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saving us from SCIENCE! March 22, 2009

Posted by sashahc in Uncategorized.
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Stills from Electric Earthquake animation

Electric Earthquake!

I was fussing around on the Internet Archive today (a nice cloudy day Saturday activity) and came across some great old videos. Old insanely sexist coffee commercials and surreal advertisements with cigarettes doing square dances. Totally wierd. One of the most fascinating, however, was an old superman cartoon. Basic story according to the Archive: A mad scientist attempts to blow up Manhattan. Lois Lane investigates and Superman saves the day. It’s nine minutes long and totally worth watching.

A couple interesting points…
– My favorite quote: “Maybe modern science will make you think differently!” This cartoon was produced in 1942. This is the year America landed in Europe and it is also the dawn of the Manhattan Project. Mad science is in the popular imagination: is science out of our control? In 1942, Kurt Vonnegut published “Player Piano”, a dystopian view of a world run by machines. Isaac Asimov also published the 3 Laws of Robotics in the story “Runaround,” as well as the first Foundation story. Robert Heinlein published the story “Waldo”, which dealt with the dangers of not thoroughly testing new technologies (and included broadcast power, radioactivity, and massive remote controlled machinery) . Who can save us? Superman!

– The mad scientist is Native American and is threatening to blow up Manhattan unless it is “vacated.” An interesting bit of xenophobia. Native Americans aren’t generally portrayed as loner mad scientists. Is this transference of some sort from other dark skinned peoples? The Japanese? Jews?

– Oh, the wonderful machines! Massive sparks and dials and cables. The lab is located underwater and there is a special elevator to get down into it. The scientist’s master machine is huge and has a tesla coil with dials and tubes! It may have been inspired by the Tesla Oscillator (also called The Earthquake Machine), though that was a thoroughly mechanical device. There are certainly enough high voltage sparks to invoke Tesla. Hooray, Modern Science!

– One of the most striking things about this bit of animation is the styling. It is gorgeous. All hand painted, of course, and full of beautiful color gradients and wisps of fog and water lapping. It really made me think about what we lost in the rise of flat animation during the 70s and 80s and in later computer generated imagery. Animation may be cheaper to create now, but I would love to have one of the cells from this.

So, a lot of thoughts from a little nine minute clip.

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