I was recently invited to celebrate the October 13, 2015 DVD, Blu-ray Combo Pack, Digital HD/SD, On-Demand, and Disney Movies Anywhere (DMA) release of Disney’s Tomorrowland at Disneyland in Anaheim! It was such a fun event and I was very excited to be a part of it.
I learned so much about the film and how much of a passion project it was! Everyone I spoke with was so genuinely thrilled to get to talk about the film that means so much to them.
The heart of this film is huge. It’s full of so much love and hope. Tomorrowland is about being an optimist against all odds. It’s about respecting and appreciating the past while always looking toward the future and continuing to innovate. And it’s about embracing your power and working with other “Dreamers” to make the impossible possible.
In addition to learning more about the film, I was also fortunate enough to get to speak with writer and director Brad Bird (The Iron Giant, The Incredibles, Ratatouille), Raffey Cassidy (who played Athena in the film), and Thomas Robinson (who played Young Frank).
I also got to speak with Mike Goslin (VP of Production & Content at Disney Consumer Products) and Charita Carter (Producer at Disney Imagineering) who shared some different and fun perspectives on what they feel makes the film so powerful, in addition to some exciting new projects they are working on!
Before the interviews, however, we were taken on a tour around Disneyland Park, by two Disney Ambassadors, and shown some of the iconic Tomorrowland sites.
(Careful! Tomorrowland spoilers ahead!)
First, we were taken to the Small World Ride. We learned that the 1964 New York World’s Fair scenes that take place on the Small World Ride, were actually filmed right there, at Disneyland in Anaheim.
They had even flown in the boat that Young Frank rides in, in the film, for us to see! The boat was actually really gorgeous; the woodwork was stunning. And, bonus!, we all got to take turns sitting in it! (Oh, did I mention that everyone there suddenly turned 8 years old again?!)
Fun Facts: We also learned that the Small World Ride’s famous song, “It’s a Small World” was written by the Sherman Brothers after they couldn’t figure out a way to incorporate every national anthem into one, single song.
Also, the costumes made for each of the 300+ famous little dolls, are made with fabrics from the countries they represent!
We were then taken to the Tomorrowland Launch Pad which (for those of you Disneyland-goers) is the large rocket next to Pizza Port and Space Mountain.
Here we learned that NASA has had a huge influence on Disney’s Tomorrowland. In 1977, when Space Mountain was built, Disney brought in astronaut, Gordon Cooper, as a creative consultant in order to make the ride authentic!
We were finally taken to the entrance of Tomorrowland.
We learned here that Walt Disney was always thinking toward the future and Tomorrowland was very special to him. The theme from the film that we should always be working toward the future while remembering and appreciating the past and where we came from, was an idea very close to Walt’s heart. Check out his beautiful words, that are on a plaque at the Tomorrowland entrance, below:
Now, on to the interviews!
I was very excited to get to sit down and discuss the film with writer/director, Brad Bird. I loved getting to hear him talk about the Space Age aspect of the film and how society has gotten so off-track — It was very moving. Furthermore, he discussed casting George Clooney, the story of the two wolves, and the special relationship between Casey and her father in the film. And, finally, he had some amazing advice to share with the Dreamers out there who are being told that everything has been done and there is nothing new to create. Oh and he’s the nicest guy ever:
Legion of Leia: Was it important to you, when you were developing the story, that you showed the NASA aspect early on, and was that a catalyst for the rest of the story?
Brad Bird: Yeah, we actually had it a little more in the first draft of the screenplay that [Damen Lindelof] wrote. We actually had shots of Titusville, on the Space Coast there. And it was cutting around, showing all of the space themed stuff – hotels and stuff like that, that were all closed down. Things were being shut up and it was a way of showing that notion of dreaming about the stars and the moon is just the first step in a staircase that goes out into infinity and we’re on it and we’re going and then wha wha wha, your funding has been cut off, we’re now just going to focus on the shopping mall down the street.
We were trying to introduce that as sort of a sad step and we shouldn’t stop things like NASA because that’s dreaming of the infinite. And it’s not war; it seems like the only thing that people get enthusiastic for is shooting people. And it’s nice to have a gun if somebody is coming to shut you down I guess but is that the end of our development? The thing that was so wonderful about the Space Age is that it was reaching out; it wasn’t looking down and inward. It was looking out and beyond and it’s limitless out there and why aren’t we doing that? So it became a very useful metaphor for how we envision our future.
