Magic highway
August 13, 2010 11:30 PM   Subscribe

Magic highway
posted by twoleftfeet (50 comments total) 21 users marked this as a favorite

 
Atomic rock melting tunnel borers are the new jetpack.
posted by Burhanistan at 11:36 PM on August 13, 2010 [1 favorite]


Then along came them environmentalist and ruined everything.
posted by Some1 at 11:42 PM on August 13, 2010


It's amazing how accurately The Venture Brothers mimic these videos.
posted by spiderskull at 11:42 PM on August 13, 2010


Somehow hasn't appeared on Metafilter before. This is from a 1958 Disneyland episode “Magic Highway U.S.A.

I couldn't put more context into the link without ruining the fun.
posted by twoleftfeet at 11:44 PM on August 13, 2010 [1 favorite]


Well, they got bits of it right here and there: containerised cargo ships, the Channel Tunnel. But scary how everything and everyone shot into the glowing Sun at the end and all got burned up...
posted by aqsakal at 11:46 PM on August 13, 2010


Wow, such certainty! What magnificent bravado! They think they can take their current technology and extend, extend, extend, each step perfectly logical and, thus, predictable. It makes such sense!

I had only dimly remembered this kind of breathless futurism from my childhood. Thanks.
posted by gilrain at 12:00 AM on August 14, 2010


Atomic rock melting tunnel borers remind me of the Horta from Star Trek : The Devil in the Dark, Season 1, episode 26.
posted by filchyboy at 12:02 AM on August 14, 2010


I don't get it. Why are all the people so skinny?
posted by aubilenon at 12:02 AM on August 14, 2010 [1 favorite]


Like the 1950's but moreso.
posted by jeffbrown at 12:05 AM on August 14, 2010


It occurred to me that scenes such as 2:13 look like concept art for some alternate universe post-WWII futurist RTS game.

I would love to play this game.
posted by hanoixan at 12:12 AM on August 14, 2010


4:56 "Advances in technology will give us more time for leisure in tomorrow's living."

They've been feeding us that bullshit for a long time.
posted by quadog at 12:13 AM on August 14, 2010 [11 favorites]


sure, I see no reason why all the eleventy billion miles of roadway can't have radiant heat. i see no energy use, maintenance, or control issues with that, at all.

"as father chooses the route in advance on a push-button selector" hey wait, this actually kind of happened.
posted by ninjew at 12:14 AM on August 14, 2010 [1 favorite]


It's amazing Disney was able to accurately predict the Sun Powered Electro-Suspension Car (which needs no wheels), the Sheer Cliff Scaling Highway Escalator and how advances in technology have given us more time for leisure in tomorrow's living.

However, they did underestimate the tragic consequences of the the Atomic Reactor Tunnel Borer and the One Sweep Giant RoadBuilder.
posted by jabo at 12:15 AM on August 14, 2010


Lies. It was always lies. Some of us always knew that, too, even then; don't be surprised if it turns out the 1950s are nothing like what your parents told them they were.

If took your pick of the thousand most intelligent human beings in the United States in 1958 and told them that the Walt Disney Corporation would be chosen to represent them to future generations, they would quake violently and beg for mercy.
posted by koeselitz at 12:16 AM on August 14, 2010 [4 favorites]


It's reassuring to know that father will still be in charge.
posted by pracowity at 12:16 AM on August 14, 2010 [5 favorites]


Wow, I love the art direction of this. And it's kind of hilarious, too.

I mean, it starts out normal enough, with your high-speed highways and larger road signs and such, but then the atomic rock-melting tunnel borer shows up and the whole thing literally turns into The Jetsons.

Also:

"The increased speed of tomorrow's automobile will demand that highway signs be... more simple to read, so the motorist can anticipate his moves well in advance."

[Camera pans across a terrifying multi-colored dodecahedron covered with numbers]
posted by EmGeeJay at 12:27 AM on August 14, 2010 [10 favorites]


My favorite is the end, when the magical insulated sunway, after conquering the scorching deserts and the freezing passes, finally has the strength to break into Asia
posted by goodglovin77 at 12:39 AM on August 14, 2010


This was made when the Interstate Highway System was only 2 years old, and I'm sure the actual state of affairs wrt long-distance driving was really looking up. So that's probably why anyone at Disney was able to get so wildly excited about highways, of all things, that they made a short with so many silly predictions. Though also, what's the point of making a cartoon with believable

A lot of the designs there just don't make mechanical sense no matter how strong your materials are. The highway extruder (especially the bridge extruder) reminded me of Repelatron Skyway, which was written about 5 years later.

