The Story Behind TOMORROWLAND: Global Press Conference

Tomorrowland-Poster-2015

“Tomorrow offers new frontiers in science, adventure and ideals: The Atomic Age, the challenge of outer space, and the hope for a peaceful and unified world.”
-Walt Disney, July 17, 1955

Boiling down this vast theme of hope (Walt Disney’s original concept for Tomorrowland and Epcot) into one 2 hour movie, TOMORROWLAND, is a monumental task. But a few bold people dared to take it on. What’s the story behind TOMORROWLAND? On May 8th at the Montage Hotel in Beverly Hills, CA, the producers, writers, director and actors behind TOMORROWLAND told their tale.

Participants included:

· George Clooney (“Frank Walker”)
· Britt Robertson (“Casey Newton”)
· Tim McGraw (“Ed Newton”)
· Raffey Cassidy (“Athena”)
· Brad Bird (Director / Producer / Writer)
· Damon Lindelof (Producer / Writer)
· Jeff Jensen (Story By)

Bound by a shared destiny, a bright, optimistic teen (Britt Roberston) bursting with scientific curiosity and a former boy-genius inventor (George Clooney) jaded by disillusionment embark on a danger-filled mission to unearth the secrets of an enigmatic place somewhere in time and space that exists in their collective memory as “Tomorrowland.”

wide-tomorrowland-movie-2015-wallpaper

Understanding how the movie was conceived helps you to better understand the movie itself. Here is the story.

DAMON LINDELOF (Producer/Writer): I was having a meeting with Sean Bailey, president of production at Disney. He said they had a number of fantasy princess movies in the pipeline at Disney, but wondered what else a Disney movie should be. I said to him, “I don’t know what it’s about, but I would see a movie called Tomorrowland.” And that was the beginning of this whole adventure.

Damon went on to say that he loved the history of Disney, the Imagineers and the theme parks, particularly as it related to the World’s Fairs. When Lindelof was working on the TV show LOST, he noticed that Jeff Jensen, a TV critic for Entertainment Weekly, wrote all kinds of “crazy theories that were much more imaginative that anything we as writers were coming up with.” And that’s how Jeff Jensen was hired to conceive the story.

DAMON LINDELOF: Also, I just felt like tactically speaking, you should just hire critics and turn them over to your side!

It seems to have worked! When asked how he felt when asked to join the project, Jensen responded enthusiastically.

TOMORROWLAND

Executive producer Jeff Jensen attends the world premiere of Disney’s “Tomorrowland” at Disneyland, Anaheim on May 9, 2015 in Anaheim, California. (Photo by Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images for Disney)

 

JEFF JENSEN (Story By): It was definitely crazy and humbling, too, to be asked on a project like this. And the idea that he pitched to me was just really engaging. The whole idea of a movie that looked at the different way that we view the future then and now, to research the history of futurism and science fiction, and let that inform the story, that was super-fun.

TOMORROWLAND, the movie, embraces Walt’s original vision of Tomorrowland and Epcot, and brings it a few steps further. In fact, the whole movie is a love letter to Disneyland history, if you know enough about the theme park. TOMORROWLAND opens at New York’s 1964 World’s Fair, which is where 3 of Disneyland’s now-famous rides originated: Great Moments With Mr. Lincoln, Magic Skyway and it’s a small world. Then there’s the mysterious pin, which is taken directly from the pre-existing Tomorrowland logo.

TOMORROWLAND

Tomorrowland pin, photo by Kimberley French ©Disney 2015

 

And finally, when our characters get a glimpse of Tomorrowland, they also feel a sense of hope Walt Disney speaks of, that keeps them coming back for more.

Disney's TOMORROWLAND

Disney’s TOMORROWLAND © Disney 2015

 

George Clooney plays the inventor and boy genius (Frank Walker) and has a very Harrison-Ford-cantankerous-old-man role. He chimed in on this huge concept.

GEORGE CLOONEY (“Frank Walker”): First and foremost, I think it is a really bold thing for Disney to be willing to do a film that isn’t a sequel and isn’t a comic book, to really invest in a summer film of this sort of ilk. Although I have to say, just so we’re clear, when Damon and Brad showed up at my house, they said, “We’ve got a part that we’ve written for you.” And then I opened up the description of the character and it’s a 55-year-old has-been!

