austin_dern (austin_dern) wrote,
austin_dern
austin_dern

Running back home to Gasoline Alley

Destination Earth is another from the Short Subjects Fit Between TCM Underground And The Programming Day collection. It's a 1956 cartoon from the American Petrolium Institute showing the results of a Martian expedition to the Earth attempting to understand the high quality of life enjoyed in the United States. Mostly, it turns out, the answer is the petroleum industry. Oh, capitalism and free markets and fair competition and democracy get their bids in, but really, it's all in service to the petroleum industry.

The framing story is of how the Martian Fearless Leader Ogg is having everyone come at gunpoint to Ogg Memorial Stadium to hear how the Ogg Space Force sent a fearless explorer to do Ogg's bidding. There's a bit of fun to be had in the difference between the narration and the animation of what ``really'' happened --- how the explorer eagerly volunteered for this, shown by him being dragged kicking and screaming into the space station; infiltrating a top-secret government archives building, shown by him walking (admittedly, invisibly) into the library; his landing was a little bumpy, that is, it was a total wreck.

The real appeal here is the animation style and the general tone of what humor creeps in through the agitprop. Animators include such names as George Cannata, Ken O'Brien, Bill Higgins, Tom Ray, and Russ Von Neida, none of whom may stand out very prominently, but they were pretty much reliably there if you watched something animated in the 60s or 70s, including the earliest Charlie Brown features. Bill Scott, voice of Bullwinkle and writer for a lot of Jay Ward projects, was one of the story men. The producer was John Sutherland, who turns out not to have been one of the Filmation masterminds but who was the voice of the adult Bambi, so, huh. Anyway, the point is, the visual styling and animation are reminiscent without imitating the Jay Ward cartoons or those early Hanna-Barbera product when they seemed to be trying. I don't say it catches anyone at their best, but it catches some very good people doing work that's respectable enough.

Trivia: General Petroleum, a chain of California gas stations, became in 1924 the first to use the term ``credit card'' for its General Petroleum Credit Card. Source: A History of Credit and Power in the Western World, Scott B MacDonald, Albert L Gastmann.

Currently Reading: Reilly: Ace Of Spies, Robin Bruce Lockhart. Is it irrational that I was deeply offended at the world when I learned that Reilly, Ace Of Spies, was a real actual person who truly existed and not just a quasi-pulpy spy adventure character?

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