speculations about possible threats those imagined others might pose to earth. Decidedly comic in tone and produced in the flat style typical of the early sequences of the other episodes, this lengthy segment concludes with a traditional cartoon, a visualization of what the narrator terms a “typical” pulp story about Martian invaders that is a bit less “styled” but clearly driven by caricature and fantastic transformations. The varied comic monsters it depicts effectively link the lurid and frightening images of the pulps and comic books to a kind of historical paranoia about the cosmic other, while also trying to dismiss their hold on our cultural imaginations. Certainly, the momentary appearance of Donald Duck in the cast of Martian monsters helps send up the sf bestiary with which cinematic audiences of the era were so familiar, while also preparing us for what we presume are the more sober views to come.
And indeed what follows in the episode’s second half reflects that expected shift in style, as the Bonestell-type space illustrations recur, and as the more traditional Disney “illusion of life” aesthetic is used, first, to speculate about what possible forms life on Mars might take, and then to depict the landing on and exploration of the planet. But it is the substance of those speculations that causes a problem here, for that realist aesthetic is marshaled not to bring us back to fact but rather to depict what the narrator terms “a whole new range of weird forms” of life—rock eating organisms, “creatures that kill by concentrating the heat of the sun on their victims,” poison-gas plants, ultra-sonic predators, and other fantastic types—all speculations, in the best sf tradition, aimed at helping, as a narrator intones, “our earth-trained minds ... to comprehend the weird phenomena that could exist on this strange new planet.” It is this real-izing of the “weird”—a term that recurs several times here—via both naturalistic animation and an authoritative voice-over that seems to pull this segment back into the very fantastic orbit that its earlier satiric tone had so effectively sent up and from which it seemingly sought to break free.
Moreover, that same compromised tone colors the final sequence describing a trip to Mars and its exploration. A highly detailed, multiplane depiction of an expedition of “atomic-electric spaceships” gives way to a landing on the surface that produces images of the different possibilities explorers might face “in this strange new world.” While these final scenes show none of the fantastic creatures previously envisioned, they do depict, as one possibility, “the remains of a long-dead civilization,” and as another, the inhospitable reaches of “a cold and dead planet,” as the narrator offers. The images of flying saucers that end the sequence, suggesting the sort of transport that later, more advanced explorers from earth might use, only complete the strangely fantastic trajectory of this sequence and, indeed, of the entire episode. For they take us back in the direction of both those earlier pulp speculations and the many disturbing cinematic variations on the theme—such as This Island Earth (1955), Earth vs. the Flying Saucers (1956), and Invasion of the Saucer Men (1957)—with which audiences of the era were all too familiar, while also envisioning us as versions of the alien other that our sf films were at the time presenting as so threatening.
If these concluding sequences were meant to forecast the sort of fantastic trajectory that our future space explorations might follow, they also effectively suggest how that path might well intersect with the fantastic world of science fiction. They thereby had the effect of recalling just the sort of disconcerting vision that so much of the rest of the series had sought to place at a distance, to debunk, and even to laugh at. Done in the highly realistic style that was consistent with the formula for these episodes—as each show gradually moved from highly stylized to naturalistic animation—they provide little of that sense of empowerment we have noted and instead suggest an element of contradiction at the stylistic level.
In retrospect, we can all too easily see the extent to which the studio’s larger focus on fantasy was simply coming into play and, to some extent, dominating—the science-fictional shading into the science factual. As a telling example, we might briefly consider a later episode in this vein, “Spy in the Sky” (April 1, 1962). It would similarly mix animation with live-action footage, as well as very different styles of animation ranging from stylized comic caricatures to realistic “limited animation,” to describe recent efforts at space exploration and to speculate on how that exploration might allow us to better predict and even control weather patterns on earth. In this case, though, there would be no on-air experts to lend a sense of authority or to anchor the animated sequences, and that speculative material would be paired with a promotional show for the forthcoming Disney space comedy Moon Pilot (1962). It is a film that not only satirized the various officials, military experts, and scientists involved in the US space program—and who had contributed in many ways to the earlier shows—but that also helped establish a model of comic science fiction—typified by titles such as Son of Flubber (1963), The Monkey’s Uncle (1965), The Computer Wore Tennis Shoes (1970), The Cat from Outer Space (1978), and Unidentified Flying Oddball (1979)—that would soon migrate to television, providing serialized episodes for the Disney anthology show, even as the program discontinued its dedicated Tomorrowland segments. In short, it was an episode that seems almost at odds with itself, surely with the early spirit that had initially inspired the Man in Space series, and that underscores the sort of difficulty Disney was having straddling science and the science fictional.
