A Is for Atom

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A Is for Atom
Directed byCarl Urbano
Produced bySutherland Productions
Written byTrue Boardman
Music byEugene Poddany
Distributed bySutherland Productions
Release date
1953, 1964 (revised and updated version)
Running time
14:45 minutes

A Is for Atom is a 14-minute 1953 promotional animated short documentary film created by John Sutherland and sponsored by General Electric (GE). It is now in the public domain. The short explains what an atom is, how nuclear energy is released from certain kinds of atoms, the peacetime uses of nuclear power, and the by-products of nuclear fission. It is Sutherland's most-decorated film, having won numerous honors at film festivals.[1]

A is for Atom was re-released by General Electric in 1964. John Sutherland Studios was contracted by GE to modernize the film. Changes include included tighter editing, new music and a focus on nuclear power as opposed to nuclear bombs.


A narrator is relating what is an atom and how atomic energy can be harnessed by man to produce "limitless" energy. Dr. Atom (a caricature with an atom for a head) then explains the similarities between the solar system and atomic structure. He then goes on to relate how the atom is made up of protons, neutrons, and electrons. After this, the narrator explains how there are more than 90 elements with many possible isotopes for each.

The history of atomic energy is then over viewed beginning with the discovery of artificial transmutation. This then led to the discovery of nuclear fission and eventually nuclear weapons and nuclear energy using the chain reaction of radioactive material. The Oakridge uranium factory is then discussed as well as the first nuclear reactor and the first uses of plutonium. The future of fantastical nuclear power plants is then explained. The short ends on the uses of radio isotopes in medicine and agriculture.

The film includes a blue "nuclear giant" character, very similar to Dr. Manhattan from the graphic novel Watchmen.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Heintjes, Tom. ""Animating Ideas: The John Sutherland Story," ''Hogan's Alley'', 2002". Cartoonician.com. Retrieved 2012-09-14.

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