Man in Space is an episode of Disneyland which originally aired on March 9, 1955. It was directed by Disney animator Ward Kimball.
Kimball was famous for his creation of the character Jiminy Cricket, The Cheshire Cat, The March Hare, The Mad Hatter, and for redesigning Mickey Mouse in 1938. He joined the Disney Studios in 1934, and rose up in the ranks to become a directing animator on such classics as “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs,” “Pinocchio,” “Fantasia” and “Peter Pan.” He directed Disney Oscar-winning shorts “Toot, Whistle, Plunk and Boom” in 1953 and “It’s Tough To Be a Bird” in 1969.
This Disneyland episode (set in Tomorrowland), was narrated partly by Kimball and also by such famed scientists as Dr. Willy Ley, Dr. Heinz Haber, Dr. Wernher von Braun, and Dick Tufeld of Lost in Space fame.
The show talks briefly about the lighthearted history of rockets and is followed by discussions of satellites, a practical look (through humorous animation) at what spacemen will have to face in a rocket (both physically and psychologically, such as momentum, weightlessness, radiation, even space sickness) and a rocket takeoff into space.
Both Haber and Wernher von Braun were involved with Operation Paperclip and intimately a part of the Nuremberg medical tribunal, which saw former Nazis war criminals rescued to the United States, ultimately resulting in a considerable contribution to the development of NASA.
Operation Paperclip was the Office of Strategic Services program used to recruit the scientists of Nazi Germany for employment by the United States in the aftermath of World War II (1939–45). It was conducted by the Joint Intelligence Objectives Agency, and in the context of the burgeoning Soviet–American Cold War.
Unknown to many Disney watchers, Kimball was also student of UFOs and Outer Space.
Kimball worked with technical advisor Werhner Von Braun to write and direct three key outer space documentaries for the “Disneyland” television series. The three documentaries were, “Man in Space,” “Man and the Moon,” and “Mars and Beyond.” Kimball referred to them as, “the creative highpoint of my career. According to Disney spokesman Howard E. Green, the three outer space documentaries are “often credited with popularizing the concept of the government’s space program during the 1950s.
The first of these, the 1955 “Man in Space, was so popular (viewed by over 42 million people) that according to Kimball, President Eisenhower phoned Walt Disney from the White House looking for a copy of the production. When Disney asked Eisenhower why he wanted it Eisenhower replied, “Well, I’m going to show it to all those stove-shirt generals who don’t believe we’re going to be up there!
It was Kimball, who at the July 1979 MUFON UFO symposium in California, told of his interest in the subject of UFOs. Then to a stunned audience he related the story of how the American government had approached Walt Disney himself prior to Sputnik to make a UFO documentary to help acclimatize the American population to the reality of extraterrestrials.