Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow

Recently I received an email with a deceptively simple question that seemed like a great topic for Re-Imagineering:

Hey Merlin,

When you get a moment -- just philosophically speaking, if you could take Tomorrowland to any place you wanted, what would you do? Would you just bring back the old stuff (Rocket Jets, PeopleMover, Adventure Thru Inner Space, Carousel Theatre, Circle Vision, etc.) as they were, or would you bring them back repurposed, or would you go forward to completely new ideas (the way Walt would’ve, I think), or what --?

I cannot believe the passionate debates this subject is creating --

Dexter Reilly

It's a good question. To answer it, let's look at what Walt really did in 1967: He didn't actually scrap the place and go forward with all-new ideas or an all-new aesthetic or point-of-view as is often ascribed to him, he simply grew the idea from what was most successful and updated his message with the latest technology and modern design.

Thematically, the same utopian, optimistic corporate global futurism was on display in New Tomorrowland, just with a better budget, a more complex show and entertainment experience for the 60s. The additions and revisions of 1967 padded out the original concept (as did those in 1978).

In terms of attractions: Astro Jets, Autopia, Monorail, CircleVision, Skyway, Submarine Voyage and Flight to the Moon all survived the original 1955/59 Tomorrowland into the 1967 New Tomorrowland, but in improved, technically advanced versions, while Carousel of Progress, PeopleMover and Adventure Thru Inner Space were added (and Space Mountain was being planned for), all extensions of the original theme.

The design aesthetic was updated and improved, but within the same family of streamlined ultramodernism that had been associated with science-fiction since the 1930’s.

In updating Tomorrowland these days, where thematic concept has gone off-track - - for the original Disneyland anyway, as Walt had a specific vision for his work and park that should be maintained - - is to discard the idea of utopian modernism. When Imagineers turn instead to recent trends in fantasy-science-fiction, Hollywood (Star Wars), eco-futurism (agri-future gardens), dark apocalyptic vision (Alien Encounter), cartoon franchise marketing (Buzz Lightyear) or nostalgic pre-modern futurism (Jules Verne, steampunk), it no longer feels like Walt Disney’s Tomorrowland.

Neither does it seem like Walt’s Tomorrowland to focus on other worlds than our own for answers to Man’s future. His concept seemed to be about how we can help shape our own destiny with optimism and imagination and stick-to-it-tivity.

People haven't changed all that much. They still want to see what it's like to live like the Jetsons or the Space Family Robinson - - in an exotic world of streamlined beauty and comfort and inner and outer space experiences. A vision that’s familiar and reassuring but once removed from our own. (Unlike the variation on a current tract home as we see in the new Innoventions. It looks so much like what we already have, it just smacks of consumerism rather than futurism).

The beauty of Apple, Mac and iPod design shows us that the design ideas of modernism still hold that same glamour and appeal and image of forward momentum for the consumer public.

WALL*E's starship Axiom shows a great model for an upgraded Tomorrowland design in that it embraces that same flavor of utopian ultramodernism we all loved in the past while adding the Tokyo-like technology of the present and future (video-screens and billboards, etc). The blend keeps everything minimalist in shape and texture, just adding a layering of the new and current. It’s a progression of the Tomorrowland ideal, not a replacement for it.

Though the film’s irony is that the BuyNLarge folks have a failed dream of their consumer Utopia, the humans on the Axiom handily ignore that outcome - - as guests of Disneyland always have (and would still if given such eye candy and futuristic pleasures at the park once again).

Is optimistic futurism selling a lie of corporate propaganda like BuyNLarge? Well, the ideal is still relevant even if the execution in our real-world has been misguided. To progress, we still need the optimist’s ideal that Man can and will make things better. We just have to do it more wisely.

As the filmmakers behind “WALL*E” have said: We are all still waiting for that jet-pack future we were promised. If we can’t have it everyday, we at least expect to find it at Disneyland.

