The Strange Origins of Walt Disney’s new Sci-fi mystery ‘Tomorrowland’

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Disney’s been under tight wraps about the upcoming sci-fi/fantasy film Tomorrowland for years. The plot was so shrouded in mystery that it led to all kinds of rumors, speculation, and Internet upheaval. Finally, leading up to its release this month, some of those secrets are beginning to unravel. 

The official synopsis explains, “Bound by a shared destiny, former boy-genius Frank (George Clooney), jaded by disillusionment, and Casey (Britt Robertson), a bright, optimistic teen bursting with scientific curiosity, embark on a danger-filled mission to unearth the secrets of an enigmatic place somewhere in time and space known only as 'Tomorrowland.’ What they must do there changes the world—and them—forever.” 

With Brad Bird (The Incredibles) at the helm, and a screenplay by Damon Lindelof (Prometheus), we’ll have plenty of action in store.  If the trailers, which include jet-packs, evil robots, rocket ships, and all sorts of futuristic awesomeness, are any indication, this film has all the makings for one adventurous ride. 

But it’s the origins of this film that are really intriguing. At the D23 Expo in 2013, Lindelof and Bird revealed that the inspiration for the film was a mysterious box labeled “1952.” The box was found in the basement of the old animation building at Walt Disney Studio in 2008 and contained elements thought to highlight Walt Disney’s idealistic views of an innovative future.  A key discovery was that of the strange blueprints for It’s A Small World. The ride was originally created for the 1964 World’s Fair in New York City, before it was relocated to its current home at California’s Disneyland Park. They indicated an area for a lower level which would potentially serve as a large theater using interconnecting screens and projection technology. According to Bird, the secret compartment could only be viewed by using a Wood’s black light lamp at a pre-instructed frequency which was handwritten near the center of the plans. The box also contained specials on space and technology, books about aeronautics and rocketry, and mysterious photos of Disney with other people. Clearly, plenty of gems to speculate at what Disney was up to, and great fodder for a feature film, but how exactly would that translate?  


The Japanese trailer which leaked online in March clued us in on the Disneyland connection. The theme park attraction was built to cover up the real Tomorrowlanda place where all the brightest gathered together, including Walt Disney and Albert Einstein. It appears that the ride It’s A Small World served as a secret portal between the park (clearly in reference to the 1952 box) and the real location if you had a secret pin. Smart move I guess, considering that the ride is perhaps one of the most irritating in the park, save for the Tiki Tiki Tiki Room. But something has clearly gone awry in this other dimension and Robertson is hell-bent on finding out what. 

Aside from the mysterious nature of the film’s conception and it’s connection to the actual theme park, most of the film’s mysteries remain intact. Will Clooney and Robertson save the future? As far as I’m concerned, any future with George Clooney, no matter how destitute it is, is a bright future. 

Disney’s Tomorrowland also stars Judy Greer, Hugh Laurie, Faffey Cassidy, Keegan-Michael Key, and Kathryn Hahn, and is set to hit theatres May 22, 2015. Here’s hoping for some of that Disney magic.

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