JEFF JENSEN: It said genius, by the way. Genius.

GEORGE CLOONEY: It said FORMER genius, who has gotten bitter in his old age. I just loved the idea that we live in a world right now where you turn on your television set and it’s rough out there. And it can really wear on you after a period of time. But this movie speaks to the idea that your future is not predestined, and that if you’re involved, a single voice can make a difference and I believe in that. If you look at the things that changed in the 1960s and early 1970s (Civil Rights Movement/Women’s Rights Movement), individual voices did make a huge difference.

TOMORROWLAND

(L-R) Director/writer/producer Brad Bird, actor George Clooney and writer Damon Lindelof attend the after party for the world premiere of Disney’s “Tomorrowland” at Disneyland, Anaheim on May 9, 2015 in Anaheim, California. (Photo by Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images for Disney)

 

At which point the press asked what each of them were doing to make this world a better place.

BRITT ROBERTSON: My big thing right now, living in California, is that I’ve turned off my sprinklers. I know it’s a very small step, but you have to start somewhere.

Disney's TOMORROWLAND

Casey (Britt Robertson) © Disney 2015

 

TIM MCGRAW: I try to use my celebrity to be a mirror for issues that matter. To cast a light back on those issues.

Walt Disney was a great futurist, and his vision had a lot to do with this movie. It’s interesting to hear what the writers and directors had to say on this topic.

DAMON LINDELOF: There is a much longer version of this movie, not necessarily a better one, that is much more explicit about Walt’s involvement. The idea that Disneyland, particularly Tomorrowland, were covers for the actual Tomorrowland. Our feeling was that by directly referencing Disneyland in a movie that is a Disney movie, it just suddenly felt like, “Oh, are we trying to sell tickets to go to the theme park,” when the theme park should be selling tickets to go and see Tomorrowland. If that part is interesting to you, Jeff actually wrote a book, a piece of fiction, that is out now.

Novel and co-author, Jeff Jensen. Photo courtesy of EW.com

Novel and co-author, Jeff Jensen. Photo courtesy of EW.com

 

JEFF JENSEN: It’s called “Before Tomorrowland.” Part of the work that we did in the story brainstorming process was conceiving this huge backstory for the film. And there’s lots of stories within stories. Walt makes a little cameo in there too. But a lot of Disney really inspired and informed the movie, especially, I think, Epcot. The original idea behind Epcot and how that evolved as a sort of laboratory for the future. That was a huge inspiration for the story.

DAMON LINDELOF: Some of the very last things that Walt Disney filmed were about this Experimental Prototype Community Of Tomorrow. One of the last things he shot before his death, he was talking about the “Florida Project.” And he pointed to the city and said, “It’s going to be an actual place that you can try ideas and we’ll take corporations and we’ll collaborate with them on new ideas, and sell the ideas to the world, and try them out.” And his face lit up when he talked about it. The fact that Disney was, to his last moments, dreaming about this future and making crazy ideas happen, was very moving to me. And if the movie caught even a little bit of that, I think we will have succeeded.

Walt Disney at an early concept drawing for Epcot

EPCOT, or the Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow, was one of Walt Disney’s original ideas for his “Florida Project.” Seen here, Walt produced a 1966 film for Florida legislators where he showcased his dream of a unique city. Celebrating 30 years Oct. 1, 2012 EPCOT Center opened in 1982 with a re-imagined concept built from Walt’s original dream. ©Disney. All rights reserved.

 

Bottom line is, TOMORROWLAND is about hope. And now I’m very interested in reading “Before Tomorrowland,” and you can find it here. I really think it will help in understanding the movie itself. Sometimes the story behind something is more interesting than the movie itself!

Be sure to come back to AdventuresByDaddy.com for the review of TOMORROWLAND on Friday, and then let us know your thoughts in the comments below!  For more family movie news, be sure to follow Adventures by Daddy on twitter and “like” our facebook page too.

About Richard & Sarah Woloski

Richard and Sarah Woloski are the co-hosts and creators of the Disney / Star Wars Podcast Skywalking Through Neverland. The husband and wife team strives to create a polished, positive and fun weekly show celebrating fandom. They also love writing for Adventures By Daddy. Find them @SkywalkingPod