In terms of attractions for a New Tomorrowland, a slate that features advanced technology with a variety of experiences should be the imperative, so let’s take another look at the varied pleasures Tomorrowland once provided when it was “A World on the Move” taking place Above, On, Below, Within and Without our Earth’s surface.

What have we lost?

The Rocket Jets up on the platform were not only an attractive “weenie,” but also a soaring experience high over Disneyland, the gift of flight. Skyway also provided this point-of-view - - But the "air" portion of the Disneyland experience parfait is gone now. It should be returned in some form.

Inner Space provided both a visceral shrinking experience to another dimension “inside” our own and a psychedelic visit to a world of surreal Disney design. It went internal instead of external to teach us about ourselves (and to blow our minds with abstract visuals and effects) - - another angle of the Disney experience we have lost without replacement. Exploring the world of the atom is still a relevant and compelling idea, we just need a new tech way to do it - - like the Spider-Man ride at Islands of Adventure, a moving, three-dimensional experience. With the theme still so fresh, why not bring it back in a new way?

As a show, perhaps Carousel of Progress has had its day, but seeing the progress of Man and the product of his imagination should not be a dead concept - - Is there another way to do it that's interesting today that still entertains and inspires us toward a Great Big Beautiful Tomorrow? The original EPCOT’s late, lamented Horizons was a modern variation on the theme and points in directions a new attraction could go.

And there are new places to visit within and without Man’s experience on Earth that we haven’t even considered. These should be natural extensions of Walt’s approach, new visions that expand on the original idea without cannibalizing it.

So, here’s the answer for me: I'd bring back the nostalgic and reassuring images of a fantastic ultramodern future we love - - then add in the all-important new angle of exploration and adventure and thrill and wonder that extends the optimistic utopian theme, as Walt himself had done.

Keep what works, then PLUS it. Wouldn’t Walt have wanted to do both? That's what the company ALWAYS did in those times. They never threw away the past, only added to it. They brought along the best and built forward from it.

What is the new experience or two? Well, that's the fun part to dream up for today’s Imagineers - - But it should be flashy and memorable, exceed expectations, thrill us - - and grow out of the consistent theme, taking us to an experiential and design plane we haven't yet visited - - or provide a visceral experience that is lacking in other attractions and areas at the park. And it should be artistically beautiful and modern. And all within the parameters of established theme.

Disneyland should always be a complementary platter of Past, Future, Fact and Fantasy, Nostalgia and Challenge in all its angles, a unified timeline with a running theme. The recipe for the future is on the dedication plaque.

Go back? Go forward?

Do both.


Anonymous said...

Exactly right.

Unknown said...

Amen, Merlin, amen!

I can just imagine a new Inner Space show using a Large Hadron Collider-type of story line. String theory--let's see those vibrating strings.

Bill Wilson
of the late, lamented Unofficial Walt Disney Imagineering Page

Anonymous said...

Every-so-often Disney remembers that nostalgia can be a good think. Let's respect nostalgia and look to the future for technologies that can take us new places without eliminating the past. This was somewhat achieved by Space Mtn 2.0.

Will Robison said...

Great question and great article. I was starting to wonder if Re-Imagineering had forgotten its own vision, but blog articles like this remind what a good idea this blog is.

I think there are some key things that a new Tomorrowland should look at. As a nation we've forgotten the thrill of exploration, and I think that's essential to our psyche. I'd like to see a revamped Mission to Mars where maybe the conceit is that we've already begun to colonize it. I'd also like to see a real submarine type voyage where we can explore the Living Seas - it would be a good way to tie in an environmental message while at the same time teaching kids about the true underwater world. Just an idea for an Inner Space ride - wouldn't it be cool to be inside that Hadron Collider getting accelerated to near the speed of light even if you knew that a collision would be imminent - "BRAKES! BRAKES!" ;)

These are the types of attractions I expect to see developed at a new Tomorrowland. As much as I loved the Peoplemover and want to see it come back, I'd rather see it as part of a new whole than just a throwback to the old Disneyland.

Ed said...