Of course, critics have often pointed to different ways in which other Disney texts are marked by contradiction. In their efforts at deconstructing contemporary Disney animated features, for example, Eleanor Byrne and Martin McQuillan have pointed to some of the “ways in which the Disney text carries within it a radical ambivalence to the Disney narrative” (35), such as the manner in which recent animated heroines, while providing strong role models in line with feminist expectations, also invariably succumb to the traditional narrative closure of romantic love that has often characterized these films. The empowering images simply seem to run afoul of a narrative trajectory that has, over time and throughout western culture, been proven to sell. Yet long before the clumsily “politically-correct” Disney of today, we can see this pattern at work in the largely non-narrative and science-oriented venue of Disneyland’s Tomorrowland shows. For even as they sought to provide audiences with an alternative vantage on the fantastic and to some extent disturbing imagery of rockets and space—all of which came freighted with the extra weight of Cold War anxieties, with the fears of what those essentially military rockets were primarily designed to do—Disney’s Man in Space programs eventually suggest the lure of a powerful cultural narrative about space, rocketry, and exploration in which we—and Disney—were already caught up and which exercised its own sort of power over period audiences.
In developing their own distinct aesthetic address to these concerns, particularly by drawing on the studio’s acknowledged strength in animation and even combining several distinct styles of animation, Ward Kimball and the other Disney animators might well have expected that they would be able to impart a sense of power over these loaded and potentially troubling images—at least to draw “science” out of what had become the typical science-fictional context. Certainly, they could draw those images in the sort of realistic or exaggerated terms that, while putting their own “skill and virtuosity” on display, could by turns provide a satisfying emotional and intellectual distance or suggest very real possibilities for space achievement. Yet as Paul Wells has noted about Disney animation, over the years all too often “‘technique’ subsumes ‘narrative’” (105), draining away or subverting its meaning.
This effect was not lost on Disney, as a slightly later effort, “Inside Outer Space” (1963), would pointedly capitalize on it. Produced in the midst of a very real space race, this fully-animated episode would cobble together the best humorous segments from the Man in Space shows, all those that maximally used Kimball’s “styled” approach, linking them not with scientific authorities but with the new cartoon character Ludwig von Drake, to pull back from the reality of international space competition by providing a purely stylized and comic account of our human fascination with space—and, in effect, of the power that fascination exercised over us. While anticipating such later cartoon efforts in this vein as The Jetsons or even Futurama, this episode reminds us of the rather different yet simultaneous potentials of animation or—to revisit O’Pray’s remarks with which we began—the different sorts of empowerment it implies. For if it allows us the exhilarating capacity to envision new realities, to bring into being that which we can only dream about, it also shows how we might color those realities, even turn them into simple amusements, distractions from the real business at hand. Of course, it is to Disney’s credit that, for much of the Man in Space series, and indeed for most of the company’s Tomorrowland shows, it applied its key talent to the former task; but it is a reminder of the lure of easy entertainment and of the common desire to sidestep reality that this same talent could so quickly slip into the latter mode as well, letting the imaginative capacity of animation, impelled by a keen sense of changing audience attitudes, work its power on us. But it may well be in such dynamic plays of power—both granted to us and wielded over us—that we might find one of the most consistent hallmarks of the typical Disney text.
