Week 5

This week I, like most people, was interested in how the space race influenced design. At first I researched a very broad topic, the space race’s influence on film during the cold war, and I found something very interesting about how the space race influenced film. I found out that Walt Disney was asked to help promote the space race in the United States.

In the 1950s, Walt Disney was already very popular and had many well known animation shorts and feature length films. This was when he decided he wanted to build a Disneyland. And during the time he was building Disneyland, he teamed up with a scientist named Werner von Braun to create a TV show called “Man in Space.” This was in 1955, before the United States had launched their space program, but when the American public was already fascinated with science fiction and space travel. Von Braun worked with Disney on the show to show the American people that space travel actually was real. He made sure Disney made accurate models of all the space technology in the show, and made sure all the technical details were correct. Together they used the show for educational purposes as well, and they had a portion of the show where they explained basic scientific principles about space. The show incorporated animation and real life elements, and made it interesting for the viewer by adding Disney’s classic animation comedy mixed in with the educational parts of the show.

Walt Disney in an episode of “Man in Space”

“Man in Space” wasn’t the only thing Walt Disney had to do with the Cold War. When creating Disneyland, Walt decided it was going to have four sections; Fantasyland, Frontierland, Adventureland, and Tomorrowland. The first three would be based around already existing Disney animated or live action classics, but the fourth was a challenge, and had to incorporate elements of space and the space race. This is why “Man in Space” was started, and it helped launch Tomorrowland. Disney started to introduce people to the idea that space travel was going to be a reality, and only a few months after Tomorrowland opened and the premier of “Man in Space,” the United States announced it’s satellite program. Disney liked to think he had something to do with that. Russia would beat the United States into space with Sputnik two years later, but nevertheless, Disney had played his part in the space race in the United States. It is amazing to think that even things that I have grown up with like Disney are connected to modern design and the space race.

Tomorrowland, Disneyland, 1955





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