Destination Earth

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Destination Earth is a short film from 1956. It is held in the Prelinger Archives collection.

Science fiction cartoon produced by the American Petroleum Institute.

Destination Earth
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Distributed by{{{pbrs}}}
Release date
ewid: 157 | Fresh | || dopt: {{{dopt}}}


This animated cartoon follows the adventures of "Colonel Cosmic," a Martian, as he learns that Oil and Competition are the two things that make America great. It is a sci-fi-influenced economic tract on the strengths of Earth-style free enterprise economics, compared to a stagnating Mars under the fist of a certain Mr. Ogg, who centrally controls the Martian economy. In the film, a Martian undercover agent flies from Mars to Earth to learn about the oil industry, and finds that the lack of government regimentation and control is what makes our system flourish.

Destination Earth was produced by the same company as Make Mine Freedom, and both films share a similar graphic style. But it's six years later, and the United States is still in the middle of the flying saucer craze and worried about invaders from the skies. Well, here come the Martians, and guess what? They come from a planet that looks a lot like the Soviet Union. Even though the little cosmo-creature ostensibly flies to Earth to claim territory for the autocratic Martian ruler "Mr. Ogg," he's really on an intelligence mission.

Unlike Mars, fettered by a centrally controlled command economy, Earth is prospering due to private enterprise and cheap oil. The evidence of Earth's prosperity is shown in petro-centric terms, narrated by the space traveler. This is subversive stuff for the Martians, and Mr. Ogg tries to control the spread of this information. But the gospel of free enterprise is sufficient to foment a Martian revolution, and the planet begins to remake itself in a Terrestrial image. Small businesses open and spread throughout Mars, and wildcatters start drilling for oil below the planet's red sands.

This film is decidedly mellower than many of the other films expressing basically the same ideas. It might be argued that the corporations in the U.S. were no longer so worried about losing "what we have," and instead felt that it was now time to think about subverting our adversaries.

Throughout the Fifties and Sixties, the oil industry was far from shy about telling its story to the public. Through the American Petroleum Institute and its Oil Industry Information Committee, a steady flow of booklets, brochures, speeches, press releases, planted news articles, "public service" advertisements and films made the case for oligopolistic ownership and marketing of petroleum. Two supplements on this disc, "Oil Serves You" and "Oil and the American Way" serve as excellent examples of this public relations offensive.

The oil industry made special efforts to draw a link between freedom and prosperity, as long as prosperity was achieved through private enterprise. In Destination Earth, private enterprise (and cheap oil!) is actually pictured as a force sufficiently revolutionary to overthrow repressive societies. The ending might have been different if American oil companies had decided to go into business with Mr. Ogg. Oil companies also boasted about the extent of competition in their industry and extolled its benefits for the consumer. These assertions considerably stretched the truth but achieved credibility through obsessive repetition.

Destination Earth avoids coming off as too doctrinaire or propagandistic through its self-deprecating humor (a trademark of John Sutherland films), but it's still an insidious, self-serving piece of corporate propaganda. It takes the ideas expressed in films like Make Mine Freedom and How to Lose What We Have and takes them one step further, showing free-enterprise ideology not simply as a defense against socialism but as a means of subverting other societies. If you care to read this film as prophetic, you can compare its plot to the course of events following the opening of Eastern Europe in 1989.

Cartoon 1950s Cold War cartoon about a Martian dictator like Stalin with large moustache and an expedition to Earth where the astronaut discovers for his people oil and the free market capitalism; the Martians revolt against their leader and start drilling for oil on Mars.

Wikipedia Commons


10:34:13:29 Spaceship flies from earth to mars; on mars there is a sign with an intercom for the leader of the planet Ogg The Great; VS of posters for the dictator leader of Mars Ogg; little green Martians with human-like faces wearing glass helmets marching through the streets in a welcoming ceremony of Colonel Cosmics; tons of advertisements everywhere all include the name of the dictator Ogg; police with rifle-like laser guns shoot people to keep them in order; huge rally in Ogg Memorial Stadium; the leader Ogg presses ovation button and huge audience of green Martians applaud with disinterested look on face, Ogg then says “Please, please thank you for this unsolicited testimonial”

10:36:47:00 Chained up green Martian wearing glass helmet climbs on teeth of gear powering it, Martian wearing cape pokes Martian laborer power the gear with a pin to speed him up. VS images and audio track tell story of Martians exploration to Earth

10:37:48:05 Martian leader wearing glass helmet and cape looks at map of the universe, covers his eyes and points finger at Earth; Martian is forced into a flying saucer, Martian UFO flies toward earth then toward the United States of America; UFO flies through a billboard for cigarettes “Smokies Smoke”; flying saucer crashes into a tree; Martian observes American cars and is surprised that cars are not state property as in his Fascist state, but private property

10:40:03:19 Cartoon lovers kissing in back of car, “just married” sign on back of car and dangling shoes and cans; cartoon gas station “Bob’s Service Station” with signs for Gas Oil and Petroleum Products, gas station attendant holds handkerchief up too bird hood ornament on car, bird blows its nose.

10:40:27:23 Green Martian goes to the Public Library passing a fountain with statue of three naked women; Martian turns invisible then looks in the library card catalogue and finds card “Petroleum Source of See Oil Industry”; invisible Martian, a bouncing red ball, takes books off shelf labeled Oil Industry then makes himself reappear to read through the books.

10:41:09:01 Cartoon drawing Gasoline Service Station; display of bottles of oil; rack of car tires; VS cartoon car driving oil wells and drilling for oil in various locations lots of oil well imagery; gas tankers pulling into gas station; highway spreading over the open landscape

10:43:54:05 Molecular model, two men grab at the molecules and put them into oil barrels and mix it up, various petroleum products rise out of the barrels, fabrics, toothbrushes, tires, insecticide (indicated in audio track), cosmetics, weed killers.

10:44:43:11 Martian tries to steel books from library, librarian faints then screams, Martian in his flying saucer flies back to Mars from Earth; Martian shows audience in stadium of other Martians various books “Story of Oil”, “Competition For All”; the Martian dictator likes the Story of Oil books but not the book on competition “that’s not our kind of thing at all, why competition is downright un-Martian” but before the Martian leader can smash the book all the Martians have left the stadium to search for oil; VS Martians drills for oil and revolt against the dictator’s orders


Carl Urbano
Bill Scott
Michel Amestoy
George Gordon
Production Design
Tom Oreb, Vic Haboush.
George Cannata, Ken O'Brien, Bill Higgins, Tom Ray, Russ Von Neida.
Joe Montell.
Production Manager
Earl Jonas
Produced by John Sutherland in Association with Film Counselors, Inc

See Also