Remember the movie Tomorrowland? Yea, don’t worry, not many other people seem to either. But they should.
The 2015 film Tomorrowland had all the right elements to be a smash hit for Disney — a huge director, a star-filled cast, phenomenal effects, and what looked to be a compelling story. So what happened??
“Have you ever wondered what would happen, if all the geniuses, the artists, the scientists, the smartest, most creative people in the world decided to actually change it? Where, where could they even do such a thing? They’d need a place free from politics and bureaucracy, distractions, greed – a secret place where they could build whatever they were crazy enough to imagine…”
Back in early 2013, a mysterious image of a box was tweeted out. Screenwriter Damon Lindelof (yep, the guy who wrote Lost — don’t hold that against him) and director Brad Bird (of The Iron Giant, The Incredibles, and Ratatouille fame) released an image of a mysterious box full of old photos, books, and memorabilia. For a brief moment, the internet was lit up with people trying to decode the image, a la Lost.
The image was the world’s first taste of a new film the two were creating that would star George Clooney. His character would promise to share with viewers the mystery of the past and the hope of the future. This Twitter tease would later be revealed to be a hint for their next film: Tomorrowland.
Take a peek on the ol’ internets and you’ll see, ultimately the movie was not well-loved. It looked pretty and had big stars, sure, but the main complaint of viewers seemed to lie in the story. It was TOO optimistic, it was TOO long to get anywhere, it was TOO preachy. Many viewers didn’t like the plot, but we’d like to argue, if we may, that the story is the best part of the movie. Only optimists need read on; it’s about to get sappy up in here…
Here’s the Story…
Tomorrowland is set in the past, present, and future. In the present, we meet Casey Newton (Get it? Like Isaac Newton? The movie is not subtle in every regard!), a hopelessly optimistic, brilliant teen. She’s whip-smart, taking after her NASA engineer father (played by Tim McGraw… yeah, don’t ask), and dead set on making things better — whatever that means. She comes into possession of a mysterious pin that, when she touches it, transports her to a world full of technology, innovation, and HOPE. Obsessed with getting to go to this magical place, she sets off to find clues. On her way, she encounters an Audio-Animatronic (yep, a lil’ robot girl) named Athena who helps her find a man, Frank Walker, played by George Clooney, who can help her. Together the three make it to Tomorrowland and are tasked with — what else — saving the world.
As for that “in the past” part of the story? Frank Walker knows about Tomorrowland because he, much like Casey, was recruited to go there by Athena — the same, childlike robot Athena — many, many years earlier. Young Frank was another endlessly curious child with eyes for something bigger, and he spent his years in Tomorrowland creating countless innovations — until he was exiled. He grew bitter and jaded back in the real world, hiding himself away in his home until Casey finds him.
Casey helps Frank remember why he went to Tomorrowland in the first place — to be a part of something bigger. Together, they work to make not only Tomorrowland but the real world a better place for everyone. Yea, we know: it sounds mega cheesy. It kind of is, but in a really warm and fuzzy “I feel good” way.
This One is for the Dreamers
When is the last time you saw a movie that you left feeling happy? Not laughing or content at a well-resolved storyline — but truly happy. Optimistic. Like you could change the world? We live in a world where movies out there pull in viewers with the promise of violence, superheroes, and villains, war, bad guys, etc. The lifeblood of most movies today is in the dangerous and the scary, but what if a movie came out that focused on the good and the positive instead? A movie adults and kids could watch together? A movie that says sure, there’s bad out there, but there are also good people out there to FIX it? That’s Tomorrowland.
Tomorrowland felt like the “anti-modern movie” movie. It bucked in the face our cinematic love of negativity and stood tall as the uber-optimist. And you know what? Good on it!
Casey, even when presented with how the world will end, refuses to accept that fate. She is continually smacked in the face with what’s wrong with humanity and still, she tries to fix it. She shares a parable with her father that is used throughout the movie that sums up her outlook on life:
“There are two wolves and they are always fighting. One is darkness and despair. The other is light and hope. Which wolf wins?
Whichever one you feed.”
What a great way to see the world, right?? Refusing to accept negativity in your life and embracing that YOU can control the good? (Told you this was going to get sappy!)
Even young Frank was a hopeless dreamer — that’s why Athena selected him. His imagination saw no limits, and he wasn’t about to let obstacles in his way. That was broken in him as time and life happened, but he learned through Athena and Casey that you can always go back to being an optimist and a dreamer with a push in the right direction.
The mindsets these characters share goes beyond “glass half full” and more into “Let’s make EVERYONE’S glasses completely full! Now, how do we do it?!” The movie ends with the next generation of dreamers — people who choose to feed the right wolf — being selected to kickstart the next generation of Tomorrowland innovators. And it’s not just rocket scientists; artists, musicians, designers, engineers, anyone with that spark of hope is who we need to change the world. Imagination and innovation will change the world. What a beautiful notion.
The Disney Nods are Off the Charts!
