D23 Expo: The mystery behind Tomorrowland


tomorrowland_d23_headerOne of the projects revealed that I was really looking forward to, was the Brad Bird directed film, Tomorrowland. We were introduced to a behind-the-scenes video describing the primary inspiration for the film. It involves Walt Disney Animation Studios in Burbank, CA, where thousands of boxes are archived underground in the affectionately called, morgue. One day, the Disney Imagineers discover a box with the tag, “1952” along with a plethora of different files that do not make sense at all. Damon Lindelof was asked to check out the “1952” box, which is where he got inspired to do a story based on the contents of the box.

After the video, Sean Bailey introduced director/writer/producer Brad Bird and writer/producer Damon Lindelof to the stage. With them, is the “1952” box that was featured in the behind-the-scenes video. The first piece of content to be shown was a photograph of Walt Disney and Amelia Earhart, dated April 1945 on the photo itself. Those of you who are not familiar with Amelia Earhart’s history should know that Amelia Earhart disappeared over the Atlantic coast in 1937, and was declared dead in 1939. So how is the photograph dated in 1945 when she disappeared in 1937? Turns out that the picture is a fabrication after all. The original picture (seen below) was super-imposed with Walt Disney’s head on top of Cary Grant’s body.

They theorize that one of the Imagineers fabricated the image, but as for the reason why? No one knows exactly. An interesting feature to note though, was that many of the contents in the box bore a special insignia that appeared to be either stamped or handwritten. No one knows what it means, but that it does link random pieces of content from the box together.


The next item shown was an Amazing Stories comic book from 1928, which featured stories from authors such as H.G. Wells. Also shown was a cardboard decoder bearing the same insignia that was found on other pieces from the “1952” box. On it were the words A58 28. The 28 stood for the page to turn to in the Amazing Stories book. Low and behold, there was a nonsensical message decoded within the book, which wasn’t discovered until 25 years after the original printing of the book.

The next item they pulled out (which required gloves) is a parchment blueprint with many of the ride designs from the 1964 World’s Fair, which are now rides in Disneyland. On the blueprint for It’s A Small World, is the number written under that same common insignia, which is for the wavelength of a UV light. So as the lights dimmed within the arena, the black light revealed additional plans for a mysterious theater and “hold room” underneath It’s a Small World.

The last and strangest piece they showed, was a metallic-looking disc and on the cover was the words, “OK Walt” along with the aforementioned insignia. Lindelof and Bird claim that the disc held encoded information long before the laserdisc was ever thought of. The disc looked badly damaged and seemed that it had some sort of “redacted” scratches on it to prevent any of data leaking out. Fortunately for us, information was able to be pulled off the disc, but Brad Bird claims that the footage was badly degraded. He also stated that a lot of the scenes are incomplete, and the sound is crappy as well. Regardless of that, they showed it to us anyways.


The animation is drawn in the style of Disney’s old school 1960’s animation. The short started with the early humans smashing two rocks together, creating fire that showed us cave drawings from the beginning of man. Man implants seeds into the ground, which then transformed through different periods of time. “There is no such thing as fate,” claims the narrator. The footage warned us about the dangers of unimpeded progress and technological development, including nuclear warfare.

The footage also alluded to a mysterious meeting between the greatest minds of our time: Thomas Edison, Nikola Tesla, Albert Einstein, and Jules Verne. The four appear to be working together on a big, secret project. Afterwards we see the history of technological advancement, including radios, cars, battleships, tanks, planes, electricity, and the nuclear bomb. The narrator claims that technology is a wonder, but the great potential for danger. It also represents great optimism for the future.

“And fellow traveler, that’s why you were invited here, at long last we are building that tomorrow. A shrinking beacon of hope. In just 20 short years, we will share this extraordinary place with the entire world. Would you like to see it?” says the narrator.

Such a mysterious (unsurprising with Lindelof as producer) presentation, but cool nonetheless. The animation, albeit claiming to be pulled from a mysterious disc, seemed to be made just for the film itself. Who knows though, there is a lot of mystery going into this project, so anything is possible.

With the film coming late next year, Disney is already getting the marketing going with the release of the Tomorrowland app, and a D23 booth that will open at 2PM tomorrow.

Tomorrowland hits theaters on December 12, 2014.

Photos courtesy of Disney.

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