The Space Age Turns 50 - Ideas of Space Flight from the Early 20th Century

1950s Popular Culture: TV

The new medium of television saw a number of space-related fantasy shows in the 1950s: Captain Video, Rocky Jones, Buck Rogers, and Flash Gordon.

In order to promote his amusement park, Walt Disney started the TV show "Disneyland" in 1954 (later renamed "The Wonderful World of Disney").

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As part of the Tomorrowland motif, Disney collaborated with von Braun in the creation of 3 shows dealing with space travel. Disney referred to the shows as "science factual," as opposed to "science fiction."

The first show, Man in Space, aired March 9, 1955 and included commentary by Heinz Haber, Wernher von Braun, and Willy Ley.
In the show, von Braun describes a four-stage rocket that would carry people into space. The Disney animators then provide a cartoon version of the launch and entry into space.

On December 28, 1955, "Man and the Moon" aired. It included animated history of our ideas about the moon and a fictional, but dramatic, real-life journey to the moon.

"Mars and Beyond" aired December 4, 1957, two months to the day after the launch of Sputnik. The show starts with Walt Disney talking with robot "Garco." A manned mission to Mars is described and accompanied with animation.

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The mission is launched from a giant wheel-shaped space station, an idea of von Braun's.

The show includes descriptions of all of the planets, and concentrates on speculations about life on Mars.

Another part of popular culture was also swept up in the speculatons of Disney and von Braun: comic books. Dell comics published books outlining many of the ideas presented in the Disneyland shows, and updating things a bit to include the actual rockets developed during the fiftes.

Go to 1950s Popular Culture: Movies section.