Showing posts with label retrofuturism. Show all posts
Showing posts with label retrofuturism. Show all posts

Sunday, November 14, 2021

Supersonic Youth

In 1977, the Filmation team spearheaded by Scheimer, Prescott and Sutherland launched Space Sentinels which aired on NBC for thirteen episodes, a brief tenure which would ultimately become typical of the live-action and animated Saturday morning entertainment studio.

A trio of teenagers; Hercules, Mercury and Astrea are endowed with intergalactic strengths and capabilities and stationed inside a starship within a volcano. From this base they are allocated exigent missions by their operational superiors which they carry out on Earth and beyond. Adopting Greek and Roman mythological personas, the Space Sentinels use their individual skills and combined powers to fight enemy forces and uphold law and order in the galaxy.

One of the earliest forerunners to the programs discussed in this blog series, Space Sentinels was set in the then-futuristic 1985, nine years before Earth became irrevocably and catastrophically altered, if one is to trust the historical accounts of Filmation’s Thundarr the Barbarian, arriving a few years later in 1980. If that doesn’t confuse matters enough, 1985 also happened to see the cancellation of He-Man in addition to She-Ra’s debut!

All the beloved tropes are evident in the short-lived sci-fi superhero series including the obligatory Star Wars aping and accompanying moral lessons. The multi-racial aspect of the main characters is also noteworthy in an otherwise ethnically uniform era of cartoons.

Perhaps other trends had been established for Filmation with Space Sentinels, the ‘single season’ tradition certainly being the most obvious. Youth, strength, power and teamwork for the good of the universe would become key themes throughout many of the company’s subsequent creations. With those qualities, couldn’t one hero easily be as good as the next?

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Christopher Robinson, Writer Extraordinaire (image)
Christopher Robinson, Writer Extraordinaire 

Sunday, September 20, 2020

The Future Ain’t What it Used to Be

Conveyor belt sidewalks, pneumatic sky shuttles and video screen telephones— These were the assumed luxuries of the years to come in our collective imaginations of years gone by. In some cases our predictions proved to be fortuitously adept. Despite unforeseen technological progress, however, numerous expectations remain unrealized.

In turn-of-the-century France, the popularity of Jules Verne’s science fiction works such as Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea inspired a postcard series projecting life in the year 2000. Through their varied illustrious renderings, the desire for a more conveniently ordered and functional world is evident in every aspect of life from travel, industry, farming, housework, grooming, leisure and education.

These paintings and illustrations are now categorized as ‘retrofuturism’, a term denoting their hopes and fantastic predictions. The term later applied to literary, film and television genres that incorporated the style into narratives for entertainment effect.

Understandably, the artists and the science that they drew on were limited to the existing knowledge and trends of the time. The result was a fascinating combination of logical extrapolation and mysteriously vague yet prescient concepts.

For some reason, it was speculated that humans of the future would conduct many of their daily activities underwater, including riding on seahorses and employing whales as public transportation. 

Indeed, the use of prehistoric animals as slave labor was a frequent feature of daily life for television’s Flintstones, something Michael Chichton apparently overlooked in his research for Jurassic Park where he popularized the myth that dinosaurs and man were separated by 65 million years of evolution.

Alarmingly, much of what typifies life in our current era can be glimpsed in obvious ‘prototype’ form in some of these images. Helicopters, cellphones, computers and robots were all imagined here, decades before their proper introduction into the world.

In retrospect, the artwork seen here is a credit to the fervent imaginations of these visionary artists. They represent what innovation, science and creativity have already accomplished as well as the many inventions and possibilities that remain on our horizon.

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Christopher Robinson