(4 of 10)
General Motors, star of the '39 fair with its revelations of the future, has again attempted to be visionary. Its Futurama is built around the idea that the human population has ample room to explode, and proves the thesis with wonderful models of future machines and future cities in contemporary wastelands. Man will subdue the primordial jungle, for example, with a G.M. machine a couple of hundred yards long. Out in front of it, smaller machines fell the great trees with laser beams. Blink, blink. The red beams slice the trees and they topple. The great mother machine now takes over, moving forward to eat the trees and all the undergrowth, meanwhile extruding four-lane highways from its distant rear. Dazzling cities spring up out of the bush to either side.
But for the rest, the present is abreast of the presumed future. There is an undersea hotel (Jacques Cousteau has already developed a five-man sea house),an aquacopter (just a baby submarine) and a space dormitory for moon travelers (it closely resembles the Indonesian pavilion half a mile away).
Egg & Carousel. IBM makes a show of its own mechanics. The audience of 500 sits on steeply tiered seats at ground level; and when the program is about to begin, this entire "people wall" is lifted 53 ft. into the air by two hydraulic rams. They end up inside the lofty IBM egg, watching nine movie screens at once, in a demonstration meant to explain how the human brain is just another computer.
Of all the big shows, G.E.'s Carousel of Progress is one of the most frankly commercial, but it is so studded with million-dollar gimcracks that it is worth seeing. Six audiences watch it at once, revolving in their seats to stop in front of segment after segment of a central stage. The star is a man who looks like Lowell Thomas full of formaldehyde. He sits in his kitchen, taps his foot nervously, blinks, and brags about his household appliances. He is made of plasticWalt Disney againand so is his dog, which grrrs and twitches on the floor. Caroline Kennedy saw the dog and wanted to take him home.
First the man crows about the faith ful pump in his sink, the new icebox and his coal-burning stove. The year is about 1898. All these relics are choreo graphed to gush rusty water, pop open, or glow genially while he talks. The revolving audience sees him in three additional incarnationsin the '20s, the '40s, and today in his ultimate, modern G.E. home, with indirect colored lighting and clear-plastic, form-fitting kitchen chairs. The older appliances are wonders to behold. But the plastic man's life gets duller as it progresses.
Walt's Wonders. Disney's realistic robots, in fact, stalk the fair. Pepsi-Cola has about 350 of them, doll-size, flanking a boat ride that children seem to like more than anything else. Scottish dolls climb steep plaid mountains, Iranian dolls fly on Persian carpets, and French dolls cancan. The dolls sing an original tune about the cohesion of the peoples of the world that might have been composed by Wendell Willkie.