Thanks to Damon Lindelof’s trademark Damong Lindelof-ing, we know very little about the world of Tomorrowland. We have a few ideas, based on the trailers they’ve released so far, but until today, most of that was speculation.
After all, this was a movie that was being promoted with a literal mystery box, and so far most of what we’ve heard are vague allusions to secret societies and clues hidden in Walt Disney’s designs. That all changes with Take Me to Tomorrowland, a viral marketing site that surprisingly contains a ton of plot-relevant info. Let’s dive into this treasure trove of Tomorrowland worldbuilding.
It All Starts With Plus Ultra
At the 1889 World’s Fair, some of the era’s greatest minds came together to form a secret society known as Plus Ultra. Its founding members were Jules Verne, Thomas Edison, Nikola Tesla, and Gustave Eiffel. The goal of the society was to become a collective of “optimists,” those with with the vision needed to change the world for the better.
Over the years, historical figures such as Mark Twain, Amelia Earhart, Ray Bradbury, and Walt Disney himself have all become members of the society.
The thesis of this organization is laid out in this neat little video (done in the style of old-school Disney edutainment), explaining why Plus Ultra believes its work is necessary. In short, it’s because humanity is more or less doomed to destroy itself, unless someone can step in and steer things in another course. That’s where Plus Ultra comes in, harnessing the power of science and imagination in the hopes of building a brighter future for humanity.
What is Tomorrowland?
Plus Ultra’s biggest breakthrough came ten years after its founding in 1899, when the organization’s scientists detected “electromagnetic signals of exotic origin.” These signals eventually led them to discover an entirely new planet, one that was a mirror image of Earth, but without any people to have spoiled its potential. Plus Ultra immediately set about colonizing it.
Unless I’m misunderstanding its explanation, that means that Tomorrowland isn’t a pocket dimension or an alternate universe, it’s a physical alien planet; one that could be theoretically reached through space travel. That’s not exactly how Plus Ultra travels to it though, as we’ll cover in a sec.
Plus Ultra decided not to share this discovery with the public at large. After a decade of seeing their inventions co-opted for for weapons and corporate greed, they decided that their scientists needed to be able to work away from the money, power, and politics that were corrupting scientific progress on Earth.
The First Explorers
Plus Ultra wouldn’t manage to actually step foot on the planet for another nine years though. In 1908, “At exactly 9:32 AM in the morning Plus Ultra launched explorers into the other world. At exactly 12:47 PM, they tried to bring them back the only way they knew how… by tearing a hole in the sky. The Columbiad, which had taken the explorers, returned home with seconds to spare.”
That’s all we get on that event, leaving us to wonder what the hell “tearing a hole in the sky means,” and why the explorers only had seconds to spare.
As a bit of potentially relevant trivia, the Columbiad is the name of a giant cannon that acts as the launching tube for Space Mountain at Disneyland Paris.
In 1926, Plus Ultra would finally find an efficient and safe way to reach the new planet. Tesla manages to invent a “clear energy particle beam” that’s capable of opening portals to the other world.
Unfortunately, that success is extremely short lived.
Just two years later, some an experiment goes terribly, terribly wrong, causing the new world to become “unihabitable.” Robots are invented that would spend the next 10 years repairing the damage.
Speaking of robots, we saw a ton of them in the trailer. Is that further evidence that those robo-goons were sent from Tomorrowland?
Paradise is Restored
By 1938, Tomorrowland has been fixed, and the plan to develop the world into a place where the rest of humanity can live continues. To prepare the people of Earth for this revelation, Plus Ultra tasks Walt Disney with broadening the public’s imagination using his films, TV programs, and theme parks (including Disneyland’s Tomorrowland, built as a training ground of sorts for potential recruits).
This effort will culminate in 1952 at the…
1964 World’s Fair
Since 1900, Plus Ultra had been using science fiction stories and art in an effort to prepare people for the scientific advancements that the society would bring about.
By the 60s, this effort was being led by Walt Disney, and he was preparing the public for the society’s biggest unveiling yet: Tomorrowland. This culminates in Disney’s iconic exhibition at the 1964 World’s Fair.
Historically, this included attractions such as It’s a Small World and the Carousel of Progress, many of which would go on to become longstanding theme park attractions (as well as contributing to the general vibe of Epcot in Florida).
This is where we finally catch up with the events of the film itself, so you should be warned, we’re drifting out of speculation and into spoilers for actual scenes in the movie.
In the footage shown at D23’s Destination D event late last year, we saw a scene taking place at the 1964 World’s Fair. It features a young Frank Walker (George Clooney’s character as a kid) visiting the fair with a large backpack. After checking out some of the attractions, he meets Athena, a robot girl who features prominently into the film’s second trailer.
She gives him one of those snazzy pins we’ve seen, and invites him to a secret area of It’s a Small World, eventually leading to an elevator that teleports him to, where else, Tomorrowland.
Frank has been invited to show off an invention of his: a jetpack he was carrying in that big bag. Unfortunately, his demo goes awry, and he’s kicked out of Tomorrowland by David Nix (Hugh Laurie’s character). He ends up back on Earth, eventually living in that high-tech house we’ve seen.
From here we drift even farther into rumor-ville, so if you’d like to head into this film (somewhat) fresh, now is a good time to back out.
According to a few leaked plot synopses, in the ensuing years between the World’s Fair and the “present day” timeline of the movie, David Nix has become the leader of Tomorrowland. Unfortunately, he’s also become corrupt and power hungry, exiling those who get in his way. He’s also apparently abandoned Plus Ultra’s mission of opening up the doors of Tomorrowland to the public, instead focusing on technological advancement for his own benefit.
In an effort to change things, Athena ventures out of Tomorrowland in search of someone who can help, which is presumably where Casey Newton (Britt Robertson) enters the picture.
It’s worth noting that Nix is featured briefly in the promotional site, penning a ridiculously condescending letter to Steve Jobs after rejecting him from Tomorrowland (the letter also confirms that the pins don’t actually take you to Tomorrowland, they just let you glimpse it). He definitely comes off as a villain (or at least an a-hole), lending some weight to the rumors that he’ll be the primary antagonist in the film.
Going by that same note, this likely means that the robo-goons we saw attack Frank’s house in the trailer were probably sent by Nix as well, all part of his effort to keep outsiders from finding out about Tomorrowland. Why it looks like Nix and Frank Walker are working together in the second trailer is still a mystery.
Granted, all of this is still technically a mystery, given it’s almost entirely speculation. But from what we’ve seen in the trailers and this latest website so far, I think we’re starting to get a pretty good idea of what Tomorrowland actually is, and what it is makes for some damn fine worldbuilding.
The film hits theaters on on May 22, 2015.