I agree heartily. I would dearly love for tomorrowland to return to a simple, optimistic vision instead of trying to dance around edgy, cynical postmodernism. I think we're all kind of bored with that by now anyway.

If there's one place in the world where it's okay to be unabashadly optimistic about the future, it should be TL at the magic kingdoms.

You mentioned Wall*E; don't forget Meet the Robinsons. It has a very TL-friendly vibe to it.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the excellent post. I was beginning to think the blog was going the way of the People Mover at Disneyland.

There's no question that a sense of awe, wonder and vitality has not been present in Disneyland's Tomorrowland in many years. Your ideas on bringing that back are spot on. Walt laid out an impressively well thought out and executed template for future generations to follow. All we have to do is stay true to his plan.

Dave Meek said...

Great article Merlin. I agree that Tomorrowland needs to return in full force to an optimistic, motion filled vision of the future. However, I fear that current management just does not get it. It would be wonderful to bring down some of the talented Pixar folks that designed the look of Wall-E and have them take a stab at Tomorrowland. No I'm not talking about another Pixar based attraction, or bringing more cartoons to Tomorrwland, that would be a mistake IMHO. I'm talking about infusing some new design blood into the creaky WDI machine. Disneyland was originally designed by filmmakers and a little cross-pollination between Emeryville and Glendale could be a very good thing. I've come to believe that Marty Sklar and Tony Baxter might just be a little too close to the problem to see things objectively (see 'small world, it's a' for recent examples). Disney can be a very insular place when it comes to outside ideas. Pixar has proved again and again that they often understand Disney better than Disney understands Disney.

Oh please JL, make it so.

Ed said...

dave said: "Disneyland was originally designed by filmmakers and a little cross-pollination between Emeryville and Glendale could be a very good thing."

I agree.

Ken Paris said...

What has driven that last few Tomorrowland changes were not looking at its theme or guest experience, but economics.

Disneyland's Tomorrowland was scrapped in favor of a Jules Vern influenced land because Disney management did not want to spend money in the future to keep it updated.

Buzz was added to Tomorrowland to sell merchandise.

I believe that the imagination is in Disney to do a good job of renovation for the land, but as long as accountants and lawyers dictate decisions, Tomorrowland will be a mishmash of themes.

David Lyman said...

This is what I would do with Tomorrowland:
First, I remove the “land”. Excavate. Remove the ground plane and layer the walkways and attractions so that one wouldn’t know if they were above ground or below, like some malls I have been to. Except that malls have a definite level 1 and level 2 etc. to them, I would blur that. Even if one was at the bottom level one could still look down and see the space continue.
I would return the Rocket Jets to the skyline. I would thread a hybrid version of the People Mover and Rocket Rods throughout the levels. They would zip over here then slowdown to take a look at an attraction and then zip to the next in a whimsical tour of tomorrow.
The Autopias would be removed from their parkway freeways and put into glass tubes that would soar high overhead, plunge underground, slice through waterfalls, dive underwater past the submarines, spiral up and down and around the People Movers and Monorails and moving walkways.
You know those cameras that soar over the playing field at stadiums? What if we used that technology to soar people around? Now there’s your Jet Pack ride “WALL*E filmmakers”.
Anyway, that’s a taste of My “Great Big Beautiful Tomorrow”. Please forgive my flight of fancy.

nojarama said...

I agree withya 99%, however, I must say that I do like a Jules Verne-like Tomorrowland (or "Discoveryland" as it is in DLP). Maybe they could add that version to DCA and tie-in a Mysterious Island (especially JTTCOTE) and all would be good in the world...

Anonymous said...

What a great post! It made my mind wander in places where I haven't been in a while. I think you are absolutely right in keeping the nostalgia but looking towards a fantastical future. Building something that we can dream about, but might never come to pass.

Seeing the illustration of the Skyway immediately made me think of Meet the Robinsons and how they travel in transparent bubbles. Couldn't the imagineers come up with something like that, which would not only be amazing to ride, but look totally futuristic from the ground?

Just dreaming myself (thanks David Lyman for starting that).

