When Pixar wunderkind Brad Bird made the transition from animated classics like The Incredibles and Finding Nemo to live-action with Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol, nobody could have predicted just how incredible it would turn out. But when the dust – so much dust – settled, Bird essentially had his pick of projects to tackle next. There were a couple of big ones, but he turned them all down to do Tomorrowland, a movie that up until now has been more like an episode of Skattejag with Scott Scott (Note to self: Stop giving away your age) than actual movie production.
Penned by Damon Lindelof, a product of the JJ Abrams School of Mystery Boxes, Tomorrowland began life when he discovered a mysterious briefcase, filled with a vast array of mystifying objects, in Disney’s archives. Those objects have pretty much been the only clues we’ve had to work with, other than the movie’s name which is taken from a concept for a futuristic park that Walt Disney once wanted to build. But now, while talking to EW, Lindelof and Bird have finally peeled back the curtain a bit, with Lindelof explaining just what this place called “Tomorrowland” is.
“What Hogwarts is to magic, Tomorrowland is to science: They are both easy to find if you are a wizard and very difficult to find if you’re a Muggle. Walt Disney is not a character in our movie, but he is referenced as having some involvement in this mysterious place called Tomorrowland, as a huge futurist and aficionado of space travel, rocketry, cities of the future, and space travel.”
And in keeping with the Harry Potter analogies, much like when you touch a magical portkey and get transported somewhere else, so to the story of Tomorrowland is kicked off when Casey Newton (played by Britt Robertson), not knowing what she’s doing, touches a mysterious pin and gets transported briefly to this place known as “Tomorrowland”.
“There is a piece of technology in this pin, it’s the kind of old-school pin you would wear on your lapel, and when you make physical contact with it, you have the illusion of being physically transported to another world, and that’s how Casey gets her first glimpse of Tomorrowland. She is a Muggle who accidentally wanders across Platform 9 ¾ and sees something she probably shouldn’t have.”
Bird added that what Casey experiences there is unbelievable. Even to her.
“At first when she experiences this thing, she’s not sure if it’s real or not. It’s kind of like being hit by a dream and not sure whether the dream was a dream or real.”
One of the reasons why Casey, the hero of this movie, finds this whole thing so unbelievable is because she’s lost a bit of her optimism about the future and humanity’s attempts at claiming that future, as Lindelof explained.
“You would think the younger you are the easier it is to be an optimist, but you are being fed a steady diet of dystopia… She has seen NASA withering from her own backyard as the shuttle program is mothballed, exploration ceases, and the launchpads are taken apart. It’s closed for business. There are no launches anymore. But she still holds a candle, she still believes in this amazing future, that things can be better.”
Bird also gave the lowdown on George Clooney’s character, “a hermit and failed inventor who knows more about Tomorrowland than he wants to tell,” named Frank Walker. Once a boy genius who had some tragic run-in with the mythical Tomorrowland, Walker is a now grumpy old man keeps to himself, but who eventually ends up helping Casey, though reluctantly.
“He’s at this farmhouse, and it’s probably the house he’s grown up in. He hasn’t done anything to it. He’s done tech stuff inside it, but it’s not a super cool bachelor pad. It’s more like a guy who is retreating when something didn’t go well… There’s something about George, you can see the wheels turning in his eyes, and he reads as somebody who is very principled. He seems like a very pragmatic guy who also dreams, but he’s not flighty. There’s an integrity to him that you feel.”
If all of this feels like a throwback to the type of upbeat sci-fi of yesteryear, then that’s because it’s completely supposed to, as Lindelof revealed that he and co-writer Jeff “Doc” Jensen looked to those sci-fi greats as a major influence.
“I’m a huge fan of Bradbury, Heinlein, Sagan and the great genre writers. I do think that The Martian Chronicles are part of a bygone age, but the best sci-fi is also evergreen and just as potent today as it was when it was written.”
“Another big influence for Jeff Jensen and I when we first started talking about this story was Close Encounters of the Third Kind. Somehow it was able to do what no modern movies are able to do, which is tell a story that doesn’t have a bad guy who is trying to blow up the planet, or giant robots fighting, or lots of karate—though who doesn’t love karate? It was so not plot driven. It was just a pure discovery movie. It was pure what-if. Just that idea of what’s going on here? What does this mean? That was a real jumping off place for a movie like this.”
I don’t know about you guys, but as a sci-fi geek who grew up reading, watching and loving exactly the type of stories that Lindelof is referencing here, Tomorrowland has me awfully excited. I’m getting rather tired of grimy futures with impossible ruled societies filled with mopey teenagers who all just want to fit in, and Tomorrowland sounds like just the thing to remedy that.
Last Updated: October 9, 2014