Legion of Leia: Speaking of envisioning our future, and the optimism vs. pessimism aspect of the film that was so important, I’m just very curious, where did the “two wolves” story come from?
Brad Bird: Actually it’s a Native American story. That’s my understanding of it, that’s how I knew about it. I mentioned it to [Damen Lindelof] and it got into the script. I was saying, “It’s like they say, which wolf wins in this battle and it’s whichever one you feed.” And it was meaningful to me.
Legion of Leia: Do you remember where you heard that story?
Brad Bird: I don’t remember where I heard it!
Legion of Leia: So it was just something you heard at some point and you carried it with you?
Brad Bird: You know, you run into a lot of poignant things that people say and I forget most of them but that was one of them that stuck!
Legion of Leia: The George Clooney question: He’s got to be the most likeable guy ever so what made you cast him as this grumpy, pessimistic, stinker?
Brad Bird: I think that what we responded to, beyond the fact that he’s a great actor, is that you can detect in him a guy who believes in certain things and he’s not going to waver from those beliefs because something is popular or something isn’t. I think you only have to look at decisions he’s made with his own life with how he spends his money and time and he believes in things and he’s willing to stick his neck out. And he has great abilities comedy wise and all of that. But underneath it you feel that there is integrity there and that was something that we really wanted for this character.
Legion of Leia: The film seemed to focus a lot on father figures. Frank’s dad was not supportive of his son’s dreams and Casey’s dad was the more uplifting dad. Was there a reason that you emphasized fathers more than mothers in the film?
Brad Bird: You’re looking for some kind of equilibrium in the world that you’re presenting and we originally had Casey’s [played by Britt Robertson] mom in there and we actually had an uncle who had two kids who were living in the house. One of those deleted scenes is available – that was actually a whole thing that we had; we had a mom but we were looking for ways to have Casey’s relationship with her dad [played by Tim McGraw] tighten. And that’s why so many movies only have one parent – because you’re creating a hole that needs to be filled with something else. And in Iron Giant, the dad is missing—but part of the reason for that, and in the originally story, again, he had two parents but you took one away because there’s a hole that he needs to fill and the giant fills it, for the moment, and then later on the beatnik character fills it so it creates empathy. And what it did for us, is it strengthened the bond between those two characters because the dad was relying on her just as much as she was relying on the dad. And that just seemed to make it work a little better emotionally.
Legion of Leia: You’re so innovative and you’ve made such unique movies. When I was on college, all I would hear from my professors was that everything had been done and you can’t really do anything “new.” But you’ve obviously shown that, that is not true. So what advice would you give to the Dreamers out there who are hearing that from their professors?
Brad Bird: I think that the role of professors and colleges should be to ignite imaginations! And if somebody is telling you everything has been done and throwing a wet blanket on you, I think retirement would be a good thing for that teacher. If [students] encounter a teacher like that, tell them to use that as fuel to prove the teacher wrong. That’s the only way to approach that kind of advice. Certainly there are only 88 keys on a piano but I don’t think that every song has been written. There are only 17 million colors but I don’t think everything has been painted. I think that George Lucas read Mythology and saw Westerns and Buck Rogers and Kurosawa films and made Star Wars. And Star Wars is kinda like Buck Rogers and Flash Gordon a little but in terms of being something new, it was the combination of ingredients — The ingredients weren’t new but the combination of ingredients was knew!
I also got to chat with Thomas Robinson (Young Frank) and Raffey Cassidy (Athena.) They are both darling. In addition to sharing what their favorite scene was, what it was like working with George Clooney and Hugh Laurie, whether or not they got to keep anything from their characters, and more, they also had some very heartfelt things to say about what makes Tomorrowland such a special film:
Legion of Leia: What is your favorite ride here at Disneyland?
Thomas Robinson: Space Mountain or California Screamin’ in [Disney California Adventure].
Raffey Cassidy: Yeah! We’re big rollercoaster fans!
Legion of Leia (to Robinson): Did you know who George Clooney was before this movie?
Thomas Robinson: Barely. (laughs)
Legion of Leia: Did you know that you were playing the optimistic version of a guy who becomes a grumpy, stinker later?
Thomas Robinson: I didn’t really know that. But I just knew that I was this optimistic person and I had a feeling that later in the movie it would turn into something else. But I just took it as it came and went with it and it was really cool.
Legion of Leia (to Cassidy): The Blast from the Past fight scene: Did you have to do training for that?
