Why Tomorrowland Matters, Part Two

Copyright The Walt Disney Company

Copyright The Walt Disney Company

In “Why Tomorrowland Matters, Part One,” I talked about the early hype and speculation I had for the upcoming Tomorrowland movie. Yet, in doing so, I realized I never discussed WHY both the movie, the theme park land, and the idea of Tomorrowland as a real place matter to me, and should (in my opinion) to others as well. I hope the words that follow make sense, as it’s a reason very near and dear to my heart. It’s also one of the reasons Walt Disney was such a fascinating man to me.

We live in a cynical world. And it’s understandable why we do. I mean, look at the news. As I write this, people in Nepal are recovering from a devastating earthquake. Clashes, riots, and terrorism are constantly main headlines for news outlets. Now, natural disasters, wars, civil unrest, and social injustices are nothing new. I know looking back even thousands of years, we can see evidence of these things happening. But at the same time, with advancements in technology and humanity, can we say this is the future Walt Disney envisioned when he built Tomorrowland in Disneyland? I don’t think anyone would argue the answer to that one. The Tomorrowland of 1955 is not where we are at today.

Yet, that vision is what we need. As many have noted, Walt was an optimist, or as Ray Bradbury preferred to call him, an “optimal behaviorist.” Every day, he was pressing forward, trying to be the best he could be, looking for new ways to do things, always looking to make better what had already been done. And better it he did. The development of the multiplane camera gave animation depth. An amusement park laid out through a central hub with themed lands in every direction gave birth to the theme park. A desire to make attractions more interactive and lifelike gave rise to Audio-Animatronics. Walt believed in looking forward, in using this technology for the greater good. I often stop and wonder what might have become of EPCOT, had Walt been given even just another five years on this earth.

 

 

Walt believed that people could work together. That they could solve problems. That the technology that was developing at such a rapid pace could be used for the betterment of all mankind. Sadly, this is not the world we seem to live in. We have this wonderful tool for learning called the “internet,” only too often it’s used to bully, attack and harm others. We have amazing opportunities for space travel and exploration that can be used not only to explore our limits, but learn more about this crazy place we live called Earth. However, at this time, the shuttle program has been shelved. We use resources and materials that can harm our environment instead of pursuing more efficient and cost effective ways to use clean energies. And why are the energies that CAN make a difference so costly and hard to obtain for some? Why are we NOT banding together more and asking, “What can I do to make a better Tomorrow? How can I help and do my part to make for a more livable future?”

It’s easy to give into doom and gloom. Turn on CNN and you can easily believe the world’s going to hell in a handbasket. However, Walt never believed that way. He believed in innovation. How can technology and moving forward help society? Peoplemovers and Monorails…. they were more than just theme park rides to him. They were mass transportation units that would alleviate everyday stresses and congestion of individual commutes. The Carousel of Progress was not just a history of how far we’d come, but how much further we could go. These ideals of a better tomorrow were ideals Walt believed in, and one of the biggest reasons I admire the man. I know things aren’t that pleasant in the world right now. But I’d love to see how we could make things better if we worked together to help instead of hinder or stay complacent.

My hope with the new movie is that Tomorrowland is seen as this sort of place. That it gives us hope that, despite all the wrong in the world, there still can be a “Great Big Beautiful Tomorrow.” I have read a few rumblings online (not many, mind you) of people unhappy with the idea of how Walt would be presented in the movie. Would he be another fictionalized account of Walt Disney, and why would they even do that? I, for one, would argue that the idea of Tomorrowland is very much the spirit of Walt, his optimism, and ideals. It’s something I personally would love to see reflected in the theme park versions of Tomorrowland once again as well. Perhaps if this movie does well, plans are in place for such a move? It’s just my opinion, and lots of speculation, but a Tomorrowland like that is an area that’s sorely needed right now. In the meantime, we can hope this optimism spreads beyond the realms of Disney. Could we be the change that is sorely needed? That’s where my real hope lies. As Father said in the Carousel of Progress, “I would like to say this much. Progress is something we can’t take for granted. Progress takes a lot of people wanting it and willing to work for it.”

I’d love to hear your thoughts on the matter, dear readers and fellow DisNerds? And be honest. Am I getting my hopes up on what’s really “just a movie?” Do you have hope for it like I do? Or, like me, do you hold out hope that somehow, we can build a REAL Tomorrowland if we can all manage to work together? If this article resonates with you, please comment, share with your friends, and start more conversations.

Stay tuned for Part Three in the series, as I plan on sharing my thoughts on the movie itself shortly after it opens!

 

4 thoughts on “Why Tomorrowland Matters, Part Two

  1. That’s the unfortunate circumstance of his death. Had he been around for another 5, maybe even 10 years, what would have been different? How would the company be today because of that added time? I wish we could find out, because I would love to see the differences. With that said, I love these posts about Tomorrowland. This was, in my opinion, one of the bigger parts of Walt that made up who he was. He never settled for today, and always looked forward to the next. He pushed people in such a way that he was literally able to move mountains and get what he wanted for the better of the company. Some may chastise him for anti-Semitic this, or racist that, but I really don’t believe that, because of the time period he was raised in. I do believe that he was a stickler and a perfectionist who wanted the very best for everyone, be it at Disneyland or in reality. If he had his way, I’m sure today we’d all be flying around on a monorail between cities, and using peoplemovers to get between buildings. Now, we can only try to figure out how to make his ideas last, and push forward to the next big project. Thank you for writing this, Craig. Keep up the good work!

  2. Great article with lots of good food for thought!

    I don’t think Disney’s futurism is as easily boiled down to “optimism is good!” What KIND of future, exactly, did Disney have planned?

    For example, whenever I watch the EPCOT pitch video, one thing is always conspicuous in its absence: any mention whatsoever of democracy. Real cities are messy and chaotic because they are democratic. EPCOT looks so organized and pristine because it is effectively a corporate dictatorship.

    Another example, the short feature “Eyes in Outer Space” talks almost flippantly of terraforming deserts and ice caps into “productive land”… A tremendous ecological catastrophe.

    Walt was certainly an optimist and I think he had a certain ideal of how things ought to play out. Free enterprise was something he considered an objective good in itself, and I suspect he would side with the idea that letting the free market reign would naturally make everything better. But here we are, living in that world now. I think that neither too rosy or too cynical a view of Disney is warranted.

  3. I posted this on Facebook too.

    As I commented on Twitter, I just wish Disney and Walt Disney World would go back to those ideals and dreams. Back to when Tomorrowland was Tomorrowland, not cartoon space with Buzz Lightyear and Stitch. They have gone so far out of the original philosophy Walt brought and so deep into consumerism and money. Yes its a publicly traded company, but it can still be innovative. Many will argue that Universal Orlando isn’t being innovative and they are just putting up rides with screens, but in reality they obviously have to catch up to number of rides. With Harry Potter coming their attendance has shot up so they are keeping up with it. We are still waiting for Avatar which was announced in September 2011. We won’t see it for another 2 years! Disney is stuck pushing characters and meet & greets instead of being the innovators they once were. Sorry for the rant/long post, it just really grinds my gears! Here’s hoping Disney gets that Tomorrowland mindset back! Great blog by the way! You’ve got a new subscriber!

  4. So if we really want it lets start doing something about it and start forming our new tomorrow together we can accomplish anything nothing is impossible to do let your ideas flow and start being creative

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