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Western Animation / What on Earth!

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Earth's dominant life form takes a bath

The National Film Board of Mars Presents: What on Earth! is a 1968 animated short film co-directed by Les Drew and Kaj Patel, produced by the National Film Board of Canada.

A spaceship from Mars makes an "earthshot" in an attempt to document conditions on Earth. The Martians soon determine that the dominant life form on Earth is the automobile. The Martian documentary then studies the habits and culture of the automobile, and how cars deal with the "pests" that infest them and so much of their world—namely, human beings.

The NFB has made the short available here through their official Youtube channel.


  • Big Honking Traffic Jam: Stymied traffic seen by the Martian probe begin honking, which brings a "worker" (caterpillar construction machinery) on the double. The "worker" chews up the obstructive mountains, and lays down more smooth roadway in mere seconds, alleviating the backlog, which quiets the honking.
  • Disney Acid Sequence: A sequence shows what Martians speculate is the process by which automobiles reproduce, a fanciful Rube Goldberg Device-like factory production line.
  • Hemisphere Bias: Yes, that's North America squarely in frame as the Martian spaceship heads towards Earth.
  • Limited Animation: Most of the action takes place in front of a plain white background.
  • Mistook the Dominant Lifeform: The Martians come to the conclusion that cars are the dominant life form on Earth.
  • Mockumentary: Presented as a Martian documentary. The opening credit says "Produced by the National Film Board of Mars".
  • Narrator: A Martian narrator gives some very incorrect commentary about life on Earth.
  • Translation Convention: Well, it's a Martian narrating the film in English.