1939 World's Fair Chrysler 3D movie

Our pal Iowahawk went to a swap meet and picked up a pair of 3D glasses from the 1939 World's Fair. They were given out to attendees so they could watch Chrysler's whimsical stop motion movie (above) that shows a car being assembled by invisible workers. The glasses prompted Iowahawk to do a little digging into Chrysler's exhibition at the World's Fair, and he found a number of interesting images, which he shares on his blog.

What a show it must have been -- a Rocket Port of Tomorrow, a Talking Car, a Frozen Forest, all manner of Engineering Wonders, plus the aforementioned 3-D movie extraganza. Still something strikes me in this ephemera as very melacholy. In 1939 The US was going through a 10th straight year of economic depression (national unemployment was still 17%) and by September, WWII was underway; a stark contrast with the shiny optimism reflected these (kinda) rose colored glass. If any car company in 1939 had reason to be skittish about futurism it was Chrysler, which had recently taken a major financial bath on the too-far-ahead-of-its-time Airflow; and yet they seem pretty bullish on the whole thing here. It's hard to imagine this kind of optimisitic boosterism at Chrysler today. Belvidere itself home to a half-empty Chrysler assembly plant, which I passed on the way to the swap meet. Whether Chrysler can survive as a zombie mutant financial partnership between the Federal government and Italian industrialists, it certainly won't share DNA with the company who staged this production.
1939 World's Fair Chrysler 3D movie


  1. What a great little film! Some things, like the big shock-springs (I remember having a few lying about my yard as a kid, they’re rock solid), makes you wonder how they did it.
    But, really nice work. Probably the equivalent of the Honda ads, today in terms of car-ad-wow :)

  2. Fantastic. Where are all the inventive gee-gaws now? I’d love for a gang of retro American Industrialists to take over Chrysler and make it the prestige car for middle class Americans again. Toyotas look like turds, Hondas look like doorstops, Fords look cheap (trucks aside). Plymouth, Chrysler, Jeep and Dodge have the some of the best designers around…set a Sebring next to a Camry. Just get the reliability tweaked, or hell, just bring the cost of parts and labor down, and there you go. Where’s my solar trunk roof, my flare fenders, my foldout picnic table. Who wants a car that needs a penny taped to the back windshield to keep the rear wheels on the road? Art Deco and the Roaring 20’s are the most definitive American design statement, and it looks great.

  3. I’ve seen this film in 3D, at an archivists’ conference. Absolutely and utterly delightful. There’s a joy about the physical object that simply doesn’t exist anymore.

  4. Of course they were optomistic, WAR was in the winds, a war that was going to involve industry like never before. There was going to be money rolling about like never before. Essentially, it was going to be an open check book. Probably more oversight than our current sitation, but still pretty much open ended. Plus the ability to freeze wages, and hold the unions at bay. Lots of women workers, new to the job and not knowing what to expect.

    Heck yeah, they were optimistic as could be, Airflow or not. The end of the depression was coming with a big bang.

  5. I saw this film in 3D at a 3D festival it is amazing to watch

    almost as much fun as the three stooges in 3d that followed

  6. Hey, if I’m not mistaken, the animation for this appears to have been the work of George Pal, who did a good number of industrial animations at that time– the syncopation and style seem to reflect his hand.

  7. It’s called “Motor Rhythm” … I got to see it also in 3D at the Dryden Theatre at George Eastman House on New Year’s Eve at the end of 2004. Very slick. They also showed some other stuff; the best of which was “Doom Town, USA” — a 3-D movie featuring an atomic bomb blast.

  8. Actually, the movie you linked to is not the one from the 1939 Worlds Fair exhibit. The Chrysler animated film shown in ’39 was shot in black-and-white and titled “In Tune With Tomorrow.” The entire film was re-shot in 1940 using the Technicolor process, and released as “New Dimensions”, the film indexed above. This technicolor version was re-released in 1953, during the 3-D craze, and re-titled “Motor Rhythm.”

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