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Director: Ward Kimball
Airing date: December 28, 1955
Stars: Walt Disney, Ward Kimball, Wernher von Braun
Rating: ★★★
Review:

Man and the Moon © Walt DisneyAfter ‘Man in Space‘ (1955), ‘Man and the Moon’ is the second of three Disneyland broadcasts documenting man’s plans to conquest space.

‘Man of the Moon’ deals with the conquest of the moon, and consists of four parts. The first, largely animated, tells about man’s fascination for the moon, depicting the moon in mythology, in literature, in folklore, in nursery rhymes and in song. This sequence is a highlight of ‘cartoon modern’ style, and is full of director Ward Kimball’s trademark zany humor. It’s also the highlight of the documentary, despite the studio’s efforts to evoke the first mission to the moon in the fourth part. The folklore section is the most bold part featuring a highly stylized man, but even better are the charming animated children’s drawings in the nursery rhyme section. The sequence ends hilariously with a silly tin pan alley song about the moon, in which the writers throw in every obvious rhyme word (June, swoon, spoon, honeymoon, and even Daniel Boone).

After 18 minutes of great animation, the live action sections start, beginning with the second part. This is the shortest of the four, and features Ward Kimball in real person, telling us facts about the moon. The third part is hosted by German rocket scientist Wernher von Braun, who tells about a possible mission to the moon. Surprisingly, Von Braun does not try to land on the moon, but merely wants to fly around it. His plans involve the assembly of a giant wheel-like space station before even one vessel is flown to the moon.

His plans are shown in the fourth part as an “on the spot account of the first expedition to the moon”. Unfortunately, this is not as exciting a finale it possibly was in 1955, despite the dramatic music and the inclusion of an emergency scene in which a small meteor hits one of the fuel tanks. Nevertheless, the special effects are quite good, showing the space station rotating, and smaller reparation vessel leaving the moon rocket. Especially,  weightlessness within the moon rocket is shown quite convincingly.

In 1957 Disney even showed more ambitious space plans, in ‘Mars and Beyond’.

Watch ‘Man and the Moon’ yourself and tell me what you think:

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Directors: William Beaudine & Wilfred Jackson
Airing date: November 30, 1955
Stars: Walt Disney, Gertie the Dinosaur, Colonel Heeza Liar, Silas Bumpkin, Bobby Bumps, Felix the Cat, Koko the Clown
Rating: ★★★★★
Review:

The Story of Animated Drawing © Walt DisneyWalt Disney himself hosts a Disneyland television episode on the history of animation, from the humble attempts to capture movement in drawing in the caves of Lascaux to his own masterpiece ‘Fantasia’ (1940).

Disney demonstrates some early devices of animation like the thaumatrope, the phenakistoscope, the zoetrope and the praxinoscope, showing that animation in fact predates cinema. One of the highlights of the program is the complete showing of one of Charles-Émile Reynaud’s animated “films” for his own praxinoscope device. The other one is the reenactment of Winsor McCay’s vaudeville show with Gertie the Dinosaur (1914). This part alone makes the episode worthwhile watching, as McCay’s classic work becomes even stronger in its vaudeville context.

More animation from other early studios is shown, like Bray’s Colonel Heeza Liar, Raoul Barré’s Silas Bumpkin, Earl Hurd’s Bobby Bumps and Pat Sullivan’s Felix the Cat.

Disney also plays tribute to his old rival, Max Fleischer, by showing a Koko the Clown cartoon, accompanied by organ playing by his own cartoon composer, Oliver Wallace. The show ends with one of Walt Disney’s major achievements, the Nutcracker Suite from’Fantasia'(1940), which, unfortunately, is shown in black and white.

Watch ‘The Story of Animated Drawing’ yourself and tell me what you think:

‘The Story of Animated Drawing’ is available on the DVD ‘Walt Disney Treasures: Behind the Scenes at the Walt Disney Studio’

Director: Ward Kimball
Airing Date: March 9, 1955
Stars: Walt Disney, Ward Kimball, Wernher von Braun
Rating: ★★★★
Review:

Man in Space © Walt Disney‘Man in Space’ is a Disneyland special about man’s conquest of space, which, two years before the launching of Sputnik, was still a dream at that time.

The documentary includes information about rockets, weightlessness and concludes with an exciting account of man’s first space travel, based on the designs by rocket engineer Wernher von Braun. Von Braun is one of three German scientists featured in the program, the others being Willy Ley and Heinz Haber, demonstrating the enormous influence of German scientists on American science. Ley had fled Nazi Germany in 1935, but Haber stayed there till the end of the war, and Von Braun was even responsible for the deadly V2 rocket, a technical tour-de-force, but also the Nazi regime’s most fearful weapon.

‘Man in Space’ is shortly introduced by Walt Disney himself, quickly giving the presentation to director Ward Kimball, who remains the main host of the program. Kimball is clearly in his element here. His own wacky cartoon animation style is featured in a short history of man’s attempts to enter space, and in Haber’s accounts of ‘space medicine’. Indeed, he later called the space series, of which ‘Man in Space’ is the first entry, the creative high point of his career.

Throughout the movie, the use of animation is sparse, however, and the animation itself very limited. Nevertheless, its use is very effective, especially in the visionary concluding part, with its typical fifties science fiction designs.

‘Man in Space’ would be followed by ‘Man and the Moon‘ (1955) and ‘Mars and Beyond’ (1957), taking ideas on space travel even further.

Watch ‘Man in Space’ yourself and tell me what you think:

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