My Take On Tomorrowland

Warning: if you read on, spoilers may be in your future

When I was a kid, going to Magic Kingdom, I loved Tomorrowland. Sure, my favorite attractions (Haunted Mansion and Pirates of the Caribbean, if you’re taking notes) were in other areas, but there was something about the aesthetic that’s always spoken to me. It was a vision of a possible, even a plausible, future. It was rockets and jetpacks, magnetic trains and robots, and it was a look at a tomorrow that I wanted very much to be a part of.

So I was very excited when Tomorrowland was announced, even more than I usually am for a Disney release. It was more than just a cool-looking movie, but it was childhood fantasies–the ones inspired by Walt’s vision of the future–come to life. At least, that was my hope as I watched every trailer over and over. I didn’t read too many articles in advance, I wanted to avoid spoilers as much as possible, but every time I watched the trailers and saw a glimpse of that world of tomorrow (complete with jetpacks) I got a little more excited.

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I bought this Tomorrowland pin at Hot Topic (because, inexplicably, the Disney Store didn’t carry them) well before the movie came out, and wore it proudly to the theater on release day.

On May 22nd, the movie’s release date, my wife and I went to the theater ready to be wowed. We were crossing our fingers, hoping that the film wouldn’t suck. That it would be more Pirates of the Caribbean and less Haunted Mansion (or, even worse, Tower of Terror).

The basic synopsis of the movie is this: a long time ago, a city was built just outside of our dimension. This secret place, Tomorrowland, was a haven for the best and brightest that the world had to offer. A place where they were free to dream and create, and that counted the likes of Tesla and Edison among its citizens. A place that, early on in the film, young inventor Frank Walker gets invited to by a mysterious girl called Athena.

Flash forward decades later, when we meet a brilliant young woman named Casey Newton (Britt Robertson). Obsessed with someday traveling to the stars, she obtains a mysterious pin which shows her a vision of Tomorrowland. Her quest to see more of it eventually leads her to Athena and to Frank Walker, and adventures involving robots and an impending apocalypse ensue.

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The futuristic skyline of the movie’s Tomorrowland includes a very familiar building. There’s also a nod to Spaceship Earth, the theme song to Carousel of Progress plays towards the beginning, and the robots are called “audio animatronics”. There’s probably a bunch of other hidden easter eggs I didn’t notice, too. Although I’m a little bummed that the train wasn’t called the Peoplemover.

It was, thankfully, a great movie. There was action and adventure, there was heart and humor. It was well written and smartly executed, breathtaking and fun, funny and moving. The effects were beautiful, the pacing was great, and it struck a near perfect balance between what the adult me expected in a movie and what the kid me always wanted Tomorrowland (and Tomorrowland) to be.

Was the movie perfect? No, of course not. It dragged a bit early on (not much, but a bit), there were some obvious plot holes, and I would have liked to see more of Hugh Laurie’s character, David Nix. He was the ‘villain’ of the piece, though he was more misguided than evil, and there was a lot of backstory there that I would love to know more about. His motivation was clear enough, I just wanted them to delve into it even more. Plus, I adore Hugh Laurie as an actor and just think he should have had more screen time.

Also, the fact that the evil robot soldiers killed a few random innocent bystanders felt weirdly out of place to me (it was a low body count, but it still seemed gratuitous). Yes, in part it’s an action movie and they were establishing that these robots were bad guys, but in a movie about hope for the future the deaths seemed unnecessary.

If I have one more gripe about Tomorrowland, it’s that I wish that they spent more time in the futuristic city. This isn’t necessarily a negative point, though: they simply did such a great job bringing that possible world to life that I wanted to see more of it.

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The movie features a strong female lead character (a polarizing thing these days), and there’s a point in the movie where they’re recruiting the best and brightest of the world to come to the city. These people are not only of a variety of races and colors but they’re shown in a bunch of different professions. A subtle way of pointing out a powerful message: we can get there, but we all have to work together.

But what makes Tomorrowland special isn’t just the fact that it’s a fun movie, but rather that there’s inspiration amid the action and explosions. The movie carries with it a message of hope (and it delivers that message without beating viewers over the head with it). When my wife and I left the theater it made us want to help make the world a better place so we can achieve the future that it showed. Over the course of the movie we see environmental disasters and nuclear wars, but we also see a shining cityscape full of technological marvels, and the ultimate question is: which one would you want to work towards? Sure, Tomorrowland was basically an adventure movie about a teenager and a grouchy middle-aged man trying to stop the end of the world, but if you really look you could see a bit of that tomorrow… and really want to get there.

When Walt himself envisioned Tomorrowland–and, later, EPCOT–he saw a “great big beautiful tomorrow” (and you’re welcome for getting that song stuck in your head). When I was a kid walking around Tomorrowland, I saw a bit of that possible future, too. Seeing it come to life on screen ignited that excitement I felt as a kid, seeing what the future could hold, and it reminded me as an adult that every day we make choices that affect which future we’re working towards.

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6 Responses to My Take On Tomorrowland

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  4. Stephen C. Smith says:

    Just discovering your review 18 months after the fact … I’m wondering if you read the prequel novel “Before Tomorrowland”? It might help answer some questions for you about Plus Ultra.

    I work at Kennedy Space Center, where part of the film is based. We have our own +U chapter here. About 20 of us wearing T-pins at work, our little wink at the movie that we’re rebuilding the future just as demonstrated at the end of the movie. Visitors sometimes recognize the pins. Children usually think it’s real. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Doombug says:

    I have read that book! It did help add a level of backstory which I really liked, and it’s a shame that the movie/book didn’t do better–I’d love to see more novels set in that world that expand upon the characters (it’d be great to learn more about Nix, for example).

    Glad to know that I’m not the only fan, though, and that there are real people out there trying to make that future a reality!

    Like

  6. Stephen C. Smith says:

    Many of us are out in the streets proselytizing for a great big beautiful tomorrow … Our T-pins get recognized by fans of the movie. Some people ask about it. When I explain what it is, typically they haven’t seen the film so I send them off to watch it.

    The Dreamer’s Cut has a scene at the end where Frank Walker, Casey Newton and her father Eddie pull up in front of Pad 39A. Clearly, they have access to KSC. We interpret that as meaning +U is here.

    As for more novels and David Nix … I plan to start writing one once I get a couple other projects out of the way. I’m researching now. Obviously I can’t publish for $$$, so I’ll just post online a chapter at a time to keep The Mouse at bay.

    Email me if you wish to discuss further offline.

    Like

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