Disneyland Ride Movies (Part 6)
I wasn’t sure how I’d feel revisiting this one. At an initial viewing we found it disappointing and immediately forgot about it. How has it aged?
Director: Brad Bird
Cast: George Clooney, Hugh Laurie, Britt Robertson, Raffey Cassidy, Tim McGraw, Kathryn Hahn, Keegan-Michael Key
Plot: A young girl discovers an old invitation to a hidden world for super-science-geniuses who want to improve the world. As she finds more and more obstacles between her and ‘Tomorrowland’, a depressing truth becomes clear.
The Ride: So here’s the thing…this isn’t based on ride.
‘Tomorrowland’ sits alongside Fantasyland, Frontierland, Main Street, USA, Galaxy’s Edge and more as a themed land within Disneyland. Always intended as one of the opening regions of the park, Tomorrowland was the least completed and was not open in time for the first guests. Walt Disney always maintained a highly optimistic view of the future, and wanted to give people hope for a clean, technology dominated world ahead of us and Tomorrowland was to represent this dream.
With an initial focus on the new technologies of plastic, advances in automobiles and the dream of space travel, it was informative and exciting. Over times rides included hovering bumper UFOs, kid-sized cars in Autopia and space missions, plus the ‘Carousel of Progress’ prophesying a ‘great big beautiful tomorrow’. Imagineers frequently have to address ‘The Tomorrowland Problem’, the future on show is quickly going to look dated, leading to redresses and rebuilds every decade of so.
Recently, Tomorrowland has been increasing the number of licensed properties that don’t make such predictions about our future. Star Wars, Toy Story and Monsters Inc have all been brought to Tomorrowland, sharing space with the iconic Space Mountain attraction. Tomorrowlands exist in all Disney parks worldwide, with the Paris version being a Jules Verne inspired ‘Discoveryland’ in an effort to circumvent the ‘problem’.
Review: So my nine year old daughter sat down to watch this movie with me. After the prologue, featuring a boy who invented a jetpack finds his was through a secret portal in ‘It’s a Small World’ at the New York Fair to a hidden ‘Tomorrowland’. This is a retro-futuristic atomic-age sci-fi wonderland where the ambitious and optimistic build a better future.
“This is better than I expected.”
“Sure, it’s a good set-up. But they don’t come back here.”
“Well, they do, but it’s a burnt out wasteland.”
…I don’t want to watch this anymore.” (Leaves room)
She kinda came in and out? Was pretty on board with the style and characters, but the whole ‘reveal’ and evil villain speech pissed her off again. This brings up a real point about the expectations set up and not delivered upon in this movie. We see ‘Tomorrowland’ in the prologue and we’re looking forward to an adventure there. We jump to Casey (Robertson), a 25 year old high schooler in oversized clothes, many decades later seeking out this mysterious city. That was the ‘Hogwarts’ of this concept, you had to use this setting much, much more. In the end it was disappointing, the irony of which we will get to, but this seems like such an obvious concept. Doctor Funk likened it to The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe never returning to Narnia after Lucy’s first encounter. This is a huge failing for this story.
What makes it all the more frustrating is that the villain speech, by a Hugh Laurie who only appeared briefly in the prologue 2 hours earlier, condemns pop culture with bleak outlooks. The whole thesis statement is that George Clooney invented a future seeing machine that put a countdown on the apocalypse, and the visions of the future somehow leaked into entertainment, and the very brief trend of dystopian young adult fiction was numbing people to the world falling apart around them. I think? The irony being that delivering this Fallout wasteland instead of The Jetsons immersive theme park we were promised is pretty damn dystopian. But then a robot dies and delivers a “you must hurry…” final speech that take more than FIVE minutes. “I don’t have much time!” she says at 3.5 minutes. Could’ve bloody fooled me.
On a purely visual experience, Tomorrowland is one of the strongest films in this marathon. Brad Bird and his team have produced some great ideas. The unsettling androids, the vintage sci-fi merchandise and inspirations, the lunacy of it all…there’s a lot to enjoy. There are some uncomfortable shifts in tone, such as an inspirational speech following by a spirited action sequence…that ends when a character gets his legs mashed and pinned under heavy machinery. They’d also set up Casey to have the innate ability for working out machinery…until the final act that gets padded out while she is unable to find the ‘ON’ button on a gadget.
This is frustrating movie, because the good idea is there on the page. It feels like it then got unnaturally stretched into a potential franchise. This feels unnecessary and spends much of the run time on fetch quests. It an angry movie, railing against a cinematic fad already on the way out. Why did dystopian fiction need such a kicking from Bird and Damon Lindelof?
Every time the Disney company tries to engage with Walt’s optimistic view of the future, we end up with this or Meet the Robinsons. Maybe stop doing that.
Rating: THREE out of TEN
DISNEYLAND RIDE MOVIE RANKINGS
Look, it scored some points for the design work and park history. It’s still getting shuffled to the bottom of the list for being such a frustrating disappointment. Just…give us the retro-futurist world.
- Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl
- Tower of Terror
- The Country Bears
- The Haunted Mansion
- Mission to Mars