Fan of the Disney Parks? This movie is a treat! Sure, Tomorrowland is a land in Magic Kingdom, but here it’s actually based more on Progress City — aka EPCOT. Walt Disney envisioned the original EPCOT (The Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow) as a real, functioning city fully sustained by its inhabitants. Walt’s dream was, much like the main characters’, one of endless hope for humanity.
Take a look when Frank and Casey arrive in Tomorrowland and you’ll spy Space Mountain tucked in the skyline of Tomorrowland (anyone getting Meet the Robinsons vibes?). There are also nods to the Peoplemover!
The film opens on the 1964 World’s Fair — the same one that introduced us to “it’s a small world,” Great Moments With Mr. Lincoln, and the Carousel of Progress. Frank discovers “it’s a small world” is a secret cover for a teleportation device to Tomorrowland (because of course it is.) A cut scene was filmed at the Carousel of Progress inside the World’s Fair as well.
And then there’s the Audio-Animatronics! Robots from Tomorrowland are known as AAs, or Audio-Animatronics. Sound familiar? Yep, that’s what Disney named the lifelike, talking, moving robots he populated his attractions with that you can still see on numerous rides today.
The Soundtrack is REALLY Good
Michael Giacchino provided the score for the film. If it sounds familiar it’s for good reason — he’s provided the soundtracks for numerous popular Pixar and Disney animated films as well as a slew of live-action films. His credits include The Incredibles, Star Trek (the new ones), Zootopia, Inside Out, the new Spider-Man movies, and the score you hear on Space Mountain.
The score is futuristic yet hopeful, which, sadly, are not two things that seem to go together in most cases! It’s a beautiful soundtrack, only made better by the musical accompaniments. You get tastes of two classic Sherman Brothers songs, “it’s a small world”, and “There’s a Great, Big, Beautiful Tomorrow” from the Carousel of Progress. That song, again, embodies the spirit of the film. In this case, it fits due to the World’s Fair, but the message is hard to ignore.
Our favorite music sample hidden in the film? “Golden Dream” from the American Adventure in World Showcase. Oddly enough, for most guests at Disney World, you’ll most notably recognize this tune in the entrance music loop at Epcot rather than back in World Showcase!
The Visuals are Breathtaking
This movie is a feast for the eyes. Truly. It has elements of steampunk throughout Frank’s house with his Nixie Tube clocks and old-timey scientific details mixed with futuristic gear. Even a trip to the Eiffel Tower reveals a gorgeous warm palette of steampunky, vintage engineering. The future that we want to be a part of is warm and inviting — not the cold bleak future presented in so many films. The future is sleek and white with bold curves everywhere. Honestly, it’s not all that different from vintage photos you’ll find of the original Tomorrowland in Disneyland (but with a warm, happy touch).
The look at the 1960s is fascinating. The clothing, set design, and color grading all lend themselves to this beautiful look back at a far-gone time but with a renewed sense of hope for little details we could have missed. We almost wish we could see a whole movie of this trip back in time. It’s quite gorgeous to look at!
The most fantastical scene of the film is easily when Casey first touches the Tomorrowland pin she is given. Each touch instantly drops her in a field of wheat with Tomorrowland on the not-too-distant horizon. The editing and visual effects are insane here! Each shot perfectly cuts from Casey indoors or in a moving car to the wheat field. It’s gorgeous! The cool, drab palette of the real world hard cut with the warm, inviting world of Tomorrowland is eye-catching and powerful. It’s SO pretty.
Ok, so getting down to brass tacks: why was it not successful? The movie is pretty, has a great soundtrack, has George “I was on ER” Clooney, has a crazy talented director. What is left? What was wrong??
Well, we’ll give you this: the story drags in the middle. It’s SUPER fun for the first chunk and SUPER inspiring for the end. The middle is slow. You may find yourselves (like us) just wanting the characters to get to Tomorrowland already (or go back to the 1960s cause MAN that looked cool!). But it does drag for a while there.
And yeah, it’s suuuper optimistic. Not your cup of tea? That’s fine! But have you ever watched a scary or depressing movie and afterward wanted to watch something lighthearted to get that bad taste out of your mouth? That’s kinda the opposite with this movie. Tomorrowland is like a cinematic palette cleanser. It’s like one of those eyewash stations in science labs, but for your brain. It’s hard to not watch this movie and feel optimistic once you see the end. It’s SO full of hope and promise and presented so beautifully. The final scene cutting between the second crop of Tomorrowlanders discovering their pins is beautifully done and — not gonna lie — easy for us to get a little choked up! What can we say, we’re sentimental saps, but you picked up on that already, didn’t you?
If there’s one thing we implore of you: watch this movie again. Watch it with fresh eyes and an optimistic outlook on life. Watch it for the reasons it was created — to inspire hope, to inspire the next generation of dreamers, creators, innovators. As the song goes “There’s a great, big, beautiful tomorrow shining at the end of every day. There’s a great, big, beautiful tomorrow — just a dream away.”
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Have you seen Tomorrowland? Want to give it another chance? Let us know in the comments!