Cold-war era animated film produced by the American Petroleum Institute in which Martians (Communists) come to Earth and discover the wonders of a free economy and cheap oil
Curated by The Sadnesses
Total Runtime: 0:13:37
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.