1. Mars and Beyond – This episode of Disneyland, the ABC show that would eventually become The Wonderful World of Disney, Walt Disney Presents, and about a dozen other variations on that title, presents the history and future of speculation on the rest of the Solar System and man’s eventual place in it.
This episode is similar in structure to “Man in Space”, but really ups the ante in just about every way with its ambition. It opens with Walt and his robot pal named Garco:
No real reason is given for Garco’s presence, and he’s not featured in the rest of the special, but just look at him!. In typical Disney fashion we’re then taken through the history of man’s speculation of just what was out there in the cosmos, back when all we could do with space was to just look at it with the naked eye.
There’s a ton of gorgeous original animation in this special -it fills the majority of the first half hour and a good chunk of the second. We’re guided through our evolving view of the cosmos; the uncannily accurate, the charmingly inaccurate, and the downright embarrassing branches our views took. My favorites are the interpretations of Bernard De Fontenelle’s visions of what life was like on other planets. Here’s Venus:
About halfway through the special, it shifts gears to what we think might really be out there given our current knowledge of the world around us. It starts this section off with a slightly cruder animation of how the Solar System was formed, how Earth was formed, and eventually, how we were formed – beings capable of living within a wide range of temperatures given the right equipment.
We’re then told about the specific ways each planet would kill us. Saturn’s my favorite, because it looks like a beautiful way to go.
The special then turns to Mars specifically, emphasizing that Man could actually make a go of things there in contrast to the other planets. E.C. Slipher is brought in to give a little more color to the idea, which includes the suggestion that life may already exist on Mars…
…and we’re brought back into more animated speculation on how life might have evolved there.
The last third or so of the special drills down on our efforts to get to Mars. This thing aired in 1957, and seeing this sorted of plan formulated at that point in time both inspires and depresses me. Here’s the spacecraft suggested, an atomic powered saucer 500 feet in diameter and supporting a crew of 20 people.
The reactor is on the bottom of the stem, and the landing vessel is attached to it. On the opposite end of the stem from the vessel is the thruster. The special concludes with a view of the proposed mission, with several of these craft taking the trip to the red planet together.
This special is really well done and captures just about everything I love about Disney the futurist. Like most of his futurism, there’s not a lot of time spent on what wouldn’t work about these ideas or the incredible costs they’d rack up or the dozen other things that would prevent this and I’d make the argument that there doesn’t really need to be. Not here, at least – these specials were meant to inspire first and inform second. And they certainly do that.
Here it is. Enjoy!
2. St. Nicholas Magazine Covers – St. Nicholas was a children’s magazine from the late 19th and early 20th century, published by Scribners. Their covers are beautiful; here are some that caught my eye.
And here’s a promotional poster for the magazine that I also love.
3. Starriors – Here’s a commercial for Starriors, a robot toy from the ’80s that featured an old-school wind-up mechanic in a then-modern way. That’s a lot of dashes in one sentence!
4. Columbia House Games – Did you know Columbia House had a branch that extended their rip-off service to include computer games? Now you do! Here’s an ad from the early ’80s with the available titles and platforms.
Full disclosure: I could not get enough of that Cabbage Patch Kids game as a kid. As far as ColecoVision goes, that one was a system-seller.
5. Chee-tos Ad – And finally, an odd ad for Chee-tos. I wonder if they really got the Duke of Cheddar to say that. I do miss that old logo and those old bag designs. Why did we stop letting the customer see the chips inside of the bag?