Monday, 26 July 2010

The First Futurama (ADAM CURTIS SAYS "WATCH IT")

(originally posted on myspace here)

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Oh Heavens! I was hoping to put up a post about General Motors' Futurama from the 1939 World's Fair which I first found mentioned in Michael Chabon's superb book "The Adventures of Kavalier and Clay". Perhaps partly because of the structural similarity of a lot of Shunt's work to a ride, quite a bit of the research behind "Money" had concerned theme parks and expositions - where citizens were invited by businesses to queue up and have their future dictated to them - and for me the 1939's World Fair, and the Futurama in particular, really stand out as something like the fountainhead. It was after all Disney's work on this Fair that led to the spawning of Disney Land, Disney World and the Experimental Project City Of Tomorrow (and is why Tony Stark's dad in Iron Man 2 has that moustache). But coming to write this post, and re-reading the Chabon, I realised I had in fact completely overlooked in my research (and by research of course I mean "surfing youtube") the exhibit into whose remains Clay and Bacon actually sneak: not "Futurama" but its companion piece "Democracity". And thus, looking for footage of Democracity, I came across the following typically arresting and gigantic narrative from Adam Curtis about its creator Edward Bernays (particularly fascinating for me as the similarly arresting and gigantic sci-fi sitcom pilot I am currently putting off is inspired by exactly this same link between Futurism and Shadowy Figures Of Influence, or might as well be, I dunno, haven't written it yet)...



... And this in turn took me to Adam Curtis' equally arresting take on interviewing the Goldsmiths here. So what I'm saying is I got a bit distracted.

But let's plough on: Here are some stills of the 1939 Futurama taken from a contemporary home movie. It's not simply the scale of the ride that knocks me out - FAR larger than I expected - but the accuracy! Look at it! No steam-powered rain-shields or helicopter-bussles here, this is pretty much how 1960 turned out, no? It's like General Motors said "This is the Future" and the world said "Oh okay." Keep your hands in the machine, please:

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These are moving cars by the way, driven by a clockwork mechanism. The effect is startlingly realistic in some  footage. Anyway, into the night...

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See? BIG!

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No but REALLY BIG!

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"Residential, commercial and industrial areas all have been separated for greater efficiency, and greater convenience," says the narrator. It is that sinister.

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"Here is an American City re-planned around a highly developed modern traffic system..." he goes on.

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"On all express city thoroughfares the rights of way have been so routed as to displace outmoded business sections and undesirable slum areas whenever possible..."

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"Man continually strives to replace the Old with the New. Rich in sunshine is the City of 1960."

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Sigh...

The full promotional film, complete with spooky organ music, is here.
And the home movie from which these images were taken is here, I think. I lost the link. It's spectacular whatever it is.
Oh and of course Money's still on here.

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