If you’ve never been to The Oatmeal’s website, you’ve been doing yourself no favors. Founder Matthew Inman is one of the cleverest guys out there, and he has several times used his cult status to do good, rather than evil, going full disclosure when mini-controversies have arisen. He recently wrote a blogpost where he described a trip he took a meeting with Disney and Brad Bird about the upcoming super-secretive movie Tomorrowland. Not in an acting capacity or anything, but they picked his brain for a while about Nikola Tesla, a favorite topic of Inman's.
It’s worth noting he had to sign a non-disclosure agreement where he swore not to talk about Tomorrowland or anything about the plot, characters, or the screenplay. However, Inman is pretty sure he isn’t breaking any rules because their conversation had nearly nothing to do with the film itself. As he said, “I read the NDA like ten times and I’m 92.4% sure I’m in the clear here.” Now that the story has made the rounds, it almost wouldn’t make any sense for Disney to cause a fuss even if they wanted to.
After meeting Brad Bird while trying “not to do the fanboy-babbling thing and frighten the poor man,” Inman rattled on lovingly until they got to the heart of the matter. But after Tomorrowland was initially brought up, the conversation shifted to Tesla. They asked some general questions about what Tesla was doing in Colorado, and the locations of some experiments, and whether or not Inman thought he could have met Walt Disney.
Earlier this year, Tesla-superfan Inman raised enough money via crowdfunding to purchase a crumbling former laboratory of Tesla’s with the eventual goal of turning it into a science center and Tesla museum. But while he’s done some amazing work here, Inman is quick to point out that he’s no historian. And his “insight into the man is mostly centered around his character – that of an inspiring, geek underdog who changed the world and suffered bitterly for it.” Disney could have found actual Tesla biographers, right?
They brought out the 1952 mystery box (which the film’s app lays out in full detail), and asked Inman if he thought it was possible that the urban legend of a meeting between Tesla, Gustave Eiffel, Thomas Edison and Jules Verne ever happened at the 1889 World’s Fair, where they discussed revolutionary methods of producing power that have yet to be discovered. Again, it’s a legend with not much of a stake in reality, but it’s still weird that they asked that particular question, when a short look around online will answer it.
So what specific parts of Tesla's life will fit into the part of the plotline that we do know about in Tomorrowland, which involves a science-loving teenager (Britt Robertson) and a grizzled inventor (George Clooney) who go on a mission to unlock mysteries and do some other amazing shit? Hugh Laurie is the villain. It also stars Judy Greer, Raffey Cassidy and David Nyki, and is set to hit theaters on December 12, 2014.
Was this all just a publicity stunt for Disney to roper in the loyal Oatmeal followers? It seems crazy, but maybe it’s smarter than having screenwriter Damon Lindelof talk about mysteries and secrets all the time. For a bit more proof of Inman's Tesla passion, here's a snippet from his famous comic, which you can read in full here.