The curtain has finally fallen on Disney’s best kept secret.
Principle photography on Tomorrowland has just begun in Vancouver and details about the film are slowly emerging after two years of the studio playing exceptionally coy.
Lost vet Damon Lindelof was hired to write the movie, which began as a mystery project called 1952 in 2011; the next year, he convinced Brad Bird, the Oscar winner behind Pixar’s The Incredibles, to sign on as a co-writer (along with Jeff Jensen) and the director of Tomorrowland.
Since its inception, little has been known about the project, which was part of Disney’s marketing plan — the movie itself centers on a mystery — and also reflects Lindelof’s standard operating procedure with frequent collaborator J.J. Abrams. George Clooney was cast as the lead in the film by the end of 2012, and in January of this year, 1952 officially became Tomorrowland.
With the movie now officially underway, Disney released the following plot synopsis:
“Bound by a shared destiny, a bright, optimistic teen bursting with scientific curiosity and a former boy-genius inventor 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.”
Many are guessing that Clooney will be the former boy-genius inventor, while Britt Robertson is rumored to play the “bright, optimistic teen” and Hugh Laurie, Judy Greer, Raffey Cassidy and Matthew Kevin Anderson also star in the film. Claudio Miranda, the Oscar-winning cinematographer behind Life of Pi and Benjamin Button, is on board, as well.
Earlier this month, Lindelof and Bird were part of the Walt Disney Studios live-action movie presentation at the D23 Expo, where they talked about Tomorrowland and unveiled its “origins.” The company likes to celebrate its history, and the conceit of Tomorrowland is that it is inspired by the contents of a mystery box from Walt’s archives, labeled “1952.” At the presentation, Lindelof and Bird cracked open the box for the first time.
Inside were a variety of props, including a photo of Walt and Amelia Earhart that had been curiously altered — the Disney founder’s head was placed on someone else’s body — as well as a copy of Amazing Adventures from 1928.
There was also an “old” disc with an animated video teasing a future World’s Fair and expressing, in grand language and history-spanning imagery, the great promise and danger of advancing technology. The video includes nods to Nikola Tesla, Thomas Edison, Jules Verne and Gustave Eiffel, all working together on a massive project and the video’s narrator boomed, “At long last we are building that tomorrow. A shining beacon of hope. In just 20 short years, we will share this extraordinary place with the entire world. Would you like to see it?”
The Expo also featured a big display with the box’s contents, so that everybody could get a first look at the mysterious elements ahead of Tomorrowland’s production. Much of the movie seems to deal with a faux could have been, a futuristic city that Walt Disney would have built had he not died in 1966.
Disney diehards will note that Walt Disney World’s Epcot theme park— which stands for Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow — was initially planned as a futuristic community, complete with cutting-edge transportation, communities, and businesses. In a sense, Tomorrowland marries the land inside the Magic Kingdom and the original vision for Epcot.
Tomorrowland hits theaters on December 12, 2014.