Is the Japanese nuclear emergency freaking you out? Perhaps you don’t appreciate just how cute and harmless the power of the atom can be—at least when it’s in cartoon form. Below, a few gems of propaganda aimed at calming nuke skeptics, from the Cold War to the present day.
Nuclear Boy: Disaster goes kawaii in this adorable Japanese animation, in which the damaged Fukushima Daichii power plant becomes Nuclear Boy, a little guy with an “upset stomach.” And those brave workers trying to avert catastrophe? They’re shown as a doctor working “around the clock to make sure he doesn’t poo.”
A is for Atom: Check out the animated atom who stars in this 1952 film by General Electric, especially when he dons black tie and tails to do an isotopic dance (around 4:30 in). Things go from charming to creepy toward the end when his pals the faceless nuclear giants show up to help humankind. But, the narrator assures us, “all are within man’s power, subject to his command.”
Plowshare: This 1961 film by the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission promotes the use of “peaceful nuclear explosives” as a cost-efficient alternative to TNT in excavation, mining, and oil exploration. Bombs away!
Medical Aspects of Nuclear Radiation: The hazards of radiation exposure are downplayed in this drily morbid 1950 film by the Armed Forces Special Weapons Project. Rest assured: “The estimated [radiation] dose needed to bring about permanent sterility exceeds the lethal dose. So obviously, sterility by radiation would be just incidental, a matter a dead man wouldn’t worry about.”
Nuclear Energy: Our Misunderstood Friend: Okay, not a real nuclear-power propaganda film, but The Simpsons‘ pitch-perfect parody of a vintage one. Featuring Smilin’ Joe Fission, the mascot of the Springfield Nuclear Power Plant.