I'm absolutely fascinated by many of the early exhibits at Disneyland that I've only read about, whether it be desert rocks glowing like colorful gemstones under black light, a giant model of a human blood cell, a monumental clock of the world, or even an aluminum pig. Many intriguing dioramas, murals, and models - the work of anonymous artists funded by some of America's most formidable corporations- are barely a footnote in the Park's history, overshadowed by today's less ambitious delights of churros and fast-passes.
Some of the displays were so "high concept" it's difficult to imagine that they ever managed to get their point across. Take for instance the "CHEMITRON" - the all but forgotten centerpiece of Monsanto's Hall of Chemistry attraction in mid-century Tomorrowland.
“Upon entering Monsanto’s Hall of Chemistry, you will see the CHEMITRON…huge shining test tubes of the eight basic materials found in nature, from which countless chemicals and plastics can be made: Salt, coal, air, oil, sulfur, phosphate rock, water, and limestone -- but from those eight common substances come almost 500 different Monasanto chemicals and plastics. "
Artistically the Chemitron was a knock-out. Oddly art-deco in its design, the "eight basic materials" are depicted as imposing human figures - male and female - silently rising up above their glass cylinders like unbottled genies. Each a mythological god or goddess of the supernatural chemical world, standing waist deep in colored "liquid" -like an assortment of pancake syrups at IHOP.
"Air", for example, was embodied as an ethereal female with her hair floating up toward the ceiling. The crystalline sculpture of "Salt" had an almost cubistic nature, and glossy "Oil" was sleek and fluid. Figures representing translucent properties were internally lit and staggered between more opaque figures, like coal or sulfur.
"In the ceiling above the “Chemitron” spreads the arm of chemistry which transforms these eight basic materials into hundreds of chemicals and thousands of products we use and enjoy. In the hand is a ball of fire, symbol of the complex processes necessary for this transformation. Through the arm's arteries of industry, the chemicals are formed into products that affect our everyday lives.”
So. Whatever became of the Chemitron, I wonder? In contrast to the juvenile marketing of today's Disneyland, it's difficult to imagine it could really have ever existed at all.
Perhaps somewhere in this world there's a vaguely female-ish figure that once represented "phosphate rock" to perplexed Disneyland guests - now dusty and forgotten behind the water heater in someone's garage. A genie waiting to be freed...