Director’s Statement

One of my earliest childhood memories is standing on a creaking boardwalk in a cavernous dark room, looking down at a Cobalt-20 source glowing blue with Cherenkov radiation.

Ben Hillman, writer-director

Ben Hillman


Unlike most other kids, I had to wear a radiation badge when I visited Daddy at work. He was a nuclear chemist at Brookhaven National Laboratory in Long Island, NY. So nuclear science is in my blood – and hopefully didn’t damage too many cells.

My direction turned out to be more art than science. Sometimes art about science. Later in life, I ran across a book about the Manhattan Project called “Brighter Than a Thousand Suns.” I was interested to know about the evil people who created such a monstrous weapon. I was wrong. It wasn’t like I imagined it at all. It was a story of how giant historical forces and extraordinary timing led the greatest scientists in the world in a desperate race to beat Hitler to the Bomb. And the horrifying consequences of building a weapon that would change human history.

I also was startled to recognize some of the names in the book – as people I knew who lived in the neighborhood. Like the genial Sam Goudsmit, who gave a lecture on his hobby Egyptology in the high school cafeteria. It turned out that Sam Goudsmit was the scientist they embedded with the Allies as they advanced across Europe on a secret mission – to track down Werner Heisenberg, the genius of physics who was heading Hitler’s own atomic bomb project. They knew each other, of course. They all knew each other.

Later I read shelves full of other books on the Manhattan Project. The Bible on the subject is “The Making of the Atomic Bomb” by Richard Rhodes, which is considered one of the greatest nonfiction books ever written – on any subject. It has been years of research and creation to get to this point. For me, every minute has been gripping.

Why an animated musical? Because it is the most inappropriate style imaginable to tell such a harrowing story. You can call it black humor – a time-honored way of dealing with a subject too terrible to contemplate. But others said it better.

In the words of the great physicist Niels Bohr:
Some things are so serious that you can ONLY joke about them.”

 — Ben Hillman, February 2023