1. The “True-Life Adventure” films were nature documentaries produced between 1948 and 1960. Many of them were shorts, although there were also some feature-length productions. The films were highly popular, very profitable, and generally well praised, with eight of them winning Academy Awards, including Seal Island (1948), Beaver Valley (1950), Nature’s Half Acre (1951), Water Birds (1952), and Bear Country (1953). For a discussion of their genesis and reception, see Watts (303-308).
2. Captain Video was particularly infamous for its minimalist approach to special effects. Its effects budget was apparently limited to $25 per week (see Lucanio and Coville’s American Science Fiction Television Series 100).
3. The Collier’s articles appeared in the issues for March 22, 1952, March 14, 1953, June 27, 1953, and April 30, 1954. For additional background on them, see my Disney TV.
4. I examine the sort of compromise narrative approach that marks the Disney “Tomorrowland” segments in my article “Disney in Science Fiction Land.”
5. Ley, we might note, had a long history of helping to popularize rocketry and to add notes of accuracy and authenticity to film and television. In fact, even as he worked on the Disney shows, he was also serving as technical consultant to Tom Corbett, Space Cadet, a tv series certainly geared more to the notion of adventuring in outer space than to space exploration (see Robinson 64). Ley’s science writings appeared in a range of popular periodicals, including sf magazines such as Galaxy, where he served as Science Editor from 1952 until his death in 1969.
6. Two of Disney’s most famous animators, Frank Thomas and Ollie Johnston, offer an insider’s account of the development of this aesthetic in their insiders’ book, Disney Animation: The Illusion of Life.
7. The term “technoscience,” as originally popularized by the sociologist Bruno Latour, is central to contemporary science studies. Aylish Wood, in a recent study of technoscience in contemporary film, explains that the term “encapsulates the processes through which any range of influences works on the practices of science and technology, and is not a shorthand collapse of the words science and technology” (3). It thus marks the point at which we recognize the inevitable operations of culture on both scientific thinking and technological practice.
Amidi, Amid. Cartoon Modern: Style and Design in Fifties Animation. San Francisco: Chronicle, 2006.
Barrier, Michael. Hollywood Cartoons: American Animation in Its Golden Age. Oxford: Oxford UP, 1999.
Byrne, Eleanor, and Martin McQuillen. Deconstructing Disney. London: Pluto, 1999.
Cotter, Bill. The Wonderful World of Disney Television: A Complete History. New York: Hyperion, 1997.
Gabler, Neal. Walt Disney: The Triumph of the American Imagination. New York: Knopf, 2006.
Lucanio, Patrick, and Gary Coville. American Science Fiction Television Series of the 1950s. Jefferson, NC: McFarland, 1998.
_______.Smokin’ Rockets: The Romance of Technology in American Film, Radio and Television, 1945-1962. Jefferson, NC: McFarland, 2002.
Piszkiewicz, Dennis. Wernher von Braun: The Man Who Sold the Moon. Westport, CT: Praeger, 1998.
O’Pray, Michael. “Eisenstein and Stokes on Disney: Film Animation and Omnipotence.” A Reader in Animation Studies. Ed. Jayne Pilling. London: John Libbey, 1997. 195-202.
Robinson, Murray. “Planet Parenthood.” Collier’s (Jan. 5 1952): 31, 63-64.
Sontag, Susan. “The Imagination of Disaster.” 1965. Against Interpretation. New York: Dell, 1966. 212-28.
Telotte, J.P. Disney TV. Detroit: Wayne State UP, 2004.
_______.“Disney in Science Fiction Land.” Journal of Popular Film and Television 33.1 (Spring 2005): 12-21.
Thomas, Frank, and Ollie Johnston. The Illusion of Life: Disney Animation. 1981. Rev. ed. New York: Disney Editions, 1995.
Watts, Steven. The Magic Kingdom: Walt Disney and the American Way of Life. Columbia: U of Missouri P, 1997.
Wells, Paul. Animation and America. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers UP, 2002.
Wood, Aylish. Technoscience in Contemporary American Film: Beyond Science Fiction. Manchester: Manchester UP, 2002.
Back to Home