Daniel DiManna
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Weird Old Car Shorts: ‘Design for Dreaming’ (1956)

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Design for Dreaming
Be careful to avoid the roadkill of tomorrow!
Photo: Radoslaw Drozdzewski via CC

In The News Wheel’s ongoing series of “weird old car shorts” reviews, we’ve discussed the strange and wonderful history of theatrical/industrial shorts from the 1940s and 1950s. These odd little films often used full stories to do everything from creating awareness to selling products. On rare — and often particularly bizarre — occasions, these shorts even took the form of musicals. Such is the case for today’s subject: a trippy, wacky car short from the 50s called Design for Dreaming.


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A look at ‘Design for Dreaming’

Of all the car-themed shorts to emerge from this era, Design for Dreaming might be the most infamous. And there’s a very good reason for that. To put it mildly, this short could very well, and very easily, be mistaken for a legitimate fever dream. It’s frenetic, bizarre, oddly charming, entirely memorable, and oozing with legitimate production value. But yeah, it’s still weird.

Design for Dreaming takes place entirely in the overactive imagination of a young, nameless woman who dreams of shiny cars. In her dream, a mysterious and handsome man beckons her to the site of an ethereal motorama. There she witnesses the technology of tomorrow, experiencing everything from futuristic kitchen equipment to new fashion. But the real attractions are the sleek — and very 1950s — vehicles of tomorrow.

A cruise down the highway of tomorrow

At this point, the short briefly becomes a commercial for a futuristic lineup of new GM vehicles from the 1956 model year. These include recognizable rides like the Buick Centurion, the Buick Roadmaster, the Cadillac Gala, the Chevy Impala, and even a Corvette C1. The highlight of this segment is a look at the 1956 Firebird II, which would never be released to the public.

After this tour of soon-to-be classic cars, our heroine joins the mysterious man behind the wheel of the Firebird. Once inside, she finally recognizes the man to be her husband, and the two depart on a trip to the future. The short ends with the couple cruising the “highway of tomorrow,” mostly accomplished by the use of a massive miniature set. Like many depictions of the future from the 50s, this final shot is optimistic and even artistic. However, I’m willing to bet none of the tiny “cars of tomorrow” speeding down that highway were battery powered.


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If you’re interested in viewing this odd little time capsule of a short, it can be seen here thanks to its public domain status. For a more lively, comedic viewing experience, check out this version and have a good laugh.