Damon Lindelof reveals the origin of TOMORROWLAND, reveals that Disneyland is not in the movie

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Writer Damon Lindelof first came to most people’s attention when he created Lost with JJ Abrams and Carlton Cuse. It’s probably also where he learnt to a be a secretive bastard (and not end stories, but that’s a whole other article), a tradition he’s continued with most of his projects. His latest project Tomorrowland took even his normal clandestine nature to new heights though, but now that we finally know more about the story, Lindelof is willing to share where it all began.


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To bring everybody up to speed, here’s the Reader’s Digest version of what we know about Tomorrowland: Originally titled 1952, a name taken from the label on a boxthat Lindelof found in the Disney Archives, we initially just knew that it was a project that Lindelof was doing with director Brad Bird (The Incredibles, Mission: Impossible: Ghost Protocol).

But then the title got changed to Tomorrowland, the same name as a famous Disneyland park attraction from the 1960’s showing off the city of the future, and the box’s eclectic contents were revealed leading to much speculation, from the film possibly being a Walt Disney biopic to a UFO film to a Buck Rogers reboot. And then this synopsis was unofficially revealed along with a lot more spoilery details (none of which has been officially confirmed, by the way) :

A teenage girl, a genius middle-aged man (who was kicked out of Tomorrowland a young boy) and a pre-pubescent girl robot attempt to get to and unravel what happened to Tomorrowland, which exists in an alternative dimension, in order to save Earth.

Which is definitely not a Walt Disney biopic. Recently though, Lindelof spoke to Grantland (in a very lengthy but very interesting interview that I suggest you go read in full if you have the time), and during their discussion, he revealed not only Tomorrowland‘s origins, but also that the film will not actually be taking place inside any Disney parks as many had suspected.

“I’ve always been fascinated by Disneyland and Disney World, and my favorite part of the park was always Tomorrowland. But there’s no story there. Like, if you go into Fantasyland, there’s just story happening all around you everywhere, whether it’s sort of a direct kind of connection to a movie that you know or a fairy tale that you know, and the same with, like, Frontierland, or when you go in the Haunted Mansion. My son, who’s 6, when he went on Pirates of the Caribbean for the first time, Jack Sparrow is a part of that ride. He’s going to see the movies in two years, when he’s old enough, and he’s going to think that the movies were the inspiration for the ride, versus the other way around. I would love to do that for Tomorrowland, you know? I would love to give Tomorrowland a story, because right now, Tomorrowland is kind of being taken over by Star Wars — which is great, but it’s called Tomorrowland. Star Wars is a galaxy a long time ago, far, far away. Star Wars is not about our future.

And there’s this Neil deGrasse Tyson speech — you can YouTube it — and he gave an eloquent and beautiful talk about how the abandonment of the space program after we landed on the moon is responsible for the fact that we no longer have an optimistic view of our future. I just said, “There’s a movie in there somewhere.” And that was the beginning of me curating this rather fascinating “is it or isn’t it?” Disney history in this kind of Dan Brown, Da Vinci Code way. Like, all these things that I didn’t know about, the history of Tomorrowland in the park, and could that be the basis of something? Even though the movie is not about the park — I will say this exclusively to you, that none of the movie takes place in a Disneyland park. It doesn’t, but that history became the inspiration for this amazing story. I brought Jeff Jensen in, who had come up with all these amazing theories about Lost while it was on, some of which were just so much better than what we were coming up with in the room. I said, “Come in and look at this stuff and talk to me about it,” and then we started coming up with the germs of a really cool story, and then at the same time, I was hanging out with Bird, because we were both in the Bad Robot universe; he was posting Ghost Protocol as we were working on Into Darkness. I kind of got my hooks in him because I started asking him all these questions about Disney, because he worked there for a number of years and was basically trained by a couple of the original Imagineers, and he was like, “Why are you asking me these questions?” and I said, “I’m working on this project regarding Tomorrowland,” and then he was in. And then we went and picked up George Clooney, and we were off to the races.

But I think that, you know, there’s a lot of things out there about the movie, some of which are completely and totally erroneous, some of which are completely and totally dead-on, and I don’t know why I keep finding myself being a secret-keeper, but at the same time, the movie’s going to come out Christmas of ’14, which is 19 months from now. So to just say like, “Here — this is the story of a blah blah blah that then goes to so so so and discovers a blah blah blah, and then everybody lives happily ever after” — I just, I hate that feeling when the trailer is, like, awesome for the first 40 seconds, and then they show you that one thing and you just go, “Ugh, I wish I didn’t know that.”

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The story details that were “discovered” by HitFix’s Drew McSweeney had some pretty far out, intriguing ideas (I’ll let you read them at your own spoiler peril), but none of them really tied into the contents of that “1952” box. And if what Lindelof is saying here is true, then that’s because everything we know might be wrong. But we will be able to get a clearer picture of the story’s veracity later in the year though, when we will apparently be delving much deeper into the box’s contents.

“This box. This box is — ironically or fortuitously or coincidentally, or maybe this is why I was interested in it, it’s another infamous mystery box, except this mystery box can be opened and displayed and shared. I will say that by the end of this summer, summer of ’13, we will be giving an explicit sort of curation of what inspired the movie, and then people will at least have a sense of what we’re excited about doing, if not the story. That history of the company is really amazing, particularly the history of the parks. The Disney company went public, and then Walt started WED, which was his little black-ops division. He hired these guys to start developing these really interesting ideas, some of which got made and some of which didn’t, some of which have been seen, some of which haven’t. This stuff — it’s a little bit like that Ark of the Covenant room, except it’s not just one room; it’s spread out over these three campuses in Burbank. And nobody’s going through this stuff. There’s just not enough time in the day. Like, if it’s the original cel art for Lady and the Tramp, that stuff is fiercely guarded and catalogued, but if it’s just random miscellany that nobody knows what to do with, it’s just kind of sitting there. So this particular box, the box we tweeted — Disney was developing 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. [David] Fincher’s developing it now, but before that, I think McG was developing it, and I think he requested all the design work from the original ride in Disneyland, the Nautilus ride. And this box was in with that stuff. You know, what was it doing there? Who knows — but what’s more exciting is there’s probably, like, 50 boxes like that waiting.”

Somebody get to unboxing!

Read  Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross to score HBO's Watchmen series

Last Updated: May 24, 2013

Kervyn Cloete

A man of many passions - but very little sleep - I've been geeking out over movies, video games, comics, books, anime, TV series and lemon meringues as far back as I can remember. So show up for the geeky insight, stay for the delicious pastries.

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