When aliens visit Earth, they naturally assume cars run the world. It’s not such an outlandish idea anymore.

An alien spacecraft hovers above Earth. But before it lands, the super-intelligent creatures on board want to know what they’re getting into. So they carefully observe what they assume is the dominant life form on the planet: the car.

This extraterrestrial reconnaissance mission is the subject of an adorable animated short film made in 1966 by the National Film Board of Canada and brought to our attention by at NextSTL, a website promoting smart development in St. Louis, Missouri. Here’s how the film board describes this Oscar-nominated film, called “What on Earth! The Automobile Inherits the Planet”:  

This animated short proposes what many earthlings have long feared—that the automobile has inherited the planet. When life on Earth is portrayed as one long, unending conga-line of cars, a crew of extra-terrestrial visitors understandably assume they are the dominant race. While humans, on the other hand, are merely parasites.

The film is a 50-year-old commentary on the dominance of cars in our lives, but it’s still relevant today. As Edward Humes recently wrote in The Atlantic:

The car is the star. That’s been true for well over a century—unrivaled staying power for an industrial-age, pistons-and-brute-force machine in an era so dominated by silicon and software. Cars conquered the daily culture of American life back when top hats and child labor were in vogue, and well ahead of such other innovations as radio, plastic, refrigerators, the electrical grid, and women’s suffrage.

The idea that cars might be self-sufficient entities independently navigating the planet isn’t just cute satire anymore; with the advent of driverless vehicles, it’s a real possibility. In one 10-minute visual package, this film is both a stark reminder of the persistent primacy of automobiles and a prediction of what that could look like in the near future.

About the Author

Most Popular

  1. A photo of a police officer in El Paso, Texas.
    Equity

    What New Research Says About Race and Police Shootings

    Two new studies have revived the long-running debate over how police respond to white criminal suspects versus African Americans.

  2. Equity

    What Happened to Crime in Camden?

    Often ranked as one of the deadliest cities in America, Camden, New Jersey, ended 2017 with its lowest homicide rate since the 1980s.

  3. photo: Police line up outside the White House in Washington, D.C. as protests against the killing of George Floyd continue.
    Perspective

    America’s Cities Were Designed to Oppress

    Architects and planners have an obligation to protect health, safety and welfare through the spaces we design. As the George Floyd protests reveal, we’ve failed.

  4. Equity

    The Problem With Research on Racial Bias and Police Shootings

    Despite new research on police brutality, we still have no idea whether violence toward African Americans is fueled by racial prejudice. That has consequences.

  5. photo: Police in riot gear march down Plymouth Avenue during riots in North Minneapolis on July 21, 1967.
    Equity

    Why This Started in Minneapolis

    Conditions that led to George Floyd’s death are not unique to Minneapolis and St. Paul. But there’s a reason why the Twin Cities triggered a national uprising.

×