Disney TOMORROWLAND: Unveiling the Mystery

Earlier this year, Disney reported a mysterious box recently discovered at the Walt Disney Studios.  Simply labeled “1952”, some of the contents were teased, including old photographs of Walt Disney, a record album, attraction blueprints, a newspaper, letters, and several other curious items.  It was credited as the basis for the plot behind the upcoming Disney film, TOMORROWLAND (originally titled 1952), however, with Damon Lindelof, co-creator & writer of ABC’s “Lost”, and Brad Bird, director & writer of THE INCREDIBLES, at the helm it has been difficult to decipher fact from fiction.

©Disney Enterprises 2013 – All Rights Reserved

At this summer’s Disney D23 Expo, Bird and Lindelof were on hand during the Walt Disney Studios live action film presentation giving some of Disney’s biggest fans insight into the ideas surrounding the plot, and a live peek at a handful of  items from the “dusty old box.”  First, discussing the plot of the film, it was noted to largely surround the simple idea of “What if?”  The items in the box allude to an apparent secret society within the original group of Imagineers, given that 1952 is the year that WED Imagineering was founded.  Were the items in the box just randomly thrown together, or were they meticulously collected?  What if there really was a secret society?

The first item revealed from the collection was a photograph of Walt Disney with Amelia Earhart dated April 1945 (see below).  It was explained that the photo obviously couldn’t have been real, and in their research they determined it was doctored by pranksters (presumably the secret society) trying to have some fun with Walt.  But, “what if it was real?”

Damon Lindelof and Brad Bird (L-R) take the Disney D23 Expo audience through the contents of the box titled “1952”. ©Disney – All Rights Reserved


The next item was a scratched up 9″ album titled “A History of Tomorrow.”  The layered album turned out to be an experimental form of video storage technology, similar to a laser disc.  They pointed out that the sleeve was signed by Walt, as if he had signed off on the project, along with a small, distinctive symbol, adding to the intrigue.  Another item shown was a summer 1928 issue of Amazing Stories which included a perforated card referencing a specific page.  When held up to the page, the card revealed a hidden message, “I have seen across the gap between I began practical penetration into the world.  Secret retreats needed the perfection of mechanical labor and organization of industrial resources almost at hand.”  Um. Okay.  The magazine included several sci-fi stories, including one specific one that was extra mysterious and important for some reason or another… you can tell by this point I was getting burnt out by the level of detail.

Finally, the most interesting item pulled out was a blueprint for it’s a small world.  When viewed under a blacklight, another set of plans appeared which included a theater like area and several hidden tunnels.  Why? What was it for?  What if it had been built that way?  The blacklight also revealed the same mystery symbol from the album sleeve. Dun-dun-dunnnn!

Damon Lindelof and Brad Bird share secrets revealed under a blacklight. © Disney 2013 – All Rights Reserved


After the presentation, a walk-through exhibit was unveiled where the entire contents of the “1952” box were on display.  Set up like a museum, guests were given an iPad and headphones to learn more about each of the items (sorry, no photos were allowed in the exhibit).  I have to admit, it became daunting after the third display, listening in excruciating detail about the backstory of each and every item.  They even had Disney Legend and former Imagineer Bob Gurr providing narration about the detail of some of the contents, and while I love Bob, it was just too hokey.  We finally turned off the app and weaved our way through, stopping only to peek at each piece before turning in our iPads.  I would love to believe that the Imagineers had a secret society, and that there was some mysterious underlying mission behind what they were trying to build and create.  There is so much painstaking detail behind this library of “artifacts”, that it’s really just overwhelming.

Disney's TOMORROWLAND Exhibit D23 Expo 2013



Personally, I’m a fan of both Lindelof and Bird, and I’m intrigued to see where the movie will take us – especially given that it has to do with Imagineering (which I’m also a big fan of).  Something this detailed is really suited more for the diehards (being that I am one, I say that with love), but realistically, how much time do you want to spend learning the history of something that isn’t real?  I’d rather read up on actual Disney history.  I think for the most part, while fun in theory, we all get that this is just trumped up for publicity.  The folks that might be bamboozled by the authenticity probably don’t really care about Disney history in this way.  I think it almost would’ve been more beneficial to drive the mystery behind the contents of the box, and then maybe have waited until after the film’s release to reveal the items.  Just thinking out loud, I suppose.

Disney's Tomorrowland

It will be interesting to see how it all plays out when Disney TOMORROWLAND is finally released in theaters on December 12, 2014.  Will they be able to hold your attention until then?  I know I’ll definitely be in line to see it, I just hope there isn’t a pop quiz about the items in the box beforehand.

If you’re interested in learning more about the contents of the “1952” box and you have an iPhone, you can download the app that was used in the Expo exhibit here.  For more family entertainment news be sure to follow Adventures by Daddy on Twitter and “like” our facebook page too.

About Chrysty Summers

Growing up in southern California, Disneyland has always been a staple for my family. Today, my husband and I spend most of our free time at the parks, where you can usually find us soaking up the atmosphere of Buena Vista Street in California Adventure. We also love traveling to Walt Disney World as often as we can, especially during the Epcot Food & Wine Festival in the Fall! Find me on Twitter @PenelopePeach for live updates from around the parks.