Monday, 26 July 2010

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

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Oh Heavens! I had wanted to post - for quite a while now - something about General Motors' Futurama, the centre-piece of the 1939 New York World's Fair that I first saw mentioned in Michael Chabon's superb book "The Adventures of Kavalier and Clay". Quite a bit of the research behind "Money" concerned expositions in which businesses invite citizens to queue up and have their future dictated to them - perhaps partly because of the structural similarity of a theme park ride to a lot of Shunt's work - and it seemed to me that the 1939's World Fair, and the Futurama specifically, had really set the trend for this kind of experience: it was Disney's work there that led to the spawning of Disneyland, Disney World and the Experimental Prototype Community Of Tomorrow EPCOT (and it's very probably why Tony Stark's dad in Iron Man 2 has that moustache). However when I finally came to research the Fair properly to write this post (and by research I mean of course "surf youtube") I re-read the Chabon only to find out that the exhibit into whose remains Clay and Bacon  sneak was not actually the Futurama at all, but its companion piece "Democracity", and looking up footage of that I came across this typically arresting and gigantic accompanying narrative from Adam Curtis about the attraction's creator Edward Bernays (particularly fascinating for me as the similarly arresting and gigantic sci-fi sitcom pilot that I am currently putting off is inspired by this exact same link between Futurism and Shadowy Figures Of Influence... or might as well be... I dunno, haven't written it yet...)



And THAT in turn led 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 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, 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, isn't it? 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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Those 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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