Basically though, I blame the Interstate Highway project for a lot of our problems. The reason it takes 2x as long to get anywhere by train as by car is that's what we've spent a crap ton of public and private money optimizing for. So trains are worse and cars are better and we're fucked because of oil.
posted by aubilenon at 1:04 AM on August 14, 2010 [3 favorites]


I like that even with the technology to build insta-bridges and flying cars, we still need to control them with punch-cards.
posted by twirlypen at 1:10 AM on August 14, 2010 [4 favorites]


The painfully optimistic futurism was cringeworthy, but less so thanks to the dulcet tones of Paul Frees, who was all over Tomorrowland and most of the rest of Disneyland with either his Standard Narration Voice, Dr. Ludwig Von Drake or some celebrity impersonation (he did a lot of Orson Welles because he did it so well). And away from the Mouse House, he was best known for the voices of Boris Badenov and Poppin' Fresh the Pillsbury Doughboy. Now THAT's range.
posted by oneswellfoop at 1:22 AM on August 14, 2010 [6 favorites]


Metafilter: a terrifying multi-colored dodecahedron covered with numbers.
posted by cthuljew at 1:30 AM on August 14, 2010 [4 favorites]


I'm not sure I'm disappointed - if the future was supposed to be a highway running between the Sphinx and the Pyramids, I'm glad we failed.
posted by mdonley at 1:46 AM on August 14, 2010 [1 favorite]


You know what's really strange?

I grew up with the Tex Avery MGM (& other later WB) parodies of these on TV - but I've never seen any of the oh-so-earnest originals!

"Safe above vehicular traffic, moving sidewalks make window shopping effortless". (Cue humorous pile-up as Mom cranes her neck and runs to stay in place to ogle futuristically-styled mini-pinny…)

Not to mention that the "airborne emergency unit" is exactly how I mentally pictured the Firefly in Ivan Southall's "Simon Black" novels.

(I'm leaving out the explanation of why I've started reading 1950's Boy's Own-style novels at the age of 42…)
posted by Pinback at 1:48 AM on August 14, 2010


The sylph powered dimension will power the wives of tomorrow. Travel! Shopping! Lovers!
posted by Mblue at 2:25 AM on August 14, 2010


Heated interstates? They sure knew how to waste energy back in the day.
posted by delmoi at 2:35 AM on August 14, 2010


This automated parking garage in Budapest is easily as nuts as the Disney version.
posted by biddeford at 2:44 AM on August 14, 2010


Wow. Then it got crazy. Car washes and fueling in your home? (Gas supplied by pipeline, I guess) And all that sprawl envisioned as a good thing. And cars that split in half!? CARGO ROCKETS!? And that's not even getting into the Solar powered maglev cars and sealed, air-conditioned highways in the 'future future' vision.

Some of the stuff is interesting in the fact that the internet and mobile networks have made in-car "teletypes" possible to see traffic conditions. And progress is being made on fully automated cars. Too.
posted by delmoi at 2:51 AM on August 14, 2010 [1 favorite]


Actually, this is a double highway.
posted by woodblock100 at 2:55 AM on August 14, 2010


I just love this. It's like the crazy left-brain version of Mary Blair's (waaaaaaaay crazier) Small World.
posted by biddeford at 3:12 AM on August 14, 2010


All I can do when I watch that is think of how much energy it all requires. The funniest part was the preserved mountain vista with roads actually bolted to the mountains.

I also fail to understand why there would even be accidents requiring aid vehicles. That would seem to be the easiest problem to solve.

(It's a lot like going on a diet and only being able to see a bountiful repast in terms of how many calories is in each dish.)
posted by maxwelton at 3:28 AM on August 14, 2010


this is a double highway.

On the information superhighway of tomorrow we can only drive in circles.
posted by twoleftfeet at 3:56 AM on August 14, 2010


Can't help but think of Donald Fagen's "Kamakiriad" when I watch this; that album and his previous work, "The Nightfly" both tapped into that 1950's "limitless future" vibe.
posted by kcds at 4:56 AM on August 14, 2010


I couldn't help but notice the general lack of flying cars. This video is uncanny in its prediction of the future.
posted by _Lasar at 5:25 AM on August 14, 2010


We still have sections of interstate highway that were obviously built before that video was made. I've driven I-10 from Houston to Jacksonville 4 times this year, and there's sections of it that seem ready to topple. The Atchafalaya Basin causeway, downtown Baton Rouge, downtown Mobile, downtown New Orleans - obviously not updated or maintained worth a shit in 40-50 years. The causeway to Slidell seems like it was getting some love, though maybe because of Katrina - the "under construction" parts near N.O. were damn scary at night, with semis. My god, but the truck traffic on 10.

