Entrance Plaza
Monday
Jun082015

The Tomorrowland Effect

Don’t Screw This Up!

This is what I was thinking as I stepp­ed out of the Magic Eye Theater after watching the Tomorrowland Preview at Epcot this April. 

Okay, I didn’t exactly use the word “screw”, but I did approach the film more with a sense of trepidation and skepticism, than excitement and anticipation. A post-millennial film centered on optimistic futurism, could be a virtual minefield of missed opportunities. However it could also have been the best vehicle to express many of the ostensibly counter-cultural views that are the essence of The Epcot Legacy

During the ensuing month, I felt enormously constricted by forces both within and beyond my control —creatively petrified by the enormity of some upcoming projects. And yet I continued intellectualizing about the possibilities for E82’s evolution but piecing together the fragments of thought was extremely difficult to conceptualize, let alone express. I was missing something to make it all work.

On May 21st, I walked into the theater with the general attitude of a building inspector sent to assess the integrity of a highly speculative structure. By all accounts it could have likely been a vacuous “Space Mountain movie” and wouldn’t possibly meet my deeply personal and extremely unrealistic expectations for a substantive film that could Entertain, Inform and most importantly Inspire. 

At approximately 9:45pm EST, I had walked-out of Tomorrowland Completely Renewed!

From my perspective, something miraculous had just taken place. It was as if somehow all the things I’ve been moving towards, everything that I’ve struggled to create and every thought I’ve had about progress of mankind had suddenly been made self-evident, “A place where nothing is impossible” had just been made possible. As a result, my whole being has changed. Once lethargic and despondent, I’m now more energetic, creative, mentally acute, exuberant and thankful but most significantly, filled with an overwhelming sense of urgency towards nothing less than changing the course of human events. 

But how on Earth could that happen during the process of a couple hours watching a “children’s movie”!? 

There are several answers to that question, most of which unsurprisingly would stem from a resume-style listing of the Director and Writer‘s past accomplishments. Although merely stating that the combined talents of the men that created The Incredibles and LOST would be remarkably shortsighted. Instead, I would argue that what Brad Bird, Damon Lindelof and Jeff Jensen have done is to create the most original and cohesive “meta movie” in cinema history. To put it more succinctly…

TOMORROWLAND IS A PIN!

 

That is to say, that Tomorrowland (the film) functions identically to the “Pins” depicted within it. The most compelling evidence for this hypothesis can be found in its most prevalent criticism. Whether you loved or hated the film, nearly every critic and layperson has complained that you don’t get to spend enough time in the title location. Which I would contend is the entire point! As, (Plus Ultra co-founder) Thomas Edison famously said, “Discontent is the first necessity of progress”. Ether by design, or divine intervention, one should leave this movie feeling hungry and not satisfied. 

Analytically I expect that Damon Lindelof, with his innovative and unconventional writing style, deserves most of the credit for the creation of this ingenious cinematic device. And while many deride his esoteric style I would venture that his work is so precise in its depiction of the human condition that it’s undoubtedly the reason for most of his polarizing persona. If anything, there’s more reality in the form of his writing than I see in almost every story of this era that seeks to explain every action on the screen with all the wit and complexity of a 12-year-old’s book report. In real life one simply does not have all of the answers. And also as in reality there’s always a logical reason behind that “missing” information. Just watching an interview with Lindelof will explain most of the essential and elusive elements of the story. In short, Damon’s work… makes you work.

Nevertheless, Tomorrowland is not without its flaws and, as Damon himself points out. The film’s original running time was significantly longer explaining some of its abbreviated appearance. And a few minor examples of popularly perceived (although largely disproven) global calamities blemish the film’s otherwise pristine canvas.    

BUT, I do think this slight imperfection also illuminates our unsustainable “all or nothing” approach to support. We must stop allowing our personal motivations to impede our collective progress! I love Tomorrowland for many powerful reasons, and I’m not going to renounce it simply because it does not perfectly align with my views.      

However, talking about any singular aspect of the film’s technical or artistic achievements/imperfections is tantamount to visiting Disneyland for the first time and fixating on the pavement. Most, if not all of the negative reviews, simply fail to see the forest for the trees (or in this case the wheat field for the stalks).

Much like The Fountainhead (1949), The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951), and 2010: The Year We Make Contact (1984), Tomorrowland (2015) is a film made with the specific intend of conveying a timely and impactful message to the audience of its time. But instead of fending-off communism, preventing nuclear annihilation or ending Cold War tensions, Tomorrowland’s message is less about avoiding negative events than it is a call to action. Instead of running away from our problems it commands us to solve them.

At the core of the film there are two overriding messages:

One of condemnation…

“In every moment there is the possibility of a better future, but you people won’t believe it. And because you won’t believe it you won’t do what is necessary to make it a reality. So you dwell on this terrible future and you resign yourselves to it. For one reason, because that future doesn’t ask anything of you… Today!”

 —David Nix/Hugh Laurie 

And the other, of discernment… 

“There are two wolves who are always fighting.
One is darkness and despair. The other is light and hope.
The question is: Which wolf wins?”

The answer: “The one you feed.”

—   Casey Newton/ Britt Robertson

Both of these messages are powerful statements that, if used in concert could change the course of civilization. As I’ve stated before, I believe that a cultural renaissance is just over the horizon. And while I could point to several historical similarities and sociological studies, I’ll simply point to the overall attitude of the “Casey” character in the film as a reflection of productive Millennials everywhere and our growing annoyance over the status quo. I hate sounding like “Network” but We Are Over It! And, as the “Frank” character puts it, “We Are Tired of Waiting for Someone Else to Do It!”

