“The Highway to Play a Vital Role in the Progress of Civilization”
Disney’s Magic Highway USA is one of the more extraordinary
examples of the myopic devotion to automobility and its infrastructure
I’ve ever seen. It’s probably also required viewing at the Reason Foundation and among Senator James Inhofe’s staff in Washington DC.
"As in the past, the highway will continue to play a vital role in the
progress of civilization," the narrator tells us. "It will be our magic carpet to new hopes, new
dreams, and a better way of life for the future."
you don’t have nine minutes to watch, I can tell you it proffers some
choice gender-role limitations characteristic of the era and it
predicts some of the more deleterious development patterns that would
result from the completion of the Interstate Highway system, which had
begun only two years before the film aired in 1958. Rather than the Le
Corbusier-inspired decentralized urban centers depicted lovingly in the
film, we’ve got Atlanta and Phoenix.
Magic Highway USA
also predicts that highways of the future will automatically light up
the roads at night and radiant heat in the asphalt will keep the
surfaces dry through ice and snow. "When visibility is poor, our
windshields become a radar screen," says the narrator. "Fog may be
eliminated by ‘dispelling devises’ along the right-of-way."
And how about "preserving the beauty and candor of mountain travel"
with the cantilevered roadways stapled to the side of Monument Valley
The only mention of walking in this unfortunately familiar dystopia is
a snide joke, when the narrator quips: "From his private parking space,
Father will probably have to walk to his desk."
The animated film was directed by Ward Kimble,
the Academy-Award Winning Disney animator who gave us Jiminy Cricket
and many of the characters in Peter Pan and who worked on numerous
Disney classics. Ironically, Kimble was a collector of train ephemera
and owned a 3-acre train track circuit on his property in San Gabriel,
California, nicknamed the Grizzly Flats Railroad. He is even credited
for inspiring the Disneyland Railroad at Disneyland.
course, with no walking or any other unnecessary physical activity, the
the film turn out to be far too hale and trim. The people of this
future should probably look more like those from this recent Disney
H/T Matt Baume