Damon Lindelof Reveals the Origins of ‘Tomorrowland’ and the ‘1952’ Box

Published 2 years ago by , Updated February 16th, 2014 at 9:24 am,

tomorrowland movie damon lindelof Damon Lindelof Reveals the Origins of Tomorrowland and the 1952 Box

Disney’s Tomorrowland is among the more intriguing sci-fi movies due to arrive next year, and not only because it unites filmmaker Brad Bird (The Incredibles, Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol) alongside Damon Lindelof (Prometheus) and Entertainment Weekly contributor Jeff Jensen as the screenwriters. If the rumored story details are correct, then the final film should be an imaginative change of pace from this year’s crop of dystopian and/or post-apocalyptic sci-fi blockbusters (Oblivion, After Earth, Elysium, etc.).

The eponymous Tomorowland is described as being a wondrous and technologically advanced realm that exists in another dimension. Bird’s film is rumored to revolve around a middle-aged man (George Clooney) who – to save the Earth – must set out and return to that fantasy land, after he was kicked out as a child by the man (Hugh Laurie) who’s spent much of his life exploiting Tomorrowland for his personal gain.

So, what was the basis for this Disney theme park inspired film? Well, this is what Lindelof told Grantland:

“I’ve always been fascinated by Disneyland and Disney World, and my favorite part of the park was always Tomorrowland. But there’s no story there. Like, if you go into Fantasyland, there’s just story happening all around you everywhere, whether it’s sort of a direct kind of connection to a movie that you know or a fairy tale that you know, and the same with, like, Frontierland, or when you go in the Haunted Mansion.”

Disney has spent the last few years developing multiple films based on its park attractions – ranging from Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride to Jungle Cruise and the entire Magic Kingdom – but, so far, these most recent attempts to create new ride-based franchises that come with built-in multi-platform appeal (a la Pirates of the Caribbean) have been slow to develop, become stalled in early pre-production or collapsed altogether.

pirates caribbean 5 script rewrite Damon Lindelof Reveals the Origins of Tomorrowland and the 1952 Box

The reason for this might be, in part, due to the fact that most of these rides have very distinct “narratives,” which (logically) beg to be preserved more and carried over into a cinematic adaptation. By comparison, the Pirates of the Caribbean and Tomorrowland attractions could be easier to adapt because they’re more free-form (re: no clear story) and more flexible when it comes to interpretation – meaning, they better encourage creativity and imagination, when it comes to devising a plot and characters for the movie (e.g. Johnny Depp as Captain Jack Sparrow).

As Lindelof put it:

“My son, who’s 6, when he went on Pirates of the Caribbean for the first time, Jack Sparrow is a part of that ride. He’s going to see the movies in two years, when he’s old enough, and he’s going to think that the movies were the inspiration for the ride, versus the other way around. I would love to do that for Tomorrowland, you know?”

He also drew additional inspiration from other sources, which explains why none of the film will take place in an actual Disneyland park:

“And there’s this Neil deGrasse Tyson speech — you can YouTube it — and he gave an eloquent and beautiful talk about how the abandonment of the space program after we landed on the moon is responsible for the fact that we no longer have an optimistic view of our future. I just said, “There’s a movie in there somewhere.” And that was the beginning of me curating this rather fascinating “is it or isn’t it?” Disney history in this kind of Dan Brown, Da Vinci Code way. Like, all these things that I didn’t know about, the history of Tomorrowland in the park, and could that be the basis of something? Even though the movie is not about the park — I will say this exclusively to you, that none of the movie takes place in a Disneyland park. It doesn’t, but that history became the inspiration for this amazing story.”

Lindelof was drawn to collaborate with Jensen after reading the latter’s theories on Lost – the mystery/fantasy series that Lindelof served as co-showrunner on – and met up with Bird through their shared ties to Bad Robot, which has backed the last couple Mission: Impossible movies. That makes Tomorrowland the second major collaborative screenplay in a row for Lindelof, after having joined together with Alex Kurtzman and Roberto Orci to write the script for the currently-playing Star Trek Into Darkness (which earned the trio brownie points from critics and fans alike).

