Walt Disney's Wonderful World of Color: Season 4, Episode 12

Mars and Beyond (4 Dec. 1957)
"Disneyland" Mars and Beyond (original title)

TV Episode  -   -  Adventure | Biography | Drama
8.6
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The episode begins with an introduction of Walt Disney and his robot friend Garco, who provide a brief overview of this episode, which starts with a look at mankind seeking to understand ... See full summary »

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Title: Mars and Beyond (04 Dec 1957)

Mars and Beyond (04 Dec 1957) on IMDb 8.6/10

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Cast

Episode complete credited cast:
Paul Frees ...
Narrator (voice)
Rest of cast listed alphabetically:
...
Himself - Host
E.C. Slipher ...
Himself (as Dr. E.C. Slipher)
Ernst Stuhlinger ...
Himself (as Dr. Ernst Stuhlinger)
...
Himself (as Dr. Wernher von Braun)
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Storyline

The episode begins with an introduction of Walt Disney and his robot friend Garco, who provide a brief overview of this episode, which starts with a look at mankind seeking to understand his world, first noticing patterns in the stars. He develops beliefs regarding the celestial bodies. Theories from scientists and philosophers are discussed. Ptolemy's inaccurate but formerly-accepted theories are discussed, as are those of Copernicus. Life on other planets is considered, soon focusing on Mars. Ideas from science-fiction authors H.G. Wells and Edgar Rice Burroughs are brought to life with colorful animation. Pulp science fiction comics of the time are parodied. Then the program adopts a serious tone as it profiles each of the planets in the solar system, from the perspective of what would happen to man on them. The claim is that whereas most of the planets are either too cold or too hot for life as we know it, life on Mars could almost be normal, something that is of importance for ... Written by Anonymous

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planet | philosopher | star | scientist | time | See more »


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4 December 1957 (USA)  »

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(RCA Sound Recording)

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(Technicolor)

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1.33 : 1
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When the Martians are chasing the Earth woman, Donald Duck can be spotted among the crowd of bizarre monsters. See more »

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Edited into Cosmic Capers (1957) See more »

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User Reviews

 
Uncannily Prescient
14 July 2012 | by (New York City/Colorado Springs) – See all my reviews

This episode was a fairly standard Disney attempt at educating the public about space exploration, by which I mean that it was decades ahead of the rest of Television or movies of the time. It had some heavy science behind it. NASA keeps referring to this series today, in 2012, for the uncanny accuracy of some of its depictions. Yes, we get fodder for the kids such as shark-like plants, and the usual "dying Martian civilization" pablum, but get beyond that and you start the see the real wheels spinning.

For the 1950s, the quality is exceptional. One should recall that Americans in those days who were fortunate enough to have a TV set were limited to two or, for some, three networks (depending on whether Dumont broadcast in their area and was still in operation). Also, everything was in black and white, and TV sets were small by today's standards. So, when you look at something like this episode today, in vivid color on a large screen, you aren't really seeing what people back then saw. But the fact that people still watched and enjoyed it anyway shows the power that raw science still exerted on the masses back when the US was on the ascendant. That era is long gone, of course.

"Mars and Beyond" stretched the limits. It boggles the mind that Disney could get huge ratings for shows that were packed with dense scientific jargon and obscure physics. Seen today, one can pick apart episodes such as this for out-there concepts that died in the 1950s, such as fleets of nuclear-powered ships basically invading Mars en masse (well, that idea may still happen someday....). Everything is so clear in hindsight, eh? Heck, at that time we hadn't even launched a single satellite, and here they were showing a Mars shot in graphic detail! And competing successfully against shows like "I Love Lucy" and "The Honeymooners"! Just mind-blowing when you put it in perspective.

However, this particular episode is even more astonishing than usual just for how right it was about some minutely precise details. A sequence on the descent to Mars shows the use of parachutes and thrusters that almost perfectly foreshadows the arrival in 2012 of the "Curiosity" lander. NASA helpfully points out these similarities on a regular basis.

Clearly, somebody was thinking hard back then, conceptualizing something so remote from ordinary, everyday existence that you get the idea where the phrase "like a rocket scientist" comes from. You don't have to guess who was doing all this thinking - the man is right there on screen, Wernher von Braun (along with another of his German cohorts, Ernst Stuhlinger). Von Braun was sort of the poster child for NASA in the 1950s, and today it is easy to see why, with his reassuring (to me, anyway), no-nonsense "it's only about science" attitude.

Now, von Braun takes his hits on boards such as this from moralistic and patronizing know-it-alls because he had the misfortune to grow up in Nazi Germany. Well, if the US were to be taken over by, say, China, everyone in the US could be tainted by the US adventurism in places like Vietnam and Iraq and Afghanistan, so get off that high horse, my friend. Von Braun was a technocrat before the term was invented, and survived a corrupt system by focusing on science. He later did his best to atone for whatever sins he had to commit by basically creating NASA, though I'm sure the ones who smugly condemn him now would have done the only honorable thing - refusing to work for their homeland's horrendous dictatorship - by walking themselves straight into a concentration camp voluntarily out of sheer moral purity. Yeah, that's real likely. Yes, his homeland's leaders required the use of slave labor, and von Braun's early work flowed from that. Can't deny it. But by surviving, Von Braun was able to go on to do something admirable for the entire human race and perhaps redeem Germany's reputation (at least scientifically) just a smidgen. Let's hope you do something as worthwhile for humanity as get the first man on the Moon. I highly doubt that will happen.

Anyway, if you bother to look, it isn't difficult to see the genius touch of von Braun throughout. He still, as in earlier (also exceptional) Disney space animation in this series, was stuck to some extent on the liquid fuel idea that was abandoned when things got real in the 1960s, but that just shows how far his thinking was ahead of mundane reality. There also is a corny precision to the rather far-fetched outlines of the journey to Mars - it wouldn't take a little over a year, it would be "13 months and six days" and so on. Nice flourishes that emphasized that even intricate space flight calculations were simply scientific questions whose answers could be thought out with precision - and this at a time when computers could do little more than simple multiplication. Try calculating planetary geometry with a slide rule and see how far you get.

The truth is, the entire US space program that has done so much good for so many people and for so many reasons came straight out of Peenemunde. It flowed directly from von Braun's (and Stuhlinger's and Oberth's and so many other Germans) brain. If he managed to get a little airtime, it's a lot less than he deserved. Looking back on this series now should remind you that you have men like von Braun to thank for your cell phones and your satellite cable TV and your GPS. If you are so noble and morally above using the work of men like von Braun, who themselves at one time used the work of slave laborers, give that all up to be consistent. Not going to do it? Didn't think so. You are no better than him, and he explored the stars.


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