Recently I went to the NorthEast Comic Com & Collectibles Extravaganza. It was hardly an extravaganza but there were a few comic dealers there and I did come home with a full bag. One of the most interesting things I found was in the dollar bins, a copy of Mickey and Goofy explore the UNIVERSE OF ENERGY, presented by Exxon. This comic was a give away at Walt Disney World’s Epcot Center, I presume at the Universe of Energy pavilion.
The Universe of Energy was one of Epcot’s original attractions when the park opened in 1982. The comic has a copyright date on the cover of 1985. It is sixteen pages long and contains a crossword puzzle, the story, a weird summary at the end, and no credits. The comic was produced by the Walt Disney Education Media Company. This comic was similar to other educational comics produced in this era, like Heroes Against Hunger or Teen Titan Drug Awareness. The big difference between this comic and the latter two is that it is corporate propaganda trying to make the reader feel good about fossil fuels, not an aid to make the reader more aware of society’s problems. That doesn’t make it any less of a fun relic that I was pleased to find.
The story starts with Mickey and Goofy entering the Universe of Energy pavilion. They begin in what looks like the actual beginning of the exhibit watching the film presented on the Kinetic Mosaic display. They get a brief history of energy sources used in the United States. From there they get on the ride that takes them through the rest of the exhibit where they learn about where fossil fuels come from.
For the rest of the story, and ride, Mickey explains to Goofy the importance of fossil fuels. They learn where fossil fuels come from, that they will not last forever, and that we must do everything we can in order to find more ways to obtain them. It is in this context that the story progresses and they use their imagination to “visit” oil wells in foreign lands…
… To Arctic Drilling locations in Alaska, where they also learn about the Alaskan Pipeline that runs from Prudhoe Bay to Valdez…
…To coal mines where they learn that coal is burned to power steam turbines that generate electricity.
The journey ends back outside the exhibit where we get the lone comment about solar energy when Mickey points out the solar panels that were used to help power the ride. Solar energy is not described as a renewable energy source, instead it is described as something that is expensive and might be available to more people in the future. Let’s not forget that Exxon is producing this, not the Future World of Epcot where the Universe of Energy is located.
The comic concludes with an odd summary page where Mickey tells an exasperated Goofy that he would have to pedal for nine days on his combo tv / exercycle to produce the same amount of energy as one gallon of gasoline. It is Mickey’s way of telling Goofy to not bother with trying other ways to produce energy, just keep burning dead dinosaurs and everything will be fine.
I find it odd that something presented as educational material in the Future World of Disney’s Epcot is not focused on the energy needs of the future. This was around this time when Earth Day, recycling, and discussions of renewable energy sources were becoming mainstream ways of thinking. This comic is certainly a product of its time and the company that sponsored the exhibit. It also provides some interesting insight into the world of corporate propaganda.
I’ll wrap up with a photo of a keepsake, for lack of a better word, that this comic reminded me of. When we were kids my mother took my brother and I on a camping trip to Alaska. In five weeks we drove out west, then north to Alaska and back, camping all the way. On that trip I bought a small vial of oil that came from the oil spill created when the Exxon Valdez oil tanker crashed in Prince William Sound. The money from the purchase was supposed to go to the clean up and restoration effort. I still have that vial and have never been able to bring myself to get rid of it.