What are you going to be up to come mid-December 2014? Well, one option is to go see Tomorrowland, perhaps the most mysterious blockbuster currently being tinkered with in Tinseltown. So, on this grey and grimy Monday, let’s see if we can’t shed a little more light on this highly secretive slice of sci-fi adventure.
Confirmed facts about Tomorrowland to-date: it’s being produced by Disney, and shares a name with a Disney theme park attraction. It’s out 19 December next year.
Its director is Brad Bird (The Incredibles, Mission: Impossible IV). Its writers are Damon Lindelof (Lost, Prometheus) and Jeff Jensen (a journalist for Entertainment Weekly).
The leading man is George Clooney, and the salt-and-pepper coiffured coffee salesman will be facing an antagonist played by Evil Prince Ludwig the Indestructible himself, Hugh Laurie.
These, as Rafa Benitez is so fond of saying, are facts. And what’s also known is that the project’s genesis was informed by a meeting between Lindelof and Disney president of production Sean Bailey back in 2011, at which the latter produced a box dating back to the far-flung days of yore when Walt Disney ran his own personal development lab, WED Enterprises.
Pictures of that box and its contents were released as a pre-publicity tease by Disney. Those contents included a photo of Disney with a US army major in 1943, and a copy of sci-fi magazine Amazing Stories, dating from August 1928 (featuring the debut appearance of Buck Rogers).
The box had originally been labelled ‘That Darn Cat’ (the title of a ’65 live-action Disney flick), but had been re-labelled ‘1952’, which was the initial working title for Tomorrowland.
Armed with those ingredients, the internet duly got down to what it does best. No, nothing involving naked bums; rather a spot of rampant speculation swiftly taken as truth once it’s been circulated and recirculated enough times.
To wit: blogger and Disney expert Jim Hill put forth the theory that Tomorrowland could be based on an anecdote favoured by the late Ward Kimball, one of Disney’s ‘Nine Old Men’, the titans of animation on whose talents the studio built its success.
That anecdote concerned the US government approaching Walt Disney in the 1950s and asking for his help in producing a TV show that would be used as vehicle to break a major piece of news to the American public – that UFOs were real.
Here’s one of the clips Hill put forward as part of his theory, from a ‘Man in Space’ segment of the Disneyland TV show on which Kimball worked in the mid-50s.
The implied retro-futurism of this hypothesis immediately caught the attention of the major online movie sites, with this seeming to tie in with the kind of influences Bird toyed with in The Incredibles and his directorial debut, The Iron Giant.
However, appealing as its Close Encounters overtones might have been for many, Hill’s theory would seem to have already been debunked, with first Lindelof tweeting to deny Tomorrowland involved any extraterrestrial element, and then HitFix revealing a synopsis issued as part of the casting process:
‘A teenage girl, a genius middle-aged man (who was kicked out of Tomorrowland) and a prepubescent girl robot attempt to get to and unravel what happened to Tomorrowland, which exists in an alternative dimension, in order to save Earth.’
There you go. Clooney is the referred-to middle-aged man, Frank Walker, who will apparently be first shown encountering the promise of Tomorrowland as an 11-year-old at the 1964 World’s Fair. It’s there that he meets the man who’ll become his nemesis, rival inventor David Nix (played by Laurie), and the girl robot, Athena.
But what is Tomorrowland?
Apparently, a parallel world of science and invention, where (by the time we catch up with the adult Frank) its technology has advanced far beyond that of the Earth we all know (their wireless printers actually work then…). With Nix now the corrupt mayor of Tomorrowland, it’s up to Frank and his sidekicks to save the day.
Does that sound like one for you? Let us know in the comments if Tomorrowland is your big hope for next year, or one to be avoided like a particularly pungent skunk…