I dream of a future in Tomorrowland that takes me away, not reminds me that I'm still on Earth.

mr wiggins said...

Great article, Merlin!

Although personally, after experiencing John's vision in the Nemo submarines, and seeing his shilling for the Tinker Bell Movie, I doubt Emeryville has the answer for what's troubling Tomorrowland.

theatreman said...

OK, first Hire David Lyman! Who IS this guy? Brilliant imaginative thinking.

Concede that SPIDERMAN (with a dozen IMAX screens?) melds projection and motion better than ANY attraction in recent years, with SOARIN' as a close second.

So take the SPIKERMAN platform: high-ultra high-definition projection on a series of vari-shaped screens adroitly blended into film-lit scenery framing -- and give us what the little rides in a hydraulic-based cabin with a 12 ft. wide screen on one end just can't do.

Add Wall*Eye space-scapes, story, music.

No, it's not original, but it would be delicious.

stephanie j. said...

Wonderful post! My first of at least a dozen magical trips to Disneyland occured at the age of 5 (35 years ago, you can do the math). 12 or more trips to Disneyland says a lot considering we didn't live in SoCal, but Western Washington. My vividest memories of that first trip were the Peoplemovers (how I loved those!), Journey Through Inner Space and the 360 theater.

THIS is how I would want my children to see D-land, not as an extension of the Disney Channel. Elements of recongizeable Disney characters are fun and keep things interesting, but Tomorrowland was originally so visionary in a "won't happen, but wouldn't it be awesome if it did happen" kind of way. Seems to me one of the moments of huge decline was Captain EO. What a mess.

I hate to say this, but I'm dreading the first trip with my girls, projected for 2010 (they are currently 4 1/2 and 2 1/2). While there has always been an element of marketing and merchandising at D-land, to them Disneyland *already* only means one thing: princesses.

While I did love Sleeping Beauty as a child, I don't really remember the castle or Fantasyland. I remember Tomorrowland. It made such an impression on me. I wanted to be a scientist. I wanted to be an astronaut. I even wanted to work for Monsanto, because they were "at" Tomorrowland! (I was a 7, 8 and 9 year old and knew who Monsanto was. "Better Living Through Science!!!" HA!)

Please oh please, Powers That Be, bring back the feeling of Tomorrowland from yesteryear, and it can be done in a way relevant to 2008. And please, don't build Hannah Montana Goes to Mars. Ooops, now I gave them an idea.

Anonymous said...

Excellent topic!

I think that they old "New Tomorrowland" (1967 edition) would be the best example for a Tomorrowland vision.

While the Steampunk Discoveryland worked in Paris, and later Walt Disney World, I believe that it was seriously misinterpreted in Disneyland. Yes, they used some of the stylings and ornamentation, but it is incoherrent. The Star Tours murals are totally out oof place in a Vern/Wells/DaVinci future.

The original Tomorrowland, on the other hand, is timeless. It's been proven at LAX's Theme Building- Mid-Century modern, the "Jetsons" retro-future, is classisc. Speaking of The Jetsons, if Robert Rodriguez's Jetsons film is any good/close to the cartoon, people may have an even further renued interest in Mid-Century modern.

If the old attractions were to be revised, they would certainly need to be upgraded- let's not romaticise too much. Face it, the beloved house of the Future, for example, is not going to work in it's previous form, who thinks microwaves are futuristic? I'm not saying that Disney should make the house of the future an trade show, as seen in Innoventions, but rather update the house's contents. Likewise for Rocket to the Moon; as fondly aas it is remembered, no one would believe it if it were just trasplanted from the 60s.

The Nemo subs prove this point fabulously, if in a somewhat extermeist fashion. It showed that subs were still cool- most people I know enjoyed it because of the novelty of Submarines, not Pixar.

The above brings me to the topic of charcters, as mentioned in the article. Disney should not rely on current trends (those are the key words) to dictate it's attractions; they lose their timeless quality that way- Epcot's "Circle of Life" film, anyone? (Yay, 90s manhattan...)

