Welcome to Telezonia! Where creepy puppets teach you how to use the telephone!
Curated by Daniel Menche
Total Runtime: 0:18:20
This film, "Adventure in Telezonia", was part of an educational package distributed in grade schools for kids to learn proper telephone usage. The package contained the 18-minute film, a filmstrip with different supplemental content, a children's booklet, and a teacher's guide. The company also had telephone sets — two brightly-colored telephones — as a learning aid that were available to go along with the package. It was the second film produced by Bil Baird for the Bell System, but its inception was quite involved, almost scientific for its time.
The goal was to educate children on using the phone system, because by 1950, around 60% of households in the United States had a telephone. The company requested a survey of teachers and principals in schools to see what they thought would be most effective. The result colored the production methods of the film, and the results were then tested — and re-tested in classrooms before the final version was released. (This may be why this film is given various production dates between 1947 and 1950 — it was a lengthy process).
The film was remade in 1974 as simply "Telezonia."
The film was originally in Technicolor, but this copy is from an Eastmancolor print, and doesn't have the full color spectrum that the original contained.
About producer/puppeteer Bil Baird:
Baird's puppets and archives were donated to the MacNider Art Museum in Iowa, where they are on permanent display. A number of puppets from both "Party Lines" and "Adventure in Telezonia" are in their collection.
Baird's most famous work, created with his wife, Cora, was the "Lonely Goatherd" marionette sequence in the film The Sound of Music, where they made all the puppets and choreographed them. Baird also made over four hundred television commercials and five floats in the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade during his career.
But Baird's strangest job involved the Apollo mission to the moon. Like ongoing coverage of any major event on a 24-hour news channel, news coverage often includes a lot of filler, and the Apollo mission in 1969 was no exception. Since the transmission from NASA was frequently interrupted, all three major broadcast networks had to fill time — and all three did so with "recreations." While CBS and ABC aired sequences of men dressed in spacesuits roving on sets, NBC used a set of marionettes doing space walks, and Baird was the designer and operator. All three networks reportedly projected the word "simulation" on the screen at all times during all of the filler moments, but unfortunately, decades later, conspiracy theorists saw the simulations as proof that the moon landing never happened.
Footage Courtesy of AT&T Archives and History Center, Warren, NJ