Our Friend the Atom is a 1957 Walt Disney Productions
film describing the benefits of atomic power
. As well as being presented on the TV Show Disneyland, this film was also shown to almost all baby boomers
in their public school auditoriums or their science classes and was instrumental in creating within that generation a mostly favorable attitude toward nuclear power.
Imdb described the plot as follows: "Dr. Heinz Haber, a noted scientist in the field of atomic energy, hosts this look at the possibility of an exciting new power source. He starts by comparing atomic energy to a genie in a bottle, both of which capable of doing both good and evil, and it is up to humankind to develop safe controls over this largely unexplored science"
It has also been described as follows: "Walt Disney's classic 1956 indoctrination tool that nearly every American of a certain age remembers reading in school (in between duck and cover drills, of course). One of the first examples of commercial "synergy," this book was a tie-in to the film of the same name as well as an exhibit at Disneyland'sTomorrowland. All three projects sought to present the cheerful, non-destructive side of the atom in entertaining and, in hindsight, absurdly naive way". It has also been described as "a joint effort of various minds and interests to make the concept of atomic power something to look forward to, not fear, as we headed into the space-age"
The film should be seen in the context of the time it was made, as the US felt it was moving into an Atomic Age, and threat of Mutually Assured Destruction hung heavy during the Cold War. It was believed that all power generators in the future would be atomic in nature. The atomic bomb would render all conventional explosives obsolete and nuclear power plants would do the same for power sources such as coal and oil. There was a general feeling that everything would use a nuclear power source of some sort, in a positive and productive way, from irradiating food to preserve it, to the development of nuclear medicine. This would render the Atomic Age as a significant step in technological progress much like the first smelting of Bronze or Iron, or the commencement of the Industrial Revolution.