In the 1960s I saw an animated film on American TV, I think on The Wonderful World of Disney, that showed the future of road-building. It may have dated to the 1950s. [Among other projected advances, there was a large machine that obliterated everything in its path by shining a road-wide beam of light ahead of it -- presumably a "heat ray" rather than a laser -- and leaving a new road behind it. My fragmented memory has a striking scene of this machine cutting through the Amazon rainforest at night, and it says much about those times that the theme was entirely one of progress, with not a thought for the environment, wildlife, or original inhabitants of the region.]

Another scene that I think was from the same film was not intended to be taken seriously. It had a car with concrete wheels bouncing along a rubber highway in place of the usual rubber-tired wheels rolling over a concrete highway. What was this movie?

UPDATE: I evidently conflated two memories in this question. As both have been answered, and the answers are different, I have split the question to allow both to be properly credited. I have changed the header of the original question, which was answered first, to focus on the car with concrete wheels on a rubber highway. The memory in square brackets has a different answer.

  • 1
    I saw a diorama at the GM exhibit at the 1964 World's Fair in New York with the same idea. There was a huge machine crawling through the rain forest with what I took to be a laser beam out the front-it was bright red and seemed to be a point-felling the trees, a chipper in the middle to deal with the stumps, and laid six lanes of asphalt out the back. The machine was not futuristic like Fuzzy Boots' scenes. It looked like it came out of the Caterpillar catalog. Jan 4, 2020 at 3:26
  • Oh my stars. I attended the 1964 World's Fair and saw the General Motors exhibit, and that has to be the answer to my primary question. But I think it would be fair to split this question in two, because FuzzyBoots was dead on for the rubber highway; I remember other parts of this Disney film and he deserves credit. I evidently conflated two movies. Stand by and I will add a clear question that you can respond to. It would be best if you can document your answer. Jan 4, 2020 at 14:53
  • 1
    No, I have no documentation of this. It was one of the things that impressed me the most about the day, but we didn't have phones with cameras back then. I have mentioned it to many people with the same remark about how times have changed. Jan 4, 2020 at 15:06
  • I'll bet there's something on the Web... Jan 4, 2020 at 15:17
  • Split question at scifi.stackexchange.com/questions/225494/…
    – FuzzyBoots
    Sep 28, 2021 at 12:16

1 Answer 1


I suspect you're looking for a 1958 episode of Walt Disney’s Disneyland, "Magic Highway U.S.A", which had a few animations including a 9 minute animated feature at the end, "The Road Ahead".

An immense road-building machine An atomic Tunneling vehicle

You can read a bit about the episode in this article entitled, "Animating the Future".

The film itself uses the full might of the studio’s storytelling skills: perfectly balanced compositions, stylistic design, and finely-tuned color. Multi-colored highway lanes help steer traffic, and heated roads keep them clear of treacherous ice and snow. Windshields double as radar screens to enable driving through dense fog, while dashboard displays show travel conditions and suggest safe speeds. When accidents do occur, airborne emergency vehicles fly in to save lives — and clear the roads quickly to ensure traffic starts moving again.


Tomorrow’s roads are to be built with giant devices that lay out pavement like a red carpet; bridge-building machines cross valleys and rivers. Obstacles like mountains are easily navigated using our old friend atomic power to melt through the rock. Arthur Radebaugh depicted similar ideas in “Closer Than We Think,” including a version of “the new jungle-smashing LeTourneau ‘tree crusher”’ and an atomic reactor that would “fuse the earth into a rock-hard, glass-smoothed surface.”

You can view the entire film on YouTube (The concrete wheels on a rubber highway are at 36:35. The intro to "The Road Ahead" starts at at about 39:21):

Found with a search for disney future road-building laser.

The article I linked also mentions that the Chicago Tribune "Closer Than We Think!" newspaper feature had a similar piece on roadbuilding machines.

Road-building machine with forest crusher

Tomorrow's turnpikes will "flow" out of giant machines like magic ribbons across the countryside. The basic equipment is already in existence; only a few improvements are needed.

The forward section of such a road-builder would be a variant of the new jungle-smashing LeTourneau "tree-crusher" combined with a grader. The middle section would pour concrete in a never-ending flow, with the rear portion leveling the still soft pavement. A line of freight helicopters would be on hand to feed the behemoth with the material necessary to keep it moving across any type of country.

However, it is not an animation, but a still image.

  • 1
    Thank you; that is certainly where I saw the facetious rubber highway scene, and I recall some other scenes as well. (I am impressed by the similarity of the ideas to those presented in The Jetsons, which began in 1962, only four years later. But I am uneasy about one thing: This film does have an atomic roadbuilding machine, but it looks very different from my memory and has a different setting. Ross Millikan has provided a different answer that may actually be the source of the roadbuilding machine. I have probably conflated two memories, so I will split the question. Jan 4, 2020 at 14:55
  • 1
    @InvisibleTrihedron: If it weren't an animation, it would be this illustration from "Closer Than We Think", could it? 4.bp.blogspot.com/_sGYULzoQCgA/RsPZNqUYznI/AAAAAAAABAQ/…
    – FuzzyBoots
    Jan 4, 2020 at 14:59
  • Interesting, but I don't recognize that at all. My memory is in moving color! Jan 4, 2020 at 15:06
  • 1
    Funny thing about the YouTube. Although the "Magic Highway" and "Road Ahead" films may have been produced in 1958, they were packaged into a "World of Disney" presentation (hosted by Disney himself) having a copyright date which appears to be MCMLXVIII (1968) - 10 years later. It's definitely not earlier than 1965 because the opening montage includes music and images from Mary Poppins (1965). Interesting how Disney considered its predictions still relevant 10 years on.
    – Anthony X
    Jan 6, 2020 at 4:48

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.