Mars & Beyond (1957)
Videos in this documentary
Mars and Beyond is an episode of Disneyland which aired on December 4, 1957. It was directed by Ward Kimball and narrated by Paul Frees. This episode discusses the possibility of life on other planets, especially Mars. It begins with an introduction of Walt Disney and his robot friend Garco, who provide a brief overview. It continues with an animated presentation about mankind seeking to understand the world in which he lives, first noticing patterns in the stars, and developing certain beliefs regarding the celestial bodies. Theories from scientists and philosophers are discussed, including Ptolemy's inaccurate, but formerly-accepted theories, as well as 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 more colorful animation. Pulp science fiction comics of the time are parodied in the same straightforward tone as everything else (this segment features Kimball's comic tone and there's even a cameo appearance by Donald Duck).
After this, 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 a man on them. The program claims 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 increasing importance for the future. Dr. E.C. Slipher then discusses the Red Planet and the possibility that life is already there. More animation speculates what the conditions on Mars might be like. This section is filled with striking, inventive and decidedly atypical Disney animation. The program wraps up with what a trip to Mars would entail for a space crew and its vessels. Contributor/spacecraft designer Ernst Stuhlinger presents his design and details regarding a unique umbrella-shaped MarsShip: The top portion would be a revolving outer quarters ring providing artificial gravity for the crew of 20, under 'parasol' coolant tubes. At the other end would be a sodium-potassium reactor to provide power to the midsection electric/ion drive. Attached upright would be a chemically-fueled winged tail-lander. The mission shown involves six MarsShips, ultimately reaching 100,000 mph, taking a 400 day, spiral course to Mars. There, they would spend 412 days on the surface before returning. This episode was released on DVD on 2004 as part of the Walt Disney Treasures line.
In 2003, with the cooperation of Disney, a 35mm five minute excerpt from Mars and Beyond was restored and presented in Don Hertzfeldt's Animation Show theatrical tour, as a tribute to Ward Kimball.