To sum up my ideas, what Disney needs is a simple, straightforward futer, nothing too elaborate. We all love theming, but when executed poorly, makes no sense. Keep things timeless, yet modern, and we will be set.

rant over.

Anonymous said...

Perhaps rephrasing the point: the original Tomorrowland and its early updates were science fiction. Later updates were science fantasy, starting with Star Tours.

Tomorrowland ceased being about a possible tomorrow and became enamored with impossible tomorrows, perhaps because the latter better tied into popular culture and didn't need expensive updates.

As a result, I agree wholeheartedly with the post. Perhaps Inner Space could be re-imagined as a more detailed journey into biotech and the potential of the human genome project. The missing aerial element could be personal commuter jets (not too farfetched, if you look at various companies like Eclipse Aviation trying to make that a reality) if a Jetsons comic approach could be avoided.

Bottom line, a Tomorrowland that embraces tomorrow -- and spurs the imagination about what really could possibly be and gets kids and adults to think about how to make it real -- would be great.

- Frank Catalano (former writer of science fiction for magazines and general tech nerd)

Spokker said...

Science fiction and science fact. These days Tomorrowland isn't much of either.

A new, modern version of Horizons. That's the best idea I've heard all decade.

Anonymous said...

The company is clearly being controlled by a legacy of Eisner. Pretend otherwise and you continue to fool yourselves. Eisner is still the second largest shareholder (behind Steve Jobs), and Eisner appointed Iger as the CEO. Creative vision? That is being pushed aside for profit. Big profit at the expense of employees and respect. Oh, yes there are still some in the company hiding in sheep's clothing. Marty Sklar comes to mind. See proof of Marty Sklar corrupt actions in regards to my lawsuit. See what they did the the legacy of Marc Davis etc...


Royce Mathew

Anonymous said...

This is a great article. No doubt about it.

A new Tomorrowland just doesn't fit at Disneyland anymore. Remember folks, in the 1950's (through '64) America was at it's height of "future optimism". We don't have that anymore, here, in 2008. We don't have it. We have a very grim outlook on the future through movies and media. A happy vision of tomorrow seems goofy in a way....kitsch. We want to laugh at optimism because we are so certain that doom is coming. It's sad but these aren't the years following WW2 for sure. That was a very special and positive time in American history and was much deserved by the people who lived through it. Even Walt Disney.

I don't think we can see a new Tomorrowland without it looking like a "Sharper Image" commercial. Our look at technology etc. isn't fun anymore.


Anonymous said...

For a new Tomorrowland you folks are, once again, stuck in the past. Though I agree with one thing, put the rocket jets back where they were.

Merlin Jones said...

>>A new Tomorrowland just doesn't fit at Disneyland anymore. Remember folks, in the 1950's (through '64) America was at it's height of "future optimism". We don't have that anymore, here, in 2008. We don't have it.<<

We don't have Main Street anymore either, yet its appeal remains.

Disneyland seldom reflected the present so much as past and future ideals. Disney entertainment was considered "corny" from the mid-40's on. Yet the people loved it and wanted more.

>>We have a very grim outlook on the future through movies and media. A happy vision of tomorrow seems goofy in a way....kitsch. We want to laugh at optimism because we are so certain that doom is coming. It's sad but these aren't the years following WW2 for sure.<<

Walt's films were scoffed at the same way after the war and especially during the 60's revolution. He hadn't been hip since the 30's. His ideals were considered quaint at best. As Walt told the other moguls at at Hollywood function in the mid-60's when they chided him for making "irrelevant" films: "I'll bet my Mary Poppins against your pornography any day."

It's still true. people crave the simplicity and optimism of their youthful spirits, if it is ever offered them. That's why Walt said he never followed the very sort of trends you cite. Ever.

>>I don't think we can see a new Tomorrowland without it looking like a "Sharper Image" commercial. Our look at technology etc. isn't fun anymore.<<

We can with imagination, belief in the impossible - - and good design. That you can't conceive of optimistic fun says more about you than Tomorrowland. Disneyland should not reflect our technology or society, but inform it.

