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14 FEBRUARY 2012

A is for Atom: atomic giants released from within the atom's heart

"Although the 'Atoms for Peace' campaign was formally launched in 1957, corporate America began to promote peaceful uses of atomic energy as early as the first few months after Hiroshima. A Is For Atom, an artifact of this effort, takes this highly loaded and threatening issue straight to the public in an attempt to 'humanize' the figure of the atom.

A Is For Atom speaks of five atomic 'giants' which 'man has released from within the atom's heart': the warrior and destroyer, the farmer, the healer, the engineer and the research worker. Each is pictured as a majestic, shimmering outline figure towering over the earth. 'But all are within man's power – subject to his command,' says the narrator reassuringly, and our future depends 'on man's wisdom, on his firmness in the use of that power.'

General Electric, a long–time manufacturer of electric appliances, power generation plants, and nuclear weapon components, is staking a claim here, asserting their interest in managing and exploiting this new and bewildering technology. Its pitch: this is powerful, frightening, near–apocalyptic technology, but managed with firmness, it can be profitable and promising. This 'Trust us with the control of technology, and we'll give you progress without end' pitch resembles what we've seen in films like General Motors' To New Horizons (on the Ephemeral Films disc). But the automobile, of course, wasn't a weapon of mass destruction.

In its first two years of release, A Is For Atom was seen by over seven million people in this version and a shortened ten–minute theatrical cut. In 1953 it won first prizes in both the Columbus (Ohio) and Turin (Italy) Film Festivals, the Freedoms Foundation Award, an 'oscar' from the Cleveland Film Festival, and a Merit Award from Scholastic Teacher. In 1954 it won first prize in the Stamford Film Festival, a Golden Reel Award from the American Film Assembly, and a second Grand Award from the Venice Film Festival. The film was remade in the mid–sixties and is still available for rental.

Like other John Sutherland films, A Is For Atom presents a portentious message in a visually delightful and often self–deprecating manner. 'Element Town' and its quirky inhabitants, including hyped–up Radium and somnolent Lead, is unforgettable, and the animated chain reaction manages to avoid any suggestion of nuclear fear."

(Internet Archive)

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TAGS

19572D • A is for Atom • animated presentationanimationapocalypticatomatomic energy • atomic giants • Atoms for Peace • automobilechain reactioncorporate America • destroyer • eduction campaign • electric appliances • electricity • electricty • Element Town • engineer • Ephemeral Films • farmer • future • General Electric • General Motorsgiant • healer • Hiroshima • humanise • Internet Archive • John Sutherland • lead • mass destructionnew horizonsnuclear fearnuclear weapon • portentious • power • power generation • progresspropaganda • radium • science • Sutherland Productions • technologytrusturaniumvisual representations of scientific concepts • visually delightful • warrior

CONTRIBUTOR

Simon Perkins
20 FEBRUARY 2010

Walt Disney's Experimental Prototype Community Of Tomorrow

"Take a look at Walt Disney's vision for the city of the future, the Experimental Prototype Community Of Tomorrow or Epcot. 'No city of today will serve as the guide for the city of tomorrow,' serves as a guiding principle as varied ideas from shopping mall living, to freeways, to pedestrian safety, to high speed transit are considered. Disney himself says the city of tomorrow must abandon the old cities and their problems and be built on virgin land from scratch.

From its 'cosmopolitan convention center' to its theme–park shopping districts, Disney envisioned his 50–acre city core, completely enclosed and climate controlled like a shopping mall, hermetically sealed from the natural world. Outside of this air–conditioned environment of shops and offices, apartments, then parks and schools, then suburban houses radiate in a fantasy of controlled zoning where every use is separated from every other use.

Despite being conceived as a modern utopia based around the automobile, Epcot envisions a future of mass transit for the daily commute. 'Freeways will not be EPCOT's major way of entering and leaving the city,' declares a confident narrator. Instead, an electrified monorail and people mover will connect the city and suburb, radiating in all directions from the core. It was envisioned that the primary use of the car would be for 'weekend pleasure trips.'

Repeatedly, the dangers of automobile traffic for pedestrians are cited. The pedestrian is, in fact, declared 'king' as transportation uses, like Epcot's zoning, are completely separated. The pedestrian is 'free to walk and browse without fear of motorized vehicles.' Children and bikes have separate paths in the suburbs for walking or riding to school. Electric vehicles travel on elevated roadway's through Epcot's downtown while underground transit carries workers in and out of the city. Separate facilities for cars and trucks are provided further underground.

Disney did eventually build a prototype city, but the end result was far from what was envisioned for Epcot. The town of Celebration, Florida chose not to abandon the cities of the past but to embrace the patterns that make them so interesting to experience. New Urbanism has been brought in to create a mixed–use town center and compact living. Celebration was just as carefully planned as the Epcot of old, but the end result is quite different."

(Branden Klayko, 20 November 2009, Broken Sidewalk)

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CONTRIBUTOR

Simon Perkins
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