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Literature / Icarus Montgolfier Wright

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The balloon

"Icarus Montgolfier Wright" is a 1956 short story by Ray Bradbury.

It is a speculative story about the first man to walk on the moon. His name is Jedediah Prentiss, and it is August 1, 1970 (Bradbury only missed the date by thirteen months). Prentiss is trying to get some sleep, only a short distance away from the rocket, which is due to take off the next morning. As Prentiss drifts off into an uneasy sleep, he begins to dream of some of the pioneers of flight: Icarus, who flew too close to the sun; Etienne Montgolfier, who went on the first hot-air balloon ride in 1783; and Orville Wright, who flew a plane at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina in 1903.

In 1962 Bradbury's story was made into a 16-minute animated short film directed by Osmond Evans.


  • Call-Back: Early in the story, when he's contemplating his awesome place in history, Prentiss thinks about he's basically a regular guy: "Jedediah Prentiss, born 1938, college graduate 1959, licensed rocket pilot 1965." At the end of the story, when he's asked his name, he identifies himself like this: "Icarus Montgolfier Wright. Born: nine hundred years before Christ. Grammar school: Paris, 1783. High school: Kitty Hawk, 1903. Graduation from Earth to moon: This day, God willing, August 1, 1970."
  • Dream Sequence: Prentiss the astronaut dreams of Icarus, the Montgolfier brothers, and the Wright brothers.
  • Fun with Homophones: In the story, as the balloon takes off, Montgolfier says "Everything's right...." The next word is "Wright", as the story segues to the Wright brothers at Kitty Hawk. (In the animated short film a guy with a French accent says "I was right!")
  • Icarus Allusion: The myth of Icarus is alluded to as the mythical first step in human flight.
  • I Want My Jet Pack: Bradbury was real close with the moon landing, but he was unduly optimistic when he wrote "with luck, on Mars, summer 1999."
  • Title Drop: At the end, Prentiss identifies himself as "Icarus Montgomery Wright".

Tropes unique to the animated short:

  • Animated Adaptation: Bradbury's story read near verbatim over a cartoon, with only a couple of minor changes.
  • The Ken Burns Effect: Most of the "animation" in the short consists of the camera panning and moving over still drawings.
  • Limited Animation: The film was made by veterans of the UPA studio and it is very much in the UPA style of Limited Animation. For much of the short there isn't any animation at all, in fact, just the camera gliding around, or tilting or spinning. What little animation there is is mostly stuff like one drawing moving over another, like a drawing of a bird flying over the waves.
  • Narrator: James Whitmore, who later played Brooks in The Shawshank Redemption, reads Bradbury's short story nearly verbatim.
  • Spiritual Successor: To the 1950s UPA adaptation of "The Tell-Tale Heart". That short, just like this one, was an adaptation of a short story, which involved the story being read near-verbatim along with a cartoon that featured stark drawings and extremely Limited Animation.