Animation &UPA 30 Nov 2007 08:56 am

Our Mr. Sun

- Back in the 50′s the film director, Frank Capra, produced, directed and wrote four specials for TV which were sponsored by Bell. Our Mr. Sun (1956), Hemo the Magnificent (1957), Unchained Goddess (1958) and The Strange Case of the Cosmic Rays (1957) were devoted to explaining basic science to family home audiences. Capra was educated as an engineer, so he had a lifelong interest in science and he initiated these prorams.

Capra also had a long time interest in animation. He was responsible for securing a distribution contract for Disney with Columbia back in the early 30′s. Animation became a large part of these four programs, and Capra found different animation houses to do them. UPA, Disney, Shamus Culhane‘s studio and WB all were involved.

UPA did the artwork for Our Mr. Sun, the first of these programs. (You can watch it here.) I have a copy of the script marked up by Grim Natwick, so I know he animated on it out of the NY studio of UPA.

The shows play a bit like Ward Kimball‘s “Tomorrowland” episodes of the Disneyland television show. Perhaps these are a bit less joke oriented. The animation is just as limited and design oriented. This format has forever affected many who grew up watching them. Check out the new Pixar 2D piece, You’re The Rat, currently on YouTube (it’ll probably be removed soon.) There’s an obvious link.

Here are some frame grabs from this first show of the Bell Science Series: Our Mr. Sun.

(Cllick any image to enlarge.)












20 Responses to “Our Mr. Sun”

  1. on 04 Dec 2007 at 3:58 pm 1.Ward said …

    These are some incredible frames, Michael. Thanks so much for posting these!

  2. on 06 Jan 2008 at 1:51 pm 2.Frank Forte said …

    Really beautiful stuff. great colors. Great find.

  3. on 23 Jan 2008 at 3:05 pm 3.the chemtrails said …

    these are insane

  4. on 09 Mar 2008 at 8:35 pm 4.Carl Hybels said …

    Thanks. I’ve loved Our Mr. Sun, seeing it long ago in 7th graded science class. What a breath of fresh air and fun learning it was and is, esp. compared to all those other educational movies we had to watch. The best and biggest impact educational movies ever made. I didn’t know they were by Frank Capra…

  5. on 27 May 2008 at 10:06 pm 5.Brad said …

    Are these from the DVD releases? I’ve seen them on Ebay and Amazon and would love to get them to show to my middle school classes….

  6. on 28 May 2008 at 1:13 am 6.Michael said …

    Yes, they are from the dvd’s that are available, and they are an excellent teaching tool (though a bit outdated scientifically speaking.)

  7. on 28 May 2008 at 11:12 am 7.Brad said …

    Thanks. I’ll definitely be picking these up.

    I use lots of these old films in my classes. I’ve downloaded a bunch from My kids LOVE “A Is For Atom” and “Principles of Electricity”. I also use several of the films from the Disney Tomorrowland collection.

    The fact that some of the science is out of date (though not that much) actually helps. It allows us to discuss how our knowledge has progressed and how the scientific process works.

    I wish somebody would do this kind of work today.

  8. on 28 May 2008 at 1:01 pm 8.Michael said …

    There are plenty of excellent films still being made (though not by the likes of Disney.) An example I can think of quickly is Koji Yamamura’s film for Greenpeace about whales. Go here to see it. You just have to look for them.

  9. on 03 Mar 2009 at 11:22 am 9.Jim Belfiore said …

    Have you come across any detailed history (books, blogs, websites, etc) of the production of the Bell Series films? (I’d be very interested in Grim Natwick’s script comments for example.)


  10. on 05 Sep 2009 at 5:33 pm 10.Gary Thomas said …

    Apparently there were a total of nine tapes in the Bell Science series. Wikipedia provides an excellent reference to the series at I have seven of the VHS tapes unopened and annually try to make the sell/keep decision. Glad to hear that some have made it to DVD. I didn’t know that WD had hosted the last until I read your blog … which I confirmed at Wikipedia. Thanks for posting!

  11. on 24 May 2011 at 11:28 am 11.Francis Torchio said …

    One of the best series on science I ever watched. Dr. Frank Baxter was an inspiration for me not only on the science series but the way he taught Shakespeare during that time period. His easy manner and genuine desire to reach out to people was astounding.

  12. on 17 Sep 2011 at 7:47 pm 12.Eric Niderost said …


    I’m Eric Niderost, and I’m writing a book on Frank Baxter… You can publish my e-mail if you like– I’d like to hear from anyone 1) who has memories of his shows (like me) 2) had a class with him

    and michael– I’m wondring how I could use some screen captures for the book — would I contact the people who are now selling the DVD versions?

    Many thanks

  13. on 18 Sep 2011 at 7:02 am 13.Michael said …

    Eric, you would need to contact the owners of the series to get permission. The original owner was the advertising agency, N.W.Ayer. I’m not sure who has the rights today. Perhaps going to the DVD producers would be a good start.

    Of course, I remember the series though I remember some of the shows more clearly than others. I have a couple of the DVDs.

    You might look into the Shamus Culhane autobiography: Talking Animals & Other People. He has a lot to say about the series and the making of it.

  14. on 25 Jun 2012 at 8:48 pm 14.Tom Cavanaugh said …

    I have nominated this film to be part of the 2012 National Film Archives. There are some amazing stories behind this film and if you could send an email asking them to consider the film… that would be one more vote in getting it recognized.


    Email is preferred; however, to submit via regular mail, send your nominations to:

    National Film Registry
    Library of Congress
    Packard Campus for Audio Visual Conservation
    19053 Mt. Pony Road
    Culpeper, VA 22701
    Attn: Donna Ross


  15. on 25 Jun 2012 at 9:23 pm 15.Michael said …

    Thanks for the information about the National Film Registry. I’ll contact them and suggest anyone else out there, who read this, contact them as well.

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