While watching the documentary “The End of Suburbia: Oil Depletion and the Collapse of the American Dream”, I noticed some funny animation clips integrated into various parts of the film. The source of these clips can be found in the DVD’s bonus features in an animated short from 1956 titled, “Destination Earth”. The cartoon was sponsored by the American Petroleum Institute (API) and is a classic piece of propaganda from the industry.
IMDB succinctly describes the plot as follows: “A Martian explorer discovers the secrets behind the USA’s prosperity: oil and free enterprise!” There is even a short Wikipedia page dedicated to the cartoon, although the Wiki page carries a more neutral tone in describing the cartoon: “The 13 minute short explains the fundamentals of the petroleum industry and how petroleum products enrich everyday life in the United States of America.”
Perhaps this cartoon was aired in elementary schools to help children appreciate the importance of petroleum in their everyday suburban lives. We obviously still enjoy these benefits today, but at an ever increasing cost. I think the film is quite pertinent even today and reminds us of how truly dependant we are on petroleum for not only running our cars, but for the production of everyday products and goods.
It would be fantastic to put together an animated short to educate our children (and many adults) on present day issues that are a direct result of our modern-day consumer lifestyles: climate change, resource depletion, environmental degradation, etc. I think it is safe to assume that the API won’t be backing this type of propaganda any time soon, although you may be surprised by the API’s ‘position’ on climate change.
If you are interested in viewing this unique animated short, head on over to archive.org and watch it for free. You might laugh at or feel disgusted by this piece of propaganda.
The producers and writers may have been a little sloppy with the plot since the Martian is somehow able to fly a spaceship to Earth when he was tasked with solving problems related to the Martian emperor’s limousine back on Mars.