Feature: The Future of the Future, or Why Tomorrowland Needs to Change!
When Walt Disney was coming up with concepts for his amusement park in Anaheim, he made it clear that there would be several sections of the park. Five different “lands” were created, each with a different theme. A synergistic approach considering that many of the “lands” would get tied to stories that were in his films or on his television show. Out of all of the lands, the one with the most attractions in 1955 was Tomorrowland. It’s state of the art attractions were based around the newest technologies and the ever exciting space travel of the future. The area was made to seem like a future where technology and organic matters meet. To clarify what time period I’m talking about, astronauts hadn’t even been to space yet, microwave ovens were the newest and most expensive kitchen unit, and kids were getting excited about the new toy Play-Doh.
In 1955, the interstate highway was a big deal and cars were a luxury item families were starting to afford and space was still the frontier of the future. So Disneyland’s first attractions made sense for the time. Autopia, an introduction to highway driving. Rocket to the Moon, a realistic space simulation to the moon and back. Kaiser’s Hall of Aluminum Fame, ….because aluminum is awesome I guess? As years passed, new innovations came to Tomorrowland. Mission to Mars replaced Rocket to the Moon because we already went to the Moon. Autopia updated it’s cars into newer sleeker looking models. We were introduced to the worlds of Captain EO and Star Wars. Monorails and Peoplemovers became the new modes of transportation. Tomorrowland somehow stayed current but still fictional. Yet, here we are in the summer of 2014 and for the first time in the years I’ve been alive I feel like Tomorrowland is more like Todayland. The Home of the Future within Innoventions doesn’t feel like the house I’m going to see in 25 years. Autopia’s cars have been running for almost 60 years despite the model upgrades. Captain EO is still showcasing Michael Jackson from the 1980s even 5+years after his death. To top everything off, the Peoplemover track sits unoccupied and the feeling of traveling to a Space port feels more like I’m standing in the center of Comic Con.
So what does Tomorrowland need? New attractions? A new look? A franchise to base itself off of? The truth is it needs a good mix of all of these things. The “Retro Future” of Jules Verne doesn’t really cut it with today’s iPhone touting crowds. It may have been a great look back in 1998 during the time of it’s last remodel, but not now. Tomorrowland’s current focus of space, Star Wars, and Marvel superheros seems to be wedged in right next door to the “old car ride” and the pizza restaurant that doesn’t even try to serve you anything futuristic. It’s just frozen pizza. The real question Disney Imagineers have to ask themselves is what the future may really look like? It’s not going to be some post-apocalyptic zombie takeover, but most likely something similar to what Walt had in mind to begin with. Mixing organic matters with technology. You may not think it, but Epcot’s Living with the Land is more futuristic than any attraction in the current Disneyland Tomorrowland. The attraction is a showcase of how farming has changed and how humans have evolved the process to be futuristic and efficient while not ruining the Earth we live on. We are living in a time where a hologram Tupac performs at festivals but we are also living in a world where we are advancing medicine and curing the incurable diseases in the world. We are using technology to drive cars for us instead of by us. We live in a world where we can see Area 51 on Google Maps.
My suggestion to Imagineering isn’t to look at Tomorrowland as some Star Wars space port where we all live on Venus and breathe some kind of synthetic oxygen made only by alien plant life. I want them to showcase a world that’s been bettered by human advancement. We aren’t there yet, but wouldn’t it be cool to say that in Tomorrowland, we use transportation that doesn’t polute our planet, we’ve cured cancer and AIDS, every home has a sustainable garden, and a hologram version of the Rolling Stones are still going on tour in the year 2060. My suggestion is to use Tomorrowland as an excuse to not only entertain, but to create a tangible science fiction because that medium has always become science fact.