The image above comes from the recently released Tomorrowland smartphone app, and I gotta say, if this isn’t one of the most amazing cinematic experiences I’ve ever had in my life, I’ll understand and accept it, but with severe disappointment nestled within. As someone who wears my anticipations on my sleeve, I’m generally not a fan of gimmicky, hint-based promotions, but Brad Bird and Damon Lindelof are winning me over with Tomorrowland, both because the subject matter intrigues me, and because they’re dropping tons of hints about the project’s background without saying one way or another which specific clues are essential to the film. And I am always game to read about something as rich as the history of Walt Disney’s ambitions and affection for science and sci-fi.
The app itself is full of informational “artifacts” that explain the contents of the famous-by-now 1952 mystery box used as some of the first promotional material for the film. Need a memory refresher?
The app features 13 mini-lessons that describe and explain each of the objects found in the box, all with pictures to look through. Some only have text to read while others come with audio recordings. It all takes less than a half-hour to go through, but it seems to be a good indication of the hopeful and rose-tinted vibe that Bird could be drowning the project in. Here’s a look at how the app interface is set up.
While every entry is definitely worth going through, one of the highlights includes a nine-inch disc that contains an early experimental form of video technology. Pixar Animation was brought in to extract what information they could, and they managed to get a three-minute, relatively high quality animation out of seven minutes of footage. The subject matter concerns a legendarily unlikely meeting of the minds between Thomas Edison, Jules Verne, Nicola Tesla, and Gustave Eiffel, at the 1889 World’s Fair in Paris, where they discussed a secret technology.
Another bizarro-cool explanation came with the issue of Amazing Stories from August 1928. It contained Philip Francis Nowlan’s story “Armageddon 2419 A.D.,” which told the story of a war vet who falls asleep for 400 years, and is the first appearance of the classic character Buck Rogers (Anthony Rogers originally). Strangely, there was a card affixed to the front of the issue with 30 holes clipped out of it, and a page number written in the corner. The page correlated with the opening of Nowlan’s story, and when the card was placed over it, the words that were visible read, and I’m quoting directly from the app, mistakes and all: “I have seen across the gap between I began practical penetration into the world. Secret retreats needed The perfection of mechanical labor and organization of industrial resources almost at hand.” No other information about the card or its creator was inside the box, which makes it one of the creepiest things Disney has ever been a part of.
There were novels and designs for a jet pack ride also inside, but why listen to me blather about it when you can download the app for yourself here? It doesn’t go into quite the depth that the viral campaign has done, but it gives quite a stepping stone towards the mindset that Bird and Lindelof trying to put us in.
For a recap, George Clooney stars as an inventor who helps Britt Robertson on a quest. Raffey Cassidy plays a robot central to the plot. Hugh Laurie plays a villain. Judy Greer is involved. The plot details will leak out slowly, I’m sure. The app uses the term “science factual” over “science fiction” when talking about the science-based episodes of their 1950s ABC TV series Disneyland, and I’m guessing Bird’s film will try and push that aspect over pure spectacle.
We’ll find out next year when the film opens on December 12, 2014.