Considering its paradigm shifting rhetoric, it should come as no surprise that critical reaction to the film has been mixed as seems to have a strong tendency to expose our true polarity — severely angering the pessimists, and dramatically empowering the (currently) oppressed optimists.
The truly encouraging part is that the consensus opinion of the film has continued to rise above 50%. And, by extension, one can assume that to spite the oppressive conditions of a 24-hour news cycle and an apocalyptic Cineplex we optimists are not so vastly outnumbered as the media leads us to believe.    That alone should inspire hope for our future.    

Still, many (including myself) are rather concerned about the “returns” of such an amazingly original film. But, the “success” or failure of film is not determined in a few weeks at the box office. Many of the most important and beloved films, were once thought of as failures during their initial release. It’s a Wonderful Life, Blade Runner, TRON, The Wizard of Oz, Citizen Kane and the film that invented originality FANTASIA are perfect companions for Brad Bird’s “optimistic opus”.

This might sound strange but about 2/3rds of the way into the movie I was itching for it to end.  By that time I had already received the message loud and clear, and was eager to start changing the world “…Today”! And by the time Hugh Laurie’s character, David Nix, delivered his Klaatu-esque speech I saw people in front of me literally on the edge of their seats. And before he even finished his diatribe, I heard soft (but nevertheless audible) comments of affirmation in the air.

It was at that point I realized that while this film was a culminating experience for me, it was a genesis for others. And I couldn’t help wondering how many men, women, and most importantly, children would be inspired by this film and work toward creating their own Tomorrowland

And then I thought:

“What if there was real place where people could spend a day absorbed in the wonders of innovation and the diversity of mankind. A place where inspiration and application converged. And when you went home, you could not only relive that experience, but seamlessly continue the journey by activating a Living Blueprint of YOUR Future…”

 

Want to Visit the Real Tomorrowland?
Go Ahead, Touch the Pin… 

Edited by Christine Cryderman

For further reading/listening please visit…

 

 

Saturday
May202017

The Ethical Case for Energy

The E82 Project exists to pay tribute to Epcot’s past and explore the near limitless potential for its future. As such, it has been a long-standing policy not to get involved with current events nor address rumors regarding the park’s redevelopment. However, when rumors are this persistent and the implications this far-reaching it becomes necessary to break with policy and illuminate the larger issues involved.

As reported by a great many sources, the Universe of Energy is at the top of Epcot’s endangered species list and is reported to be replaced by a franchised thrill attraction that is in no conceivable way connected to the pavilion’s subject matter or Epcot’s mission to “Entertain, Inform and Inspire”.

To be completely clear, this plea is not in any way a defense of the absolutely indefensible Ellen’s Energy Adventure. Nor is it a condemnation of the “marvelous” intellectual property alleged to replace it. This IS a defense of the subject of Energy, its importance to the guest experience, and its impact on the integrity of Epcot.

With Ellen and Bill joking around for the last 20 years, this might seem like and odd thing to say, but Energy could easily be considered the most important of Epcot’s concepts. For without it communications, transportation, space exploration, ecology, and even creativity simply would not exist and if removed, the purpose of Epcot would continue its slip into irrelevance.

Succinctly, this is not “just a theme park ride” as some might believe. For as Marty Sklar once wrote, “Walt Disney did not go to Florida just to build another “theme park” or even a destination resort. He had something far more important in mind.“ For as fun as The Magic Kingdom is, its escapism must be balanced with Epcot’s original philosophy “that with Imagination, Commitment, and Dedication We Can Create a New Tomorrow.” Put simply, The Magic Kingdom exists to escape one’s problems while Epcot exists to solve them. As of 2017, the solution to providing sustainable energy resources has yet to be found, but an exchange of ideas presented in a highly dynamic attraction that has the potential of impacting the behavior and consumption habits of well over 10 million visitors a year might be our best chance for achieving nothing less than energy independence on an individual level.

This is the reason Epcot exists in the first place. This is the reason Walt Disney World was created at all — to bring “Joy […] Inspiration and New Knowledge” to all those that enter it. And at its center, EPCOT where real “human achievements are celebrated” through “concepts of the future that promises new and exciting benefits for all.“

Unfortunately, these ideals are in real jeopardy. And this is no game, for we have all witnessed the pervasive effects Post-Modernism has had on science as empirical facts themselves have come under increasing attack. And although this by no means suggests that the Universe of Energy would comprehensively solve this problem, it is with upmost certainty that it will not help matters if its theme is removed.

There is a great deal of discussion about what guests WANT, but very little about what they actually NEED. And in a park with a high-speed car ride and a space-themed attraction so intense that out of necessity provides a watered-down version both literally a couple hundred meters away, its very hard to believe that anyone over the age of 15 actually wants another long wait, short ride based on a group of galactic misfits. One that will surely anger Epcot’s strongest supporters and alienate large sections of the public, who due to age or health issues, cannot or will not participate. Nor is it fiscally responsible to remove an existing attraction only to replace it with a substantially more expensive one with an obviously lower occupancy.

With a massive two-acre structure, one of the most unique ride systems in existence, two gigantic film formats, a formerly impressive finale, and a once fascinating kinetic pre-show, not to mention an extremely high capacity, it is extraordinarily possible that a seriously impressive new presentation about Energy could be created. One that entertains the public, that informs them about all the amazing new solutions coming just over the horizon and inspires them to create their own energy bridge to the future — with the goal of giving people an uplifting message of hope for a clean, sustainable world.

But all of these possibilities will go away, and Epcot’s integrity will suffer a severe and potentially deadly blow if the true guardians of tomorrow will not standup for its still attainable aspirations for a better future. For if Epcot loses Energy, and in light of all that it has lost and all the inconsistencies it has suffered, then honestly, why does Epcot even exist at all?

Save Time — Save Money — Save Face — SAVE ENERGY

 


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