1. Our Friend the Atom – In 1956 the Disney propaganda machine and the Disney futurist machine held hands and created Our Friend the Atom, a book and documentary that really is Disney at its best.
Our Friend the Atom was a joint effort with the German physicist Heinz Heber to position nuclear energy as a constructive tool that could be used for good – not an easy job in an era where the effects of the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki had given the atom a pretty bad reputation. The documentary and book both rely heavily on both Heber’s clear explanation of the science and Disney’s expertise at…everything else. The animation, illustration, and production of both book and documentary are top-notch. The story relies heavily on a parallel drawn with an old fable about a fisherman who unleashes a wrathful genie. He quickly outsmarts the genie, tricking him back into the bottle so that he can be contained. It’s interesting that they position nuclear energy and nature as something that needed to be “tricked” in order to harness it.
Here are some of my favorite images from the book – it’s a layout dream:
And here’s the special itself. It sounds weird to say, because all of the videos I post here I feel are worth watching, but this one is really something great.
2. Geometry of Circles – Philip Glass composed this piece for Sesame Street in 1979. Four animations were made from it, and here they are all put together. Amazing stuff.
3. Space Cavern – This 1982 Atari game tells the story of a powerful conqueror who travels through space subjugating every species he comes across and tucking each new world under his belt before moving on to the next. At least, that’s what I extrapolate from this game, which is essentially one stage played over and over with increasing difficulty. Oh, and the artwork:
The ad media seems to back that up, this sort of Space Manifest Destiny:
The graphics are cute for the time, there’s a level of intricacy you don’t see. At the end of the day, though, it’s easy to see why this game didn’t make much of a splash – there’s not much there. Still, charming. Here’s how to beat it from one of those “How To Beat Home Video Games” VHS tapes:
4. Ouija Board Commercials – This ’90s ad campaign for Ouija Boards suggests that you disturb the uncomfortably deceased to ask them things like, “Will my parents let me go to the concert” or “Who should I give the bracelet to?”. It’s times like this that I wish these things were real so that we could see the otherworldly reaction…
5. Beanbags – I’ll leave you with this 1975 Montgomery Ward Catalog panel featuring two super-hip adults using beanbags AS THEIR ONLY FURNITURE.