Urbano, Carl, John Sutherland Productions. 1953. A is for Atom, YouTube video, 15 min, posted by “nuclearvault,” Jul 30, 2009, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Gi-ItrJISQE
This animated short was sponsored by General Electric, one of the key U.S. manufacturers of electric appliances, power generation stations, and nuclear weapon components, in an effort to promote the peaceful use of nuclear energy. The film belongs to the genre of so-called “benevolent atom” films that were released during the 1950s as part of the “Atoms for Peace” campaign. A Is For Atom is an artifact of an era characterized by a strong narrative of belief in science and in technological progress. The potentially threatening nuclear technology is presented to the public in a “humanized” fashion, with elemental forces being depicted as humanoid figures such as Dr. Atom, who has an atom for a head. In a key sequence, the film introduces the five atomic “giants,” which “man has released from within the atom’s heart”: the warrior and destroyer, the farmer, the healer, the engineer and the research worker. Each of these giants is depicted as a majestic figure, towering over the earth, bringing progress and limitless growth to the world. The viewers are reassured that “all are within man’s power and subject to his command,” that our future depends “on man’s wisdom, on his firmness in the use of that power.” –Christian Dimmer
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