Raffey Cassidy: Oh yeah, it was like four months of intense training. Probably more because we did it during the shoot as well. It was really fun. I got to do different things in wire-works and flips. So, yeah, it was really fun and the stunt team makes you really comfortable with what you are about to do.
Legion of Leia (to Robinson): How cool was it to see yourself flying in a jetpack?
Thomas Robinson: It was really cool. It was almost cooler filming it because I was actually flying while filming it. They had all these wires pulling me 30 feet above the ground with a harness with the jet pack on.
Legion of Leia: I’m afraid of heights! How did you handle the height thing? Were you freaking out?!
Thomas Robinson: I was afraid of heights before we started filming! They had me flying trapeze for a little bit just to get me over that fear… The stunt crew is so amazing. They make you feel comfortable with anything.
Legion of Leia (to Cassidy): When you got hit by the truck, I gasped! When you saw that for the first time, what was your reaction?
Raffey Cassidy: (laughs and then widens eyes and puts hand on chest) I was like “Gosh! Is that the end of Athena?!” Even though I knew it wasn’t but it was quiet shocking.
Legion of Leia: Yeah! It looked pretty legit!
Raffey Cassidy: It was actually a stunt double! No I’m joking, it was actually a dummy!
Thomas Robinson: I didn’t know that it was coming and it just happened so suddenly I was like – (sits back and widens eyes in surprise,) “I know she’s still in the movie because I saw her filming stuff after this but that doesn’t make sense!”
Legion of Leia: What was your favorite scene to shoot?
Thomas Robinson: I really liked filming the stunts. But there was this one scene – I don’t think it made it into the movie but it was a flashback scene with Frank and Athena in the lab when he tried to make her laugh by putting his arm into a portal. I don’t think that part made it into the movie but I thought that was really fun to film.
Raffey Cassidy: Probably one that [Thomas and I] did together. Probably the lab scene. It was difficult, it was hard to get. Like we did loads of rehearsals with an acting coach. It took so much work because there were so many different emotions, different things to get right.
Thomas Robinson: It was also really fun in the World’s Fair part where we were with [Hugh Laurie] and he’s such a nice guy!
Legion of Leia: That was one of my questions! Because he seems so fun but he was terrifying in this movie!
Thomas Robinson: Yeah he’s like the exact opposite of his character… The only thing I’d known him from was House and he was American and then this 6 foot guy walks up to me with this crazy hair and this British accent and I thought, “I don’t know who you are!”
Legion of Leia: Did you get to keep anything from the movie? Anything from your characters?
Raffey Cassidy: It wasn’t from Athena but you know the car scene with me and [Britt Robertson]? Well Athena had smashed through the window so there was glass everywhere but it was actually rubber glass. And me and Britt, we were in the car for four days and we were addicted to the glass—we kept doing this. (Rubs imaginary glass between fingers.) So at the end of the day, we would get like spoonfuls and shove it in our wellies and then go home and take all of the glass out and take it home!
Legion of Leia: What do you guys think makes this movie so special?
Thomas Robinson: I think it has a really good message. Like never give up and you as a person – you can accomplish things that you don’t think you could.
Raffey Cassidy: Yeah, I think the message is very important. It’s about you as an individual person can make a difference and can do anything. Just be optimistic and a lot of the time you will fail at situations but then when you get to your dream, it makes it all the better.
Legion of Leia: What would you tell your friends about this movie?
Thomas Robinson: Depends on the friend! Like if they like action, I’ll tell them that there are so many cool things. But then if they don’t like action, I’m keeping that outta the conversation.
Raffey Cassidy: I try not to tell them very much but I would say that you have to go see this film because it will blow your mind and you will feel like a different person after.
Next, I spoke with Mike Goslin (VP of Production & Content at Disney Consumer Products) who shared his opinions about what makes Tomorrowland special! He also talked to me about some of the new, exciting things he is currently working on, including Playmation’s new Iron Man Repulsor Blaster and slowing down time (I’m completely serious!):
Legion of Leia: The first thing I wanna ask about is Playmation! Can you tell me all about it and how you came up with it?
Mike Goslin: So it started with this idea of, “What can we do with the internet of things?” As devises, affordable devises, that can connect to each other and connect to the internet. And at the same time, we were talking to lots of kids and saying, “What do you wanna do? What’s your favorite role playing activity?” And they’re like, “I wanna be a superhero!” So we thought, okay, we can use internet to give kids superhero powers in the real world. So that’s sort of the genesis of Playmation.