Anonymous said...

How about a Space Elevator attraction? Guests could take a ride in the elevator and be given the backstory of how many nations came together to build the thing utilizing nanotube technology and so forth. When arriving at the space platform, guests would be able to exit the elevator and view the earth from the platform's geostationary orbit. Keep it simple, but mind blowing. No elevator in peril on its way back to earth gags; just a next-level sky tower-like experience that everyone can enjoy on par with CirlceVision.

Digital Jedi said...

Anonymous said:
>>>For a new Tomorrowland you folks are, once again, stuck in the past. Though I agree with one thing, put the rocket jets back where they were.<<<

You know, for everyone of you namless guys/gals who insist that even creative nostalgia is being stuck in the past (even though the entire concept of Disney and the core principles that made it the massive sucess it became are firmly rooted in it), I've yet to hear one of you brave forward thinking souls suggest what moving forward actually is.

More stores, perhaps?

Maybe a hot air balloon? That's futurisitic-y, isn't it?

Merlin, I posted a really long winded and boring blog post on this same subject a while back, and to my surprise, I touched a few of the same points you did. I think you put it more succinctly then I did (meaning I ramble on my blog). But one of the things I mentioned was that Tomorrowland originally, was perfectly balanaced.

Walt took into consideration the negative space as well as the areas you'd be in. Your sites and sounds mattered, and it gelled. The negative spaces lent something to the overall picture. Space travel, general transportation, sciences, practical application of future technolgies, even the first interactive attractions were all a part of the overall picture. Not commercial tie-ins, which almost completely overwhelm both Tomorrowlands now. It didn't try to keep up with technology, it tried to challenge it.

Honestly, I don't get how the idea of a postive future with fun things to do is kitch or corny. That's just fatlism talking, and that attitude has been around forever. If anything, cynisim is the tired old well people keep running to. It's the age old reason for why people can't achive anything positve, and why they shouldn't even try. Walt's optimism is fresh by comparison. That's just the kind of ideas that Tomorrowland should counter against.

Anonymous said...

The biggest thing missing from the post 1967 Tomorrowland is Disney leadership and passion for the future.

The WDC of today could care less about leading us into any future except one where we have annual Passes or rebuy something on Blu-Ray. I bought into the future presented in the '67 Tomorrowland because I knew Walt was committed to BUILD IT.

I heard from an ex hippie turned Imagineer that she ditched political activism and bought into Walt's vision for the future instead. That blew me away as back then it was real enough to be a valid social solution. I believed that "Progress City" was a model of something that would come in my lifetime and that I would LIVE there. That Tomorrowland was more than rides, it had a promise, a down payment made by the guy who could do the impossible. That made it "magic", as it suspended disbelief.

I don't think the design was Sci-fi at all. Eero Saarinen's TWA terminal at JFK was the obvious inspiration for the whole look of that land. It was just real enough for you to buy into, and the Man at the top was gonna build the rest. Why? Because you are already riding half of the stuff from Progress City. The Peoplemovers, Monorails, and even the Picture Phones were working prototypes! There was so much creative depth in that land, and of course you can be optimistic because he was proving it in bite size samples.

Steve Jobs is similar in that he lives in the next. He should inspire WDI in the next Tomorrowland effort.

Anonymous said...

You go, Dave Lyman!

Anonymous said...

I love that you all seem to know how to re-theme a land, as if it was an isolated decision. Do you realize the Tomorrowland created in the 1960s was done by a company that was only a fraction of the size it is today? You complain about a loss of optimism. Well don't you think that starts from within? Disney's corporate culture breeds what it makes. You have many more chefs in the kitchen for every decision being made.

The company never showcases technology. They hide it behind characters. Its always been related to a character or story. Its been this way for a while. Not many attractions are done with out it.

It becomes a chicken and the egg thing too. If "Meet the Robinsons," which had a pro-future outlook, had done well in the box office, I'm sure the original idea would have gotten developed into an attraction. Likewise, a space elevator without a plot line will NEVER make it into the park. Disney outsources their technology showcases (i.e. Innoventions).

