iPad App Review: Tomorrowland D23

(Available in the iTunes App Store for iPhone, iPad, & iPod Touch. Requires iOS 6.0 or later. Price: Free to Download)

Tomorrowland – A vista into a world of wondrous ideas, signifying Man’s achievement. A step into the future, with predictions of constructed things to come. Tomorrow offers new frontiers in science, adventure and ideals. The Atomic Age, the challenge of Outer Space and the hope for a peaceful, unified world – Walt Disney; July 17, 1955

At the time of its reveal that Summer of 1955, Tomorrowland signified a portion of Disneyland, that often seemed to fascinate Walt Disney: the future. It’s no surprise that Walt himself often looked to the future for new innovations, both within his studio, and later in his own Theme Park.

Sadly, Walt’s vision of Tomorrowland (almost) being a testing ground for what the future could become, soon seemed more science fiction, than science fact. The attractions of TWA flights into space, plastic houses, and peoplemover transportation systems, failed to move beyond the confines of the small land. Today, the themes of Tomorrowland are all but lost in a sea of attractions tied to properties like Star Wars, Finding Nemo, and Toy Story.

But  back in the day, Walt continued to “keep moving forward.” His visions post-Disneyland, would soon encompass “Tomorrow” in another way: an Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow, or EPCOT, which was to be built adjacent to a second Disney theme park: Walt Disney World. However, Walt’s death in 1966, and a company whose risk-taking stalled with the death of its creator, put the kibosh on a project that some saw as too risky in the rather turbulent era of the late 60’s. EPCOT would materialize in 1982, no longer a planned urban community, but a cross between a world’s fair, and a showcase of technological innovation.

Many have often had fond memories of those flights of fancy that Walt put before us on his Disneyland television series, showing rockets blasting off into space, of what exotic creatures may exist on other planets. Luckily, it seemed that several in the film industry remembered them as well.

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In the last few years, Brad Bird (The Incredibles, The Iron Giant) and Damon Lindelof (Lost) have been hard at work on a film that seems as secretive as a JJ Abrams film. The project? Tomorrowland.

The first hint of this project came in January 2013, when Brad Bird tweeted a picture of a black box said to have been found in the catacombs beneath the Walt Disney Studios in Burbank, CA. The box was labeled simply on the front, with the number “1952,” but inside, there were found numerous items. Photographs, old magazines, and much, much more. Word was, the contents of the strange box, “inspired” Brad and Damon on their film collaboration.

At 2013’s D23 Expo in Anaheim, Bird and Lindelof took to the main stage on the second day of the Expo, and began to dig through the box, showcasing several of the artifact inside. We saw everything from a strange disc, to a doctored photo of Walt Disney with Amelia Earhart, and blueprint of It’s a Small World, that contained hidden details.

Also at the D23 Expo, was the continuation of a wonderful little inside-marketing pitch to really get in the heads of die-hard Disney fans. A man known as Wallace, briefly had a website and Twitter account active, showcasing his love of Disney cartography, and even had an exhibitor booth at the Expo. Interspersed throughout the expo, was a grand treasure hunt, that if you had the time (and most likely a pass to the parks!), would lead you and several other cohorts, on a grand-scale adventure, following clues and riddles (a summary of the journey can be found at Inside The Magic).

Wallace (behind desk) talking with a guest at his booth at the 2013 D23 Expo.

Sadly, I only got a few clues in with some folks before I could not continue, as I did not have a pass to the parks. I did visit with Wallace to let him know that I could not continue, and was very excited when Wallace offered me a small consolation: a print of one of the images he had created, based around 4 of the 1964 World’s Fair attractions that Disney had had made. Of the four choices, I went for the print of the one Disneyland attraction that I had never been on: The Carousel of Progress (which closed at Disneyland in 1973, before I was born).

The Tomorowland shirt was an exclusive release at the D23 store. The brochure, business cards, and poster were obtained from the meetings I had with Wallace.

While only some knew of the viral campaign that was playing out under their noses, the majority of the expo-goers, had the opportunity to visit within a booth that promised to reveal several of the finds from within the “1952” black box, let alone some other odds-and-ends found around the Disney Studios.

For those taking the tour, there was the ability to borrow out iPads with a Tomorrowland app installed. For those of us with iPhones and iPads of our own, it was simply a matter of finding a connection, and downloading the free app to our own devices.

Also of deterrence to keeping the secrets from getting out, were security guards stationed around the exhibit, making sure no photography was taken (close-up, that is). However, a few bits of the display, did make it onto the app.

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Of the different display pieces in the booth, 13 have corresponding information bits included on the app.

Several of the information bits have included audio commentary. Aside from an unnamed narrator, we hear audio from the likes of writer/producer Damon Lindelof, and former Disney Imagineer Bob Gurr.

The app doesn’t give away every detail of what is in the exhibit, with some parts telling that certain legal reasons keep them from showcasing various items. As well, a few of the dimensional items included in the exhibit are fragmented into multiple pictures.

The app does paint a wildly imaginative world in our heads, from experimental storage discs (like the one above), a second-step in the development of Walt’s Audio-Animatronic figures, a cancelled jetpack-related ride, and even an abandoned TV-show script. The TV show script is rather intriguing, in that all the live-action segments scripted inside, are heavily crossed out, with “NO!!” scrawled on the last page. I recall looking deeply at the pages up-close, but I couldn’t make out anything that had previously been typed.

One piece that I found myself wrapping my brain around for several minutes when going over the exhibit, was the piece below. It shows an overlay of a city that follows the same radiating design aesthetic that Walt had in mind for EPCOT, but the torn overlay appears to be set up over a region with some hilly terrain…which is most definitely not Florida.

Notable throughout the exhibit, is a special logo that appears on numerous pieces, of a “plus” symbol cutting through the letter “u.” This appears to be the symbol of a group called Plus Ultra. The general idea is that Walt himself was a member of this super-secret society, that sought to find a way to keep advancing technology into the future. The symbol can be seen on several of the items displayed within the app.

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Sadly, the app has not been updated since late August of 2013. It can still be found in the Apple App Store, albeit buried rather discretely. It’s hard to tell if the app may be updated as we get closer to the film’s May 2015 release date, or if it was just that special little extra bit of info for those of us, willing to have our curiosity peaked by a dream of a place, where nothing is impossible.

If you have had your appetite whetted by the latest teaser trailer, then you might want to seek this app out. It’s a free download, and provides some further tidbits that may or may not be revealed in the final film. It probably won’t change your world, but it may give you some more to think about, as we wait to see what Tomorrowland has in store for us, come next May.

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About MWH1980

Growing up in the state of Iowa, one would assume I'd be enamored with pigs and corn. Well, I wasn't. Instead, I grew fascinated by many things that were entertainment-related. Things like movies, animation, toys, books, and many more kept my attention. This blog I hope to use to express myself regarding my varied obsessions. (P.S. There's no Photoshop involved in that Gravatar-I really am holding an Oscar)

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