Florida was a surprisingly bright spot. Uncongested, Smooth pavement, well-marked exits, no crazy turns, and really nice, well-maintained rest stops every 40 miles or so. Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama however. I don't think they've seen this video.
posted by Devils Rancher at 5:27 AM on August 14, 2010


Check out this parking garage at the Roppongi Hills center in Tokyo.
posted by zardoz at 5:41 AM on August 14, 2010


We need those heated highways in the winter in Dallas. 1/32" of snow on an overpass and the entire DFW area shuts down.
posted by punkfloyd at 6:53 AM on August 14, 2010


But we did almost have the Trans Texas Corridor in Texas.
posted by punkfloyd at 6:56 AM on August 14, 2010


Tom Swift and his Atomic Earth Blaster was melting holes in Antarctica !to the liquid planet core! back in '54, so there's that.
posted by HLD at 7:04 AM on August 14, 2010


It's easy to laugh now, but I bet Sun-Powered Electro-Suspension Cars seemed more plausible to a '50s audience than people choosing to drive around in modified military vehicles that more or less intentionally waste fuel. People are going to drive around, one-by-one, in army personnel carriers? Seriously? C'mon Walt, give us something useful to dream about, at least. And really, GM would be in far better shape today if it'd started in on the Sun-Powered Electro-Suspension R&D then instead of 30 years of fins and rims followed by 20 years of outsized trucks and cupholders.

I guess what I'm trying to say is that unintended consequences are a bitch. And I want my Sun-Powered Electro-Suspension Car, dammit.
posted by gompa at 7:14 AM on August 14, 2010


Loved the tunnel boring machine! That was the first in a series of belly laughs... I had to run it back because I saw that thing just melt right through solid rock, and thought "that wasn't a tailfin I saw on that thing, was it?"

It was. OMG the 50's.
posted by cybrcamper at 7:14 AM on August 14, 2010 [1 favorite]


I like the steady progression from the "very high" driving speeds of 85 mph early in the video to the nutso futurism of solar powered levitating magnetic vehicles by the end. Thanks for sharing!
posted by meinvt at 7:35 AM on August 14, 2010


delmoi: Heated interstates? They sure knew how to waste energy back in the day.

This is a central caveat to 40's + 50's futurism. With cheap oil and the promise of nearly free nuclear power, everyone imagined their future would have unlimited energy. My favourite example from the link is the hovering rescue chopper / firetruck / ambulance / crane. Think about how heavy that vehicle would be! Fission powered I suppose.

I'm glad I wasn't alive during this period. I would have believed in all of this crap.
posted by Popular Ethics at 8:49 AM on August 14, 2010


I guess people 52 years ago were so optimistic because of the progress they had seen over the previous 52 years: from the Wright brothers airplane to the Boeing 707, from mostly kerosene lamps to the electrification of even rural areas, etc. Reality has been kind of a disappointing mix of Magic Highway and 1984.
posted by Daddy-O at 9:01 AM on August 14, 2010 [1 favorite]


I'm glad I wasn't alive during this period. I would have believed in all of this crap.

I wasn't alive during that period, but I just realized... I did believe my own version. Yes, oh yes. Hanging out at the library as a youngster, reading issues of Popular Mechanics and Popular Science. I devoured the speculative, hand-illustrated visions of the Incredible Future, in those.

Idealism is sort of like a euphoric upper with few side-effects. Aside from a very quickly-building tolerance to its effects, sadly.
posted by gilrain at 10:07 AM on August 14, 2010


I know it's just a speculative cartoon, and it's cool but let me get a little overly serious about it....Why the hell would they continue to expensively try to traverse and destroy the land instead of evolving to flying cars? If you got anywhere near the technological ability to pull this stuff off, wouldn't you abandon the archaic idea of traveling by road in the first place? Inventing an Atomic Rock driller whatever and heated highways is a serious waste of time and efficiency.
posted by Liquidwolf at 12:58 PM on August 14, 2010


The part (at 2:44) where they show highways cutting up cities into isolated buildings surrounded by pavement and cars... nearly makes me cry. That one did happen.
posted by parudox at 1:39 PM on August 14, 2010 [3 favorites]


4:56 "Advances in technology will give us more time for leisure greater productivity, with no commensurate increase in wages in tomorrow's living."

There we go.
posted by Xoebe at 3:44 PM on August 14, 2010


This automated parking garage in Budapest is easily as nuts as the Disney version.

Check out this parking garage at the Roppongi Hills center in Tokyo.


Wow, these would make me embarrassed to have a car. It would mean I chose waiting in an underground building that looks like the inside of a machine over using my own legs to go places. Tens of housands of human-hours to design and build these things. All of the other animals would point and laugh because they run around to gather their food but they're still as happy as I am.
posted by Dr. Send at 11:28 PM on August 14, 2010


cantilevered skyways, bitches
posted by es_de_bah at 9:01 AM on August 15, 2010


Pony Request: There were a series of renderings from the 1950-60s depicting a (retro-)futuristic Washington DC-area suburbia that floated around the internet a few months ago. The one I specifically remember featured a ridiculously huge highway juxtaposed with a parking lot, and a grocery store (descriptive, I know).

Anybody have a link? I'm coming up blank...
posted by schmod at 3:28 PM on August 15, 2010


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