So the way it works is, we are taking old school play – running around, being physically active, using your imagination, and we’re using this technology to bring it into the 21st century and we’re telling Disney stories. And we’re starting off with Avengers. You get to be an Avenger and join the Avengers and battle Ultron and help save the world.
Legion of Leia: Oh my gosh! How fun! Can you tell me more about the Avengers toy?!
Mike Goslin: Yeah so if you’ve ever wanted to fire Iron Man’s Repulsor Blaster?
Legion of Leia: Who hasn’t?!
Mike Goslin: There you go! So this lets you do that and the way it works is, I put on the glove and I can battle a physical robot and when I fire it, I get force feedback on my hand, the appropriate audio is blasting, lights stream down my arm, and the robot I’m shooting at shakes and falls over. So I’ve done something for real in the real world. And on top of that, we’ve built this epic story line with missions but you can also play your way and just battle or make up your own ways to play with it.
Legion of Leia: So I can pay this outside? I don’t have to play this in front of a TV?
Mike Goslin: Yeah, it’s mobile. A lot of adults are interested in playing it. And I think parents are going to get involved too. We designed it intentionally so that a very young kid or an adult can wear it.
Legion of Leia: How important is it to keep creating things that are for families, instead of just kids?
Mike Goslin: So you always have a target, right? So in this case, we are targeting kids ages 6-12. But you also have aspirations and really, with any kid of play experience, whether it be a game or toys or anything, if it can get the family involved, it’s going to be a lot more impactful so we always have parents in mind. Even if they’re not actively playing, they’re going to be nearby and we want to entertain them too. It’s fun! Parents love seeing their kids play this way — It’s sort of the nostalgic way that they remember playing themselves; running around, getting sweaty, using your imagination. It is really a great win for parents and kids. Kids like being active too.
Legion of Leia: How do you continue to innovate? And how exciting is that when you come up with some brand-new that nobody has done before?
Mike Goslin: Yeah well so we constantly have to scale back our aspirations because the reality is that it’s hard to make things at an affordable price point. We have big ideas and we have some things we can’t do right away. We are constantly in the background trying to figure out, “How do we do that?!” We wanna go beyond blasting the Repulsor Blaster, we want to really let the kids feel the full experience. So there are a whole lotta things that we are going to figure out how to do in the future; we are working on it every day. And I think, at the same time, technology is coming in that’s inspiring us like, “Hey, here is this new thing I found! What can we do with that?” And that kind of inspires us to go in new directions and tell different kinds of stories.
Legion of Leia: What do you think it is about Disney Consumer Products that connect people to the movies that they love? How profound is that connection and why is that connection so profound?
Mike Goslin: So people love these worlds and they wanna go there. There is something about having a physical object that connects you with that property that is hard to replace any other way. So bringing these physical objects in, you know putting on that Repulsor gear, and the feel of it, and all that is part of the experience and it really connects you in a way that nothing else can.
Legion of Leia: In Tomorrowland, one of the most important themes is that anything is possible. Do you feel like you incorporate that in your job every day?
Mike Goslin: It’s so funny, yeah! I couldn’t do what I do if I wasn’t an optimist!
Legion of Leia: If you weren’t a Dreamer?!
Mike Goslin: Yeah, I have to be an optimist. Everybody I work with, top to bottom, they’re all optimists. You have to be because it’s really hard. It’s easy to get discouraged and so you have to believe that you can do it. They’re all optimistic, self-included, and we’re also not quitters. We work really hard and we have big imaginations and we believe we can do it.
Legion of Leia: You mentioned earlier that you have ideas that you don’t have the technology to make happen yet. Are there any ideas that you love that you can’t do yet but you have it in your back pocket—Relating back to Tomorrowland’s message that you have to appreciate the past and where you came from while also constantly looking toward the future?
Mike Goslin: Absolutely. I have a whole room full of those. I absolutely do. And every now and again we dust one off because we’re like, “Oh my gosh, we can do this now.”
Legion of Leia: Was Playmation one of those ideas?
Mike Goslin: Yes! I have to admit when I first started on the project I wasn’t sure if we could pull it off and I convinced myself, and we as a team all convinced ourselves that we could do it, and we did it. It was a journey but we figured out that it’s great to carry something across the finish line.
Legion of Leia: Do you have anything else in your portfolio that you can tell me about? Time traveling maybe? What are we doing next?!
Mike Goslin: We did figure out a way to slow down time that is pretty cool.
Legion of Leia: WHAT?!
