BTC: Tommy and the Atom

Who else from the US is long-toothed enough to remember those bunged up old Sterling Educational Film reels that lazy or under-prepped public school teachers often showed in place of real lessons? They were short, vaguely informative features on anything from personal hygiene, to parameciums, to overviews of friggin’ dairy production in Wisconsin. And of course, there was plenty of morbidly fascinating “duck and cover” fare:

I’d all but forgotten watching Tommy and the Atom one morning in my 1st grade homeroom class (this would have been early in Reagan’s first term) until now. But the minute that electrified fox showed up, it all came flooding back: the Rasputinian magician with his beard of lightning, the impassive narrator’s description of good versus bad atoms, the malignant black atom thrashing inside of a bomb, intimation of worldwide destruction at the hands of evildoers… This is one beautifully creepy, potent little slice of cold war propaganda.

6 Responses to “BTC: Tommy and the Atom”

  1. Carrie Clevenger Says:

    Great share for my morning! You guys are fantastic.

  2. Rev. Al Says:

    Thanks for posting that! Definitely remember this sort of thing, if not quite back to this era. Have a big collection of these from ebay and use them to cobble together “educational presentations” for The Art of Bleeding, including this seasonal piece:

  3. Anda Says:

    BRILLIANT. I just started writing a reaserch paper on Cartoon cold war propaganda.
    Mostly picked the topic becuase it amuses me, and I grew up during the last days it was shown in classrooms frequently.

  4. Rick Says:

    Remember kids: only by engaging in espionage can you combat the bad atoms! Foiling the bad atoms’ formulas and tampering with maps is the key to victory!

    Propaganda aside, I quite enjoyed the fox spinning up the propellers on the plane. For some reason that flowed much better than the rest of the animation. It’s like they actually took the time to get the personality of the fox down, but didn’t take five seconds to think about how insane they sounded. Even for a film aimed at elementary kids, that was pretty vague.

  5. Babalon's Orgasm Says:

    Very entertaining…
    My uncle fabricated the radio-fissile component of Little Boy which vaporized Hiroshima.
    Karma is going to be a bitch.
    5… 4… 3… 2…

  6. Nadya Says:

    “The Evil Atom.”

    I love it. I wish I knew of something similar from the Soviet side that we could post as a complement. I don’t remember anything of the sort, alas!