by Jeremiah Oshiro
The film starts back in 1964 at the World’s Fair in New York. Young Frank Walker (Thomas Robinson) hauls a large, heavy duffle bag to a pavilion to enter an inventor’s contest. The young Frank meets David Nix (Hugh Laurie) and shows him his homemade jetpack, made out of an old Electrolux vacuum. This farm boy, barn engineer is determined to impact the world and the future with his creation. While in conversation with Nix, Young Walker attracts the attention of a young girl named Athena (Raffey Cassidy). Frank is excused by Nix and leaves the pavilion sad and defeated. Athena, who believes that Frank has a lot of potential catches up with Frank and gives him a pin with a “T” symbol and tells him to follow her and Nix. Frank chases the pair and their group to the Unicef Pavilion of “It’s a Small World”. Frank weaves his way through the line and jumps aboard the boat behind the group. He pins the “T” pin to his shirt, and while riding through the attraction a red laser scans his pin and transports young Frank to a futuristic city known as Tomorrowland.
Fast-forward years later to the present, we find science minded Casey Newton (Britt Robertson) a Florida teen who lives with her father, Eddie (Tim McGraw) and brother, Nate (Pierce Gagnon). Casey has spent a few nights sneaking onto a former NASA launch site at Cape Canaveral, where her father is an engineer. Her nightly adventures at the launch site are to sabotage the machines that are dismantling the launch pad. One night upon her return as she sneaks back into the house, Athena approaches the house, not looking any older than when we last saw her in 1964. She pulls out another “T” pin, programs Casey’s DNA into the pin. The following night Casey is out again to the launch pad to sabotage the equipment. She gets caught and taken to the police station. She is later released and discovers the pin among her belongings. When she touches the pin, Casey is instantly transported to Tomorrowland. Excited about what she sees and experiences, she begins to explore her new surroundings. But when she discovers a timer on the back of the pin she returns to her world when it expires.
Determined to find out where she was transported and how she got the pin, Casey and her brother find a Retro memorabilia store in Houston. Casey makes her way to the shop. Once there she meets the shop owners Hugo (Keegan-Michael Key) and Ursula (Kathryn Hahn). Casey shows them the pin and they begin to ask her questions, “where is the girl who gave this to you?” Not knowing who they were talking about she attempts to make her way out of the store. The two shop owners begin firing plasma guns at her as she tries to escape. Out of nowhere Athena appears and rescues Casey in time before the shop owners, now revealed to be robots or AA (audio-animatronics), self-destruct and blow-up the store.
Athena shoves Casey into car and speeds away with Athena in the driver’s seat. As they speed away Athena reveals that she gave Casey the pin and is also an AA. Adding to the shock Casey briefly escapes from Athena gets hit by a truck and when the driver stops to offer aide, Casey drives off in the truck. With her super speed Athena catches up with Casey and takes the wheel of the truck and heads for New York. Athena tells Casey that if she wants to go back to Tomorrowland she needs to talk to the older Frank Walker (George Clooney). Casey falls asleep and is awoken by being thrown out of the truck and in front of the driveway of the Walker farm. As Casey approaches the house she is chased by a hologram dog. She knocks on the door where in Wizard of Oz fashion she is met with the voice of Frank Walker who tells her to leave. Casey determined to get back to Tomorrowland, spends the night on Mr. Walker’s doorstep in the rain. Casey finds her way into the house and discovers Franks “Catastrophe Probability Meter”. While confront Frank about her discovery a group of AA like the shop owners and posing as US Secret Service Agents. They tell Frank to give up the girl or they will attack. Frank manages to escape with Casey using inventions and traps placed through-out his house, including one that blows-up the Walker house.
Frank and Casey meet-up with Athena and there is an obvious tension between Frank and Athena. Frank and Athena reveal to Casey that what she saw when she touched the pin was an interactive commercial that was meant to be an invitation that was never sent out. Frank questions Athena as to why she gave Casey a pin. Athena tells Frank that she thinks Casey is able to fix a machine in Tomorrowland, a machine that they should not have made. Frank leads them to teleportation machine which transports the trio to the Eiffel Tower in Paris. They enter an exhibit with statues of Eiffel, Edison, Tesla, and Verne. Frank explains that these men were said to have accessed a new world of another dimension and that they had their own private form of transportation. Using an old Edison Phonograph Frank opens the Eiffel Tower to reveal a rocket which launches into the sky and into a black hole that sends the trio to Tomorrowland.
