Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Magic Highway, USA

Magic Highway, USAI’m fond of retro-futurism, the appreciation of past visions of the future; often the “future” in which we are currently living.

I’m particularly delighted with future visions rendered out in that wonderful ’50s & ’60s modern cartoon style that seems to be having a bit of a revival these days.

Disney’s Magic Highway, USA is a classic in the genre. Originally part of a TV program aired in 1958, it took off from visionary speculation about the U.S. Interstate Highway System, the construction of which had just been authorized two years prior.

The animation presaged some of the realistic aspects of that system, which had been championed by then-President Eisenhower as a national defense initiative. The animators then carried on into flights of imaginative fantasy about the future of automobile transportation.

It is at once naive, silly, fanciful, astute, ridiculous, clever and, at times, surprisingly predictive of things like rear-view cameras, digital dashboard read-outs (“onboard teletypes”) and the equivalent of GPS map displays.

Remember this is pre-Interstate Highway, pre-Jetsons, pre-space travel, pre-widespread commercial jet travel and produced at a time when computers as powerful as an iPhone took a up an entire room.

It is also remarkably insightful in the prediction of the de-centralization of urban areas into an idyllic version of contemporary suburban sprawl.

The animation and design work are a delight. Disney, both in animation and in their theme parks, often indulges in futurism, and this is one of the best examples from their animation studios.

Unfortunately, I don’t know of a source for the animation credits.

[Via Daring Fireball]

 

6 thoughts on “Magic Highway, USA

  1. Dave Dubé

    Having done ‘without’ access to TV in the Fifties and Sixties of my youth, this is the type of illustration art I enjoyed in the Popular Mechanics magazines I swallowed whole at the local library.

  2. Dave Dubé

    I made it. All the way back to August of 2005 and your first post. Along the way, I found Escher, McCay and a host of my favorites including Vermeer, but a lot of true artists I’ve never been exposed to. I’m convinced. Don’t stop now.

  3. Charley Parker Post author

    Thanks, Dave. I’m amazed that you went all the way through.

    I don’t have any intention of stopping (grin); there are plenty more where those came from. I haven’t even gotten to many of my favorites yet.

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