Anonymous said...

a clear and brilliant vision. so well put there is nothing i could add.

daveyjones said...

great post here on the loss of "utopian modernism" in the tomorroland formula. as you point out, tomorrowland is now wrapped in nostalgia; looking backward, not forward.

here's a post on my MFA thesis blog about tomorrowland's futurism, which i wrote after visiting hong kong disneyland. i specifically address tokyo disneyland's tomorrowland (which is the only one left that echoes the 1967 DL/MK iteration).


Anonymous said...

A great big beautiful tomorrow isn't necessarily in space or another planet. It could be a city at the bottom of the ocean or a city at the top of the world or a city buried miles below a desert to escape the heat. All it takes is a little imagination...

David H

Ken Godfrey said...

I've been a Disney fan since I was a little kid. I've taken my kids there twice now and we've had a good time. But the last time, I kinda had the feeling that we wouldn't be coming back because there was nothing really new to see or do and it didn't seem likely to change much. That's too bad.
But Merlin's article really captured the spirit that Walt engendered and Dave Lyman's post made me feel excited about the possiblities of the park for the first time in a long time.
Imagineers, move forward and propose something bold. A great big beautiful tomorrow isn't a thing of the past. It's a vision worth pursuing. And there's no reason it wouldn't be a commercial success as well. Go for it. You're in the driver's seat!

Hux said...

I have to admit, I'm torn about this issue. One the one hand, I can certainly sympathize with those that want a "return' of Tomorrowland. Let's face it, the 50's futurism was easily the coolest ever. On the other hand, I can also see arguments for a more modern approach to the design. I can't help but wonder if it might be possible to split the difference and integrate the two.

But what wwould that look like? Well, honestly, I have no idea, but I do have a few ideas how one might pull that off. for starters, I would keep the general aesthetic of an optimistic future. The idea that tomorrow is something to look forward to. And certainly I'd like to see some of that optimistic 50's futurism integrated into the design of the place. Now, having said that, I have to say that one of my big pet peeves about science fiction is the lack of multiplicity of design styles. In most science fiction movies, books, tv shows, etc, there is one design aesthetic. All the buildings look exactly the same, there's no older buildings, or buildings design differently, everything just has a cookie cutter look to it. I'd like Tomorrowland to integrate different style into its archetecture. By all means, include some steampunk-like elements to give certain areas a more industrial feel, or have some of Apple industrial designers add a flair for simplicity and modernism to certain areas (and when those areas become retro, keep some of them, it'll add to the effect of a growing, organic, moving future).

Now as for the rides themselves, or rather the storylines, while I love hopeful, utopian visions of the future; conflict is the center of any story. Storylines need some kind of conflict in them to be interesting. But, in keeping with the optimistic idea of Tomorrowland, make it man vs. nature, rather than man vs man. Have experiments gone wrong, unforeseen natural disasters on alien planets, hostile conditions of space, etc.

And for cryin out loud, brring back original attractions! Anyone remember when there used to experiences you could only get in the Disney parks? Things like Pirates and Haunted Mansion and Small World. How everything is High School Musical 3. Good lord. Maybe I'm just getting old and crabby, but then I go to Disneyland or World, I want to get an experience I can;t get anywhere else. If I'm gonna fork over the money, I better et something for it. Something truly special. But, thats just my opinion, I could be wrong.

Anonymous said...

If you hadn't writen it first I would have thought you were reading my mind.

Anonymous said...

Hux Said:

“Now as for the rides themselves, or rather the storylines, while I love hopeful, utopian visions of the future; conflict is the center of any story. Storylines need some kind of conflict in them to be interesting. But, in keeping with the optimistic idea of Tomorrowland, make it man vs. nature, rather than man vs man. Have experiments gone wrong, unforeseen natural disasters on alien planets, hostile conditions of space, etc.”

