Brad Bird’s Tomorrowland is a rather complex bit of blockbuster entertainment, taking audiences on a trip that is have road movie, half big science fiction adventure. You’d think that the film’s creation would come out of a multiple big ideas on behalf of its filmmakers coming together, but the truth of the matter is that there really were two crucial elements that, when combined inspired the movie’s story: jet packs and the 1964 World’s Fair.
I recently had the fantastic opportunity to sit down one-on-one with Tomorrowland co-writer Damon Lindelof, and it was while discussing his collaboration with Brad Bird that he explained the conversation that they had that wound up leading to the idea for the film. Discussing the idea of making a movie around the titular Disney theme park land, Lindelof began talking with the Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol filmmaker, and it was out of their early conversations that the plot was developed from two key points. Lindelof explained,
He goes, ‘Well, what’s it about?’ and I said, ‘It’s about where are our jet packs?!’ And he was like, ‘I know, right? Where are they?’ And then he started talking about the ’64 World’s Fair and I said, it’s interesting that you mention the ’64 World’s Fair, because I think that’s the opening of the movie.
Surely many ideas created early on didn’t make it into the final cut of the film, but the beginning of Tomorrowland does indeed begin with those two elements in play. We see the kid version of George Clooney’s character, Frank Walker, enter into the 1964 World’s Fair and enter a jet pack into an on-going inventor’s contest. From that point forward, jet packs actually play an interesting symbolic role in the rest of the movie, and the 1964 World’s Fair proves to be the launching point for the entire plot.
As random as the idea is of jet packs and the World’s Fair colliding to create Tomorrowland, what’s perhaps even stranger about this whole story is that Brad Bird and Damon Lindelof weren’t actually initially together to actually talk about that specific project. In fact, the Prometheus screenwriter explained to me that the whole thing probably would have gone a lot differently had he entered into the conversation with the idea that he would be pitching some of his thoughts. Said Lindelof,
I kind of had my hook in him before I realized that we were even on a date. We were just eating sushi. We were working on another project at the time, so the idea that I was pitching him a collaboration… I think I probably would have been a lot more nervous if I was looking at it that way.
Tomorrowland is now in theaters nationwide.