Brad Bird 1952 Image 570x4271 Damon Lindelof Reveals the Origins of Tomorrowland and the 1952 Box

The ‘1952’ box

Since Lindelof co-wrote the polarizing script for director Ridley Scott’s pseudo-Alien prequel Prometheus (and, before that, the love-it-or-hate-it ending to Lost), it leaves you wondering if Tomorrowland will prove equally divisive, after the hype and promises of something truly special. Nonetheless, Lindelof is working alongside a great director who has yet to disappoint in either animation or live-action film medium – and that’s to mention nothing of the fascinating “source material” found in the box labeled “1952” (which Lindelof and Bird posted on Twitter earlier this year):

“This stuff — it’s a little bit like that Ark of the Covenant room, except it’s not just one room; it’s spread out over these three campuses in Burbank… So this particular box, the box we tweeted — Disney was developing 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. [David] Fincher’s developing it now, but before that, I think McG was developing it, and I think he requested all the design work from the original ride in Disneyland, the Nautilus ride. And this box was in with that stuff. You know, what was it doing there? Who knows — but what’s more exciting is there’s probably, like, 50 boxes like that waiting.”

There a whole lot more interesting material covered in Grantland‘s interview with Lindelof than what’s been presented here, so be sure to go and check out the entire article for yourself.


Tomorrowland opens in U.S. theaters on December 19th, 2014.

Source: Grantland [via /Film]

“Tomorrowland” artwork by Eric Heschong [via Disney and More]

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  1. Thing is, this story has to be really good and connect with audiences because not everyone has been to a Disney park and there are quite a lot of people who don’t know Pirates was based on a ride because of that reason.

    It’d be like Alton Towers over here writing a movie based on their Oblivion or Nemesis rides and expecting the rest of the world to know something about the rides to be able to buy into the movies.

    • I don’t think you needed to know the Pirates ride to enjoy the movie but I definitely think it added to it. The dog with the keys comes to mind. This movie seems interesting but I hope they don’t screw it up with the whole alternate universe thing.

  2. Lindelof is a HACK. His rewrites ruined Prometheus. That sucks the guy is involved with this Brad Bird project. Better luck next time.

  3. Whatever happened to the film once discussed that would be based on Disney World’s haunted mansion? Any guesses or info?

  4. @Dazz – Agree and I dont understand why an 8 yo would see Pirates AFTER riding the ride and thinking the movie inspired the ride….. so why would he want a movie he is part of ‘fool’ people into thinking his movie inspired the ride….?

    ticketmaster – Again I agree. This man should not be allowed near any franchise type of property.

    Goldilocks- Wasnt that covered with an Eddie Murphy movie The Haunted Mansion?

  5. I’ve been a Lindelof apologist for a while now. I was fine with how Lost ended and I think he gets to much of the blame for the problems of Prometheus.
    The real wild card in this mix IMO is Jeff Jensen. Has anyone else read his Lost or American Horror Story recaps?
    Yikes! They are always entertaining but boy oh boy he can really go off the rails sometimes. This dude really sees things differently. 😉
    Regardless, Tomorrowland is already a opening night must see for me. I just have to prepare myself as should everyone else for a possible crazy ride.

  6. Not to pick nits or anything but Disneyland never had 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea…that was always Disney World until it closed in the 1990’s. Disneyland has the yellow nuclear subs which now has a Nemo theme.
    Lindelof gets unwarranted complaints in my opinion. Everything he does is mostly original (except for Star Trek bad guys)…it sounds like Tomorrowland will share a name only with Disney and thankfully it is not based around either a show from the past or a toy or board game!

    • Is that like mostly pregnant? Lets see:

      World War Z – Established Property
      Prometheus – Established Property
      Star Trek – Established Property
      Cowboys & Aliens – Established Property
      Tomorrowland – Established Property (possibly)
      The Leftovers (TV) – Established Property

      LOST by the time he started writing it was already an established property.

      Ultimate Hulk vs Wolverine – Established Property

      Nash and Jordan I cant speak to.

      So what has he done that is mostly original?