Matt Groening's Futurama shows us all his two cents about the future, in his own ironic way. But General Motors did that first... somehow!

"Highways and Horizons" -- also known as "Futurama" -- was the name of GM's exhibit at the 1939 World's Fair, held in New York. The 1939 edition of the Fair's theme was "Building a Better Tomorrow", so GM had shown their visionary solutions for motor traffic regulation, superhighways and pedestrian facilities. The Fair's visitors could sit on some moving chairs (think escalators) and see a tour showing scale models of the superhighways and such.

Close to the end of the tour, there was a full-scale street showing how their plans would look like in real life. The project was designed by Norman Bel, and its architecture was conceived by Albert Kahn, Inc.

25 years later, GM has shown a totally revamped version of their Futurama pavillion at the 1964 World's Fair, once again at New York. And with time, their exhibit had become even more, erm... visionary: the moving chairs were back with a vengeance, and the futuristic scenarios too! The urban setting -- aptly named The City of the Future -- featured moving sidewalks, midtown airports, undertown conveyor belts for freight, the usual high and towering skyscrapers, nothing you couldn't see in Blade Runner -- now I wonder if the Pan Am building was on that model too...

You've got a lot of dry, desertic terrain? No problem! According to their exhibit, it was nothing that using desalted sea water couldn't tackle. You could leave your crops at the hands (er, hands?) of remote-controlled machines and bingo, they would bloom just as good as anywhere else!

If only Greenpeace were paying attention: in jungles, huge machines would chop down trees using laser beams, and then build multi-lane highways to transport the processed timber and chemicals extracted from natural sources to the big city. Greenhouse effect, anyone?

The tour also showed scaled models of underwater resorts -- even featuring people riding the so-called aqua-scooters -- and submarine trains freighting minerals to the surface.

And if conquering the Earth's cities, deserts, jungles and oceans wasn't enough, there was a scenario showing the Moon's surface, full with manned lunar crawlers (some kind of vehicle) and commuter space ships.

When the ride was through, the visitors got to the Avenue of Progress, where GM's space age technology was shown: solar powered machines, turbine engines, the new usages for plastic, metal and fabric, and so on...

And -- last but not least -- there were some stuff about automotive design. But who was interested in that after seeing the future?

Oops, I've got to go. Someone's jacking my aqua-scooter. In the meantime, here are some pictures and the source of this info for your viewing pleasure...

Futurama at the 1939 World Fair:
Futurama at the 1964 World Fair:

Thanks to Jeffrey Stanton for the reference, the folks at Columbia University... and Norman Bel Geddes and Matt Groening, of course!