In the excellent first two installments of the Tomorrowland series from the Disneyland TV show, animator Ward Kimball describes the history and progress of travel to outer space, from ancient speculation to modern testing to contemporary possibilities.
It is absolutely fascinating to watch even from our modern perspective, and the Disney Studios’ mastery of storytelling is so evident in this thrilling, exciting look at outer space. The basic concepts of aerospace engineering and rocket design are explained in clear detail and different elements of space travel are discussed at length by some of the great scientists of that time period.
The scientific discourse, which takes up most of each film’s duration, makes the concluding narratives that much more entertaining and often heart-pounding. There is a kind of exhilarating terror watching the rocket of Man in Space soar into outer space, and witnessing the first (staged) journey to the moon and back in Man and the Moon. Especially watching from an age where space travel is a decades-old achievement, it is that much a testament to Disney storytelling how such a grounded achievement can still captivate an audience.
These episodes and more are available in the limited-edition Disney Treasures: Tomorrowland DVD set. As an extra treat for hardcore Disney fans, you may recognize the space station as bearing a resemblance to Brava Centauri from EPCOT’s Horizons!