My latest Guardian column, "Ducks, Nazis and Disney: well, that's one way to get a TV transition," tells the unlikely story of how a duck based on a rehabilitated Nazi rocket-scientist helped create the American color TV transition in the sixties:
There was one source of ready-made colour material that could have gone out over the airwaves: Hollywood had been shooting feature films and accompanying short subjects in colour for decades and had amassed a prodigious back-catalogue of material that might have jumpstarted the colour TV transition.
There was another problem, though: the studios hated TV, feared it, and would like to have seen it dead and dusted. It was the competition.
Until Walt Disney decided to build Disneyland, that is. The Walt Disney Company came through the second world war as a publicly listed firm, and Walt spent the next decade chafing against shareholder control and squabbling about spending with his brother Roy, the adult in their partnership. When Roy refused to open the company coffers to him for the $17m he needed to embark on a mad scheme called Disneyland, the company instead raised millions by opening their vaults to ABC, a broadcaster.