In 1939, the most readily accepted hallmark of progress was the automobile. Therefore, it’s not surprising that the Transportation Zone was the most popular destination at the 1939 New York World's Fair. Many of the longest lines at the Fair were to exhibits and attractions belonging to General Motors, Chrysler Motors and the Ford Motor Company. And many of these crowd pleasers would distinctly foreshadow EPCOT Center attractions created some forty-plus years later.
The Chrysler Motors Building was at the forefront of the Transportation Zone and was home to the area’s Focal Exhibit. It embraced the very same theme as EPCOT’s World of Motion--the history of transportation. It however approached the subject with a much more serious tone, and a distinctly different presentation. Let’s flip to page 199 of our Official Fair Guidebook for a description:
“Within the rotunda of the building, the FOCAL EXHIBIT—-a part of the Chrysler Motors presentation—tells its graphic story of Transportation by means of moving pictures projected upon a great map of the world, and by the "Rocketport," a display that seizes upon your imagination and projects it into the future. The show consists of three parts—The Early Period, The Middle Period, and The Mechanical Period.”
Like World of Motion's cast of animatronics, these periods chronicled the history of transportation from foot and animal power all the way through to the arrival of automobiles and airplanes. The show culminates in the following dramatic finale:
“As the airplane finishes its flight across the screen, lines shoot out and harness the earth with other planets. Twinkling signal lights, the hum of gigantic motors and the warning sound of sirens indicate that the Rocketship is loading passengers for London. You see futuristic liners unloading at nearby docks; sleek trains glide to a stop, automobiles whisk voyagers to the spot, high-speed elevators rise and descend as the Rocketship is serviced for the coming journey. The moment for departure arrives. A great steel crane moves, a magnet picks up the Rocketship and deposits it into the breach of the rocketgun. A moment of awesome silence. A flash, a muffled explosion, and the ship vanishes into the night.”
Another popular attraction at the Chrysler Motors Building was in fact the first Technicolor 3D film ever made. After donning special Polaroid glasses, audiences were entertained by singing and dancing auto parts that magically assembled into a fully built automobile. EPCOT connection? Picture Journey into Imagination’s Magic Eye Theater dropped into World of Motion’s Transcenter.
Other points of interest in the pavilion included the standard showroom of new model Chrysler-made vehicles, and an exhibit featuring a talking car that answered questions, gave interviews and demonstrated its many then high-tech features.
Special Note: Readers of the first two parts of the EPCOT 1939 series may be now asking, this is great, but didn’t you say Futurama was your next topic? Well, yes that was my intention. But when I began to research the Transportation Zone, I realized there was much, much more to cover than just the popular General Motors attraction. Especially considering the numerous other similarities to EPCOT Center that continued to become apparent. Fear not; Futurama, and other elements from the Transportation Zone, are on the way. Stay tuned.