Mike Goslin: (laughs) It’s an R&D project where we figured out that you can use lighting to make water dripping slow down and reverse. It’s pretty compelling. And we were thinking, “Boy, if you could convince yourself that you were slowing down time, this would be great.” You see the water dripping and then it starts to slow down.
Legion of Leia: With lighting?!
Mike Goslin: With LED lighting.
Legion of Leia: So are you going to make that into a product?
Mike Goslin: It’s one of those things that we don’t know what to do with it. But we’ll figure it out!
Fun Fact: On our tour, we learned that over 100,000 jewels were used to decorate Sleeping Beauty’s iconic castle for Disneyland’s 60th Anniversary Diamond Celebration!
Charita Carter (Producer at Disney Imagineering) shared some very powerful words on the importance of never giving up on your dreams and what she loved about the Tomorrowland film:
Legion of Leia: In the film, in Tomorrowland, Albert Einstein’s quote, “Imagination is more important than knowledge” is written on a wall. How do you think that message ties into what you do?
Charita Carter: Okay, so first of all that idea of imagination – you have to see it before you can manifest it. So I think that’s kind of the heart of what he was getting at. And that’s really at the heart of what we do at Imagineering because we are constantly innovating and building on the foundation that Walt actually started. He saw something that nobody else saw and he went for it. And he got other people to see his vision and rally around. And he laid it out so that people could figure out where they plugged in to what he was seeing. And then there is that critical mass of people moving in the same direction toward a common goal and there is this idea that most people at Imagineering believe in which is that nothing is impossible. And that’s where the magic comes from!
Legion of Leia: That reminds me a lot of what I learned from the movie which is that we have to learn from our past and appreciate and embrace it in order to really see what is possible in the future.
Charita Carter: Yeah and a lot of that is appreciation. You start realizing when you really dig in that nothing has ever really been easy. You know, once you’ve done something and you can talk about it, you can make it sounds like, “Yeah but that was Thursday and today is Friday!” But when you start seeing the struggle and the defeats and the ability to get back up and keep going, I use that as inspiration for me as I’m moving forward. Because a lot of things that we take for granted, really took a lot of sacrifice and a lot of thinking and a lot of integration and a lot of disappointment and I think understanding that really sets you up for what you expect. It’s like okay, if I’m going to innovate, not everything is going to work out perfectly. There are going to be bumps in the road and there are going to be times where I am going to start in a certain direction and I’m going to end up way over there. But guess what, way over there is really cool!
Legion of Leia: Disney has such a profound impact on children and the way that they view the world. Do you feel that responsibility to children and their imaginations is something you draw into your job every day?
Charita Carter: I think it’s really, really important. It’s critical to our culture. [I was with my godson] over in Radiator Springs in Carsland, maybe two years ago. And we were standing in line and out of the blue he asked me the question, “What is the future going to be here?” And I thought, “Whoa, okay!”
And, it was really funny, because when he said it, a number of parents turned and looked at me like, “I’m so glad he asked you!” And it was like, what do you say?! And the thing that came to mind to me was, “When you bring it to us.”
So with that, he had a whole vision: “Well I just think that we haven’t done enough innovation in our automobiles. I mean, yeah we changed the bodies a little bit and we are going from gas to electric but really we should be advancing that a lot more than we have.” … I mean, he had this whole vision while he’s standing at Disneyland.
And it was not lost on me that that conversation happened at Disneyland in line at Radiator Springs. That was just this beautiful example of innovation. And I have to say that the environment is the thing that helps foster and shape the way that kids think. And this idea that now he can be a part of bringing that future. Because that was the message that I left with him and that I loved about the Tomorrowland movie because I really felt it emphasized that. And that’s really important.
For those of you who have not seen the film yet, here is the official synopsis of Tomorrowland:
Dreamers Wanted… Disney invites you to an incredible world of epic imagination where anything is possible. Buckle your seatbelt, as the director of The Incredibles takes your family on an action-packed thrill ride.
Join former boy genius Frank (George Clooney), optimistic, science-minded teen Casey (Britt Robertson), mysterious Athena (Raffey Cassidy) and the brilliant David Nix (Hugh Laurie) in a world of pure Disney imagination. Tomorrowland transports you on an inspiring and magical journey of wonder and adventure to a place where if you can dream it, you can do it.
Tomorrowland will be available on Blu-ray Combo Pack, DVD, Digital HD/SD, On Demand, and Disney Movies Anywhere (DMA) tomorrow, October 13, 2015 with exclusive bonuses including Deleted Scenes, Casting Tomorrowland, Brad Bird Production Diaries, and more!