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A Disney film from 1957, supplemented with a book and Tomorrowland exhibit of the same name; quite possibly the most demented »documentary« ever to see the light of day. It purports to describe the many and unproblematic benefits of that energy source of the future, the atom; Uncle Walt himself briefly futzes about on screen explaining the glories of the »magical genie«.

Unfortunately, the film itself is far from unproblematic. I am not exactly what you would describe as a nuclear skeptic, but watching the film, I clutch the arms of my chair with white knuckles; my reflection in the screen shows a face contorted in disbelief at the unfolding madness. The film is fundamentally staggering, from the opening sequence in which Jules Verne is claimed to have predicted nuclear power in 20000 Leagues Under The Sea (in actual fact, this was an innovation of Disney's own film of the book), through the declaration that radiation will be used to improve crops and livestock (Holy Jesus!, I see and hear the reflected face shout), all the way to the final image of the Earth as an atomic nucleus. I'm pretty sure that The Simpsons featured a Troy McClure parody of this film in one episode, but it was actually less crazy than the real thing.

The film does have one, single saving grace: a famous sequence in which Dr. Heinz Haber, an Operation Paperclip recruit and colleague of Wernher von Braun, demonstrates a nuclear chain reaction using ping-pong balls and mousetraps. That's not the main reason you should watch this film, though.


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