Ahoy, squirts! Quint here. The biggest chunk of the Disney Live Action panel at D23 this year was devoted to Brad Bird's upcoming Tomorrowland... and I still am finding it hard to grasp what the fuck is going on with this movie.
Usually that's a good thing... Even though I've chosen this line of work, I don't particularly care to know everything about a movie before I enter the theater... but there's teasing and then there's this... It's funny that Damon Lindelof and Brad Bird have a literal “mystery box,” which supposedly was discovered in the old basement storage spot at Disney called “the morgue.” It's a box that has 1952 written on the front and is filled with crazy random weird imagineering pieces.
The main focus of the panel was Bird and Lindelof coming out and picking through some of the items in this box in front of everybody, showing off some of the pieces that “inspired” them to write this movie. It would be cool if they didn't have such a tongue in cheek approach to it. They know we're in on the joke and because they go super winky-wink it just seems like a whole lot of noise to me.
Maybe I'm getting tired and cranky in my old age, but I just want them to play straight with this. It felt like I was getting played the entire presentation, not teased.
Here are the items they pulled out of the 1952 box:
- 1 photograph dated April 1945 of Walt Disney and Amelia Earhart.
- 1 original vintage issue of Amazing Stories dated August 1928.
- 1 piece of cardboard with weird holes cut into it.
- 1 vintage folded blue print of the Disneyland park.
- 1 metal disc titled The History of Tomorrow, dated November of 1963.
Lets break those down. First up, the Earhart photo: They said that was weird since it was years after she disappeared. They looked into it and found out it was altered. They found the original photo and it was of Earhart and Cary Grant and someone pasted Disney's face on it. Imagineer prank? Nobody knows.
The Amazing Stories issue and weird piece of cardboard go together. There was a page number and issue number scrawled on it alongside a weird insignia that looks like an H. This insignia is also on the outside of the box and marked on the important pieces within the box, so I'm sure it's a huge part of the viral narrative and probably the movie itself.
As you've probably guessed, if you put that piece of cardboard over the right page certain words fill the holes. The story was called Armageddon 2419AD.
Here are the words the cardboard codex revealed: “I have seen across the gap between. I began practical penetration into the world. Secret retreats needed. The perfection of mechanical labor and organized industrial resources at hand.” What does it mean? Does it mean anything at all? That's the question, isn't it?
The folded blueprint of the park looks like most copies you can find out there, but that strange H insignia is written on it. There's also a weird series of numbers that when researched was actually a spectrum of light rays, so they brought in a blacklight and realized there's a whole secret set of blueprints underneath sections of the park. The biggest room was labeled “Hold Room” and was square underneath the It's A Small World attraction.
This was my favorite of the pieces in the box, actually. Probably because it most strongly ties Tomorrowland and what happens in it to the park (aside from the title of course). That's the most interesting aspect of the project to me. And while it's mysterious, it's at least straightforward. Unlike...
The last object in the box was a metal disc kind of the size of a record, but thick like a 35mm film can and it somehow held information in its grooves for a “lost” cartoon. It was scratched up (almost intentionally, they said, as if there were parts of it someone didn't want anyone to see) but they pulled what they could off of it and we got to watch it.
The animation was definitely old school '60s era Disney style and it began with an image of a man drawn on a cave wall. Human hands are seen striking two pieces of rocks together, creating sparks. The stick figure turns into an Egyptian and it begins to move, throwing out seeds like a farmer. That guy morphs into a Roman and then we see a quick evolution of humanity until we're at a cityscape.
The voiceover sounds a little like James Mason and he's talking about mankind's belief in progress which can be seen going back through all of recorded history. “But progress has a dark cost. With every advance comes with great temptation to abuse the knowledge for domination. Innovation leads to destruction.” Naturally the wall paintings change along with the darker narration about innovation leading to destruction as Rome burns... then it skips to Paris in 1959 and says something about a World's Fair and skips again.
Four Disney animated men appear with this next skip and they're quite known... Edison, Tesla, (Jules?) Verne and a fourth I couldn't make out... the sound's not too great in the D23 Arena. Whoever he is, he joins that supergroup of smarties and the animation shows them overlapping and their heads turn into a lightbulb. The narration says these brilliant men form a brotherhood dedicated to “mankind's greatest resource: Imagination.”
There are flashes of the growth of corporate greed and with nuclear weapons the growing threat of mutually assured destruction and we see an animated bomb fall, detonate and a mushroom cloud grow out of it.
”And so, working in secret, free of the corruption of money, politics and power the greatest minds collaborated on...” skip.
”And that, fair traveler, is why you've been invited here. At long last, we have built that tomorrow. You are about to enter a world of miracles and wonders, a shiny beacon of hope for human kind. And in just 20 short years we will share this extraordinary place with the entire world. So, would you like to see it?”
If you sense shades of Andrew Ryan and Bioshock and a spiffy Vault 101 cartoon from Fallout 3 you're not alone. These promised utopias hardly ever pan out, but since this is a Disney film that prominently features the park (I assume), then it's logical to figure that it shares Walt Disney's unending optimism about a healthy, loving world of tomorrow.
But that also might make a much less interesting movie, so I don't know. I'm only 32, but I'm turning into a grumpy old man when it comes to these puzzle box things. All I know is I love Disney parks, I love Brad Bird and I don't have the hate-on for Lindelof like most people do. Clooney's one of the best working actors and he sees something here, so I have faith until they prove me wrong.
I just don't know if I want to take part in the viral crap. I just wanna see the movie. That said, they have a booth on the D23 floor that has even more mystery box items on display that I'll make sure to scope out tomorrow. I'm at least that interested.