Not all rides need conflict. Carousel of progress, People Mover/Rocket Rods, Space Mountain, Autopia Rocket Jets/Astro Orbiter, Circlevision were all very successful without any story conflict. I think that the conceit that something has to “go wrong” in order to make a ride successful is a fallacy and has become too much of a crutch in some thinking.

epcotplanner said...

Great conversation. However, I do feel that as a culture we have lost our faith in the pristine white concrete modernist future. Even the beautifully rendered Wall-E Axiom cruiser was served up as a "pretty" version of the human battery "hell" revealed in the Matrix, where humans are disconnected from reality, each other, the natural environment, and any local sense of authentic culture and place. I'm all for maintaining Walt's optimism for the future . . . however I think that we need to use a richer qualitative language to describe this future. The gaping holes of modern physical urban design has been placelessness, inhumane (not walkable) scale, and with few exceptions, designs which signify their decade (50s,60s,70s) rather than any believable future.

Anonymous said...

Well said,I could not agree more!

Poodyglitz said...

Great article, wonderful comments. I'll just add my two cents now.

I agree that the 1967 upgrade did modernize existing rides, the addition of Carousel of Progress, Peoplemover, et al, seemed to have actually established Tomorrowland. Walt was generally dissatisfied with that area for so long. It was weak. 1967 was a culmination of a few things. As was mentioned, Tomorrowland was designed by movie people (for the most part). That's how we got such good design. The juxtaposition of the Rocket Jets with the Peoplemover was brilliant. We were, as a nation, deep into the Space Race, which fueled our imaginations. Some of this was inspired by the work on The Wonderful World Of Disney, which most assuredly acted as a sort of living treatise in preparation for the Tomorrowland upgrade.

The most significant factor in all of this to me is the underlying energy that went into the original EPCOT concept. Tomorrowland was also a prototype staging area for the Monorail (which admittedly existed before 1967) and The Peoplemover. So, there wasn't merely one line of thinking that factored in to the 1967 "fulfillment" of Tomorrowland. There was the desire to meet human need while igniting the imagination through the use of innovative ideas and technology.

Innovation was at its peak in the Disney organization at this time. Carousel of Progress and Adventures Thru Inner Space could almost be considered pieces of art. They were so imaginative. They were so useful. They established a foundation of edutainment in the industry that has yet to be equalled. It was fueled not by economics, but by passion. To use a quote from the "W.E.D. On WED" blog:

“Physically, Disneyland would be a small world in itself – it would encompass the essence of the things that were good and true in American life. It would reflect the faith and challenge the future, the entertainment, the interest in intelligently presented facts, the stimulation of the imagination, the standards of health and achievement, and above all, a sense of strength, contentment and well-being.”

In Disneyland's "golden age", there was a big kid at the helm who was the ultimate decision maker. Tomorrowland was the culmination of his vision and passion. Now, the Disney organization is much more corporate and decisions are diffused and distorted, which is a situation that will be difficult to remedy — unless someone like John Lasseter (who led Pixar to out-Disney the Walt Disney Company) is able to take the reigns to bring back those sociological and artistic sensibilities, the Disney parks are going to become increasingly mediocre.

Imagineering needs a new paradigm for Tomorrowland. Our world has definitely changed, which needs to get reflected. The EPCOT theme park tried it, but failed. I think partly because they were going for the outmoded World's Fair model. Horizons (which is touted as the sequel to Carousel Of Progress) didn't go far enough in its innovation. It borrowed the ride system from the old Futurama ride of two previous World's Fairs.

It's unfortunate that there are so many of the parks now. There's so much more to manage now that resources can easily be stretched thin. Too much outward expansion messes up the focus. I fondly remember the attention to detail that immersed me in the fantasy. I miss that.

There is so much potential to inspire, educate and entertain but I'm not so sure that we'll see this corporation embrace all three. In our current dire era, we could use a few strains of "There's A Great Big Beautiful Tomorrow".

Anonymous said...

Excellent, EXCELLENT!!

'Just one question, Merlin.

What do you suggest be done with Star Tours??

It seems to be the elephant in the room.