Tag Archives: Disney

Guest Review: Tomorrowland

Tomorrowland: Anything is Possible

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Nothing is worse than going to see a movie based on something you love, only to be thoroughly disappointed with the outcome. Tomorrowland was NOT like that at all!

I am a huge Disneyphile and have been to Walt Disney World more times than I could possibly count. Of all the “lands” in the Magic Kingdom, Tomorrowland has always been my favorite, and I think it best represents Walt Disney himself. Most people usually think of princesses and mice when they think of Disney, but the real defining characteristic of Disney is innovation and vision. Tomorrowland represents not only ideas for the future, but the idealized version of the future.

Walt Disney’s used his influence on popular culture to help garner public support for the space program. Many of the ideas and hypotheses that the Disney imagineers came up with regarding space travel turned out to be quite accurate and similar to the equipment that was actually used to bring man into space. Almost more important than the engineering ideas that they came up with was the hope and imagination that he inspired. Walt Disney’s movies, television shows, documentaries, exhibits, and theme parks inspire people to this day that anything is possible, and that is the theme of this movie.

We start out with the pessimistic old guy and a flashback to him as an optimistic young genius who goes to the 1964 World’s Fair hoping to impress people with his invention. When asked what the point of his invention is, he responds, “People will believe that anything is possible.” In the background we hear the familiar songs of “Great Big Beautiful Tomorrow” from the Carousel of Progress and “Small World”, which were both originally exhibits at the World’s Fair before becoming familiar staples of Disneyland and Disney World. The nostalgia and hope for the future is infectious and invigorating.

George Clooney plays Frank Walker, the brilliant hermit who obviously experienced some emotional trauma, but of course we only get glimpses of it throughout the movie. Then there is Casey Newton (Britt Roberston) who is the optimistic counterpart to Clooney. While occasionally her positivity is a little on the cheesy side (it IS a Disney movie, after all), for the most part I think they did a great job with her character. She manages to be optimistic without being annoyingly perky.

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Robertson, Clooney and Cassidy

For me, the real star of the movie was Raffey Cassidy who plays Athena, an audio-animatronic 12 year old who recruits dreamers to come join the other-dimensional world of Tomorrowland. Even though she’s working with actors who are two to four times her age, she completely convinced me that she was a confident robot who was completely in control of every situation. While the technology is the movie is super impressive, I think that one of the most impressive aspects of the plot is that they managed to have George Clooney be in love with a 12 year old robot and yet it’s not creepy at all (except for when I write it out like that).

Hugh Laurie also makes an appearance as the pseudo-villain and you know he’s the bad guy because he wears black and rolls his eyes at the idea of doing something for fun. His henchmen are the audio-animatronics who are tracking down Athena, Frank, and Casey. With their creepy smiles and bird-killing plasma ray guns, they pose a threat the same way battle droids pose a threat; yeah they have guns, but the good guys are going to overtake them pretty easily and because they’re robots there is no moral dilemma when the good guys kill them. “When the Pirates of the Caribbean breaks down, the pirates don’t try to eat the tourists” might not be an accurate quote any more.

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But the “villain” in this movie is really a bleak and inevitable future and our complacency in accepting it instead of changing it; Hugh Laurie is just the person who gives the (somewhat preachy) speech explaining this. That’s Casey’s cue to save the day with her unwavering belief that we can change things for the better.

The design for Tomorrowland is perfect. They shot a lot of the scenes of the film in the City of Arts and Sciences in Vallencia, Spain (which I now REALLY want to go to). The city is shiny and geometric and makes you feel like it could’ve been designed in the 60s but still be relevant today. That’s the aesthetic I really like, but if steampunk is more your thing, they’ve got a rocket ship that is right up your alley. One of the other design highlights for us geeks is the “Blast From The Past” store which has tons of spacey memorabilia, and A LOT of Star Wars stuff, which is obviously because Disney owns the license and it’s free product placement for the new movie, but watching R2-D2 and Han in Carbonite be used to kill robots is pretty awesome. And the technology! Other than the advanced audio-animatronics, there’s jet packs, time freeze bombs, and hover trains!

Casey's first look at Tomorrowland.

Casey’s first look at Tomorrowland.

The one major critique I have for this movie is that there was a severe lack of cultural diversity. About 85% of the movie is just the three main characters anyway, and Frank and Athena kind of had to be white because they both attended the World’s Fair in 1964 and my guess is that it wasn’t particularly diverse, but I do wish they had included a bit more diversity in the cast. But hey, at least the hero is a young girl.

Overall this is a really great movie, but it serves a higher purpose. 60 years ago Disney’s first Tomorrowland TV spot “Man In Space” aired and inspired a generation. 14 years later we put a man on the moon. As corny as it sounds, after seeing this movie I left the theatre feeling like “anything is possible”, so who knows what we’ll accomplish in the next 14 years! 5/5 Death Stars

5/5 Death Stars

5/5 Death Stars

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Therefore I Geek Podcast Episode 27, Return of the Federali

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The lemongrass incident one, in which Mike Federali returns to the Therefore I Geek podcast with more whimsical conversation than ever before.  Topics include the upcoming spring Tidewater Comicon show, Alan Tudyk and Nathan Fillion’s new project Con Man, whether or not J. R. R. Tolkien’s middle initials stand for “Really Rad” (hint: they do), and an impassioned plea for all Disney stores to sell Marvel comics from now on.

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Winning Science March 13, 2015

When the US Navy started talking about using electromagnetic catapults to launch planes, I distinctly remember someone saying that if Disney was having issues with similar tech, the Navy had absolutely no hope. While this might have been hyperbole, it is also true that Disney is regularly pushing the edges of technology in order to bring a better experience to park goers. The latest of these innovations is the Magic Band. Wired has a wonderful article this week about both the tech and process that went into making the magic, as well as the extensive, untapped potential that exists within the current hardware. I had no idea the amount of work that went into the development, or the one BILLION dollar price tag that went along with it. Then again, Disney never does things in half measures.

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Of all the corporations following my every move, I find Disney much less worrisome than most. Continue reading

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Is Star Wars Relevant?

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Star Wars is arguably the most popular science fiction franchise in history. Since the release of A New Hope in 1977, George Lucas’ dream has been defying expectations and reinventing the motion picture industry. Having said that, as we slowly approach the release of The Force Awakens later this year, I have started to realize that it is assumed that Star Wars is relevant to modern geeks, and to wonder if Star Wars it truly is.

After much consideration, I have to say that it is still relevant. This conclusion was not made easily. I am a massive Star Wars fan. My new office will be decorated almost exclusively in Star Wars stuff, from prints and posters to action figures and unique pieces of art. I have seen all of the movies countless times, and while Empire Strikes Back is my favorite, the original trilogy all fit into my top ten favorite movies of all time. Despite all of this I had my doubts. Something deep down inside me was telling me that I couldn’t justify jumping to the obvious conclusion without spending some time to really evaluate and not just answering what my ten year old self would want me to. Continue reading

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