When they arrived, Tomorrowland is no longer the clean, radiant, and busy city. The now Governor Nix greets the group and escorts them to a device that allows someone to see view any point in the past of the future. Casey is able to see herself, dad, and brother a few days prior, she moves forward into the future and sees the world come to an end. Nix tells her that Frank invented the machine and was exiled because he lost hope.
Casey is determined to not let that future happen realizes that the machine shows a future that could happen, not will happen. Nix, itching to get rid of the trio opens a portal to a beach to live out their days. Frank resists and three fight off Nix and his men. Using a bomb that Frank brought to Tomorrowland, Casey attempts to destroy the time viewing machine. The bomb gets away from Casey and ends up destroying the portal almost killing Nix. As Frank helps Casey, Nix makes one last effort to kill Frank with a plasma gun. Athena gets in the way and is hit. Athena an AA begins to shut-down and her self-destruct sequence initiated. As she begins to fade Athena plays a recording of her history with Frank and her feelings toward him. Athena encourages Frank to use her to destroy the machine. With a jetpack Frank flys up to the machine with Athena, the two exchange their good-byes. As Athena shuts down, Frank drops her into machine which explodes. The machine falls killing Nix.
We see Frank and Casey facing a group of children that we discover to be a group of AA, encouraging them to go out into the world to find dreamers and using the pins, to bring them to a new Tomorrowland.
This film is completely different than the popular dystopian films like Divergent, Hunger Games, and Mad Max. Here in Tomorrowland “there’s a great big beautiful tomorrow”. This film is a more mature version of Walt Disney Animation’s film, Meet the Robinsons (2007).
To truly understand the beauty behind the film you have to understand Walt Disney the man. Toward the end of his life, Walt was fascinated with technological advances and city planning. Prior to the 1964 World’s Fair in New York, Walt and Walt Disney Imagineering (Imagination and Engineering) were approached by four groups to assist in developing their individual showcase pavilions. The funding that WDI received as a result of these four projects allowed Walt and his WDI Imagineers the ability to research and develop new and innovative technology. The four organizations that garnered assistance from Walt and WDI was: Pepsi Co. which presented “It’s a Small World” a Salute to UNICEF. General Electric sponsored “Progressland” (Carousel of Progress). Ford Motor Company, presented “Ford’s Magic Skyway”. This was the second most popular exhibit and was later relocated to Disneyland and named “People Mover”. Finally, the state of Illinois “Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln”. All of these exhibits were reclaimed and re-located by The Walt Disney Company to Disneyland in Anaheim, CA.
The homage to Walt Disney and the 1964 World’s Fair is evident in this film as well as a few other’s: Meet the Robinsons (2007) and Ironman 2 (2010), with “Stark Expo”. The idea of a progressive futuristic community that is showcased in these three films also feeds off of Walt’s fascination with city planning. After the ’64 Fair Disney had plans to convert Flushing Meadows (the site of the ’64 Fair) to a “Disneyland” of the East Coast. That idea was later abandoned and gave way to Walt Disney World in Orlando Florida. One of Disney’s delights with Disneyland was that unlike film, the theme park was living entity. It’s always open to growth, to evolve, and re-designed. On the flipside his disappointment with Disneyland was that its growth was limited to the land and space that was available. As the city of Anaheim grew and developed around the park. With the plan and purchase of the 43 sq mi property, Disney wanted to design a community where Cast Members (Disney employees) can live and work. Disney never saw Walt Disney World break ground, the forward thinking revolutionary pass in December 1966. The Florida Resort opened in the fall of 1971. One of the theme parks in Orlando pays tribute to Walt Disney and his enthusiasm for city planning with the opening of EPCOT (1982); “Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow”. The concept of this park is twofold. Future World stands at the main entrance of the park where guest can experience and visit with advances in technology. Since its opening, EPCOT’s Future World mimics the World’s Fair, with exhibits and pavilions showcasing environmental and technological advance. The second half is the World Showcase. Eleven pavilions with eleven countries emerging guest with the sights and sounds of those respective countries. Each pavilion is staffed with Cast Members that come directly from the country they represent.
In the film Casey’s dad starts to tell the story of two wolves; an optimist and pessimist. Casey continues the story that asks the question which one survives. The answer; whichever one you feed. The main two main themes from Tomorrowland; optimism and wanting to make tomorrow brighter. It’s our job to make that effort and pass on that torch to the next generation. “There’s a great big beautiful tomorrow…” it’s up to us to each make a contribution.