“You can’t just sit around. The future isn’t something that happens to us, it’s something that we make happen.“~Damon Lindelof
Disclosure: This event and trip to LA was an all expense paid journey sponsored by Disney. All thoughts, experiences, opinions and character crushes are 100% my own!
Talking About TOMORROWLAND with Brad Bird and Damon Lindelof
Earlier this month, I travelled to LA to attend a press junket with 24 other bloggers for the film TOMORROWLAND. This included a press screening of the film, and sit down interviews with several cast members including, George Clooney, Britt Robertson and Raffey Cassidy. It also included a sit down interview with the great minds behind this film: Damon Lindelof (Producer/Writer) and Brad Bird (Director/Producer/Writer) The opportunity to chat with them about this film was amazing as they both bring such huge resumes to the table.
One of my favorite things about Brad Bird is that he actually started out his career as an animator. He started early in his career as an animator for Disney and his journey to where he is now is not only fascinating, but inspiring as well. You might recognize Damon Lindelof as the co-creator of the television series Lost (2004–2010). They both gush creativity and that is so evident in this film, and I really enjoy sitting down with them to hear their stories of how this film came to be.
My interview with Brad and Damon took place the day after I had visited the Walt Disney Archives (you can read about that experience here) so their answers to this first question was quite timely and interesting to me:
How did the information from the Disney archives help you to bring TOMORROWLAND to life on the big screen?
Damon: I think that we are both fascinated with imagineering and particularly Walt’s futurism. A lot of that stuff was rampant in the early days of designing the Parks itself. In TOMORROWLAND, obviously he came up with the concept in the 50s and 60s, but I think that this sort of treasure trove of roads not taken, the part that Brad and I particularly zeroed in on, was the 1964 World’s Fair where there were a number of attractions: Mr. Lincoln, Carousel of Progress…
Brad: Magic Skyway. Small world.
Damon: Yeah, Small World of course. It would be really great to see those on the big screen kind of re-create that feeling. Our initial ambition was a lot higher, but again the World’s Fair was what they represented at the time, particularly in the 60s, the connection to Disneyland that was the stuff that we kind of locked in on.
Brad: But it’s also that World’s Fairs in and of themselves were a thing where people would bring together their brightest minds and talk about the future. And they were semi regular event where people came together from all over the world and kind of traded ideas. And they had a utopian aspect. When we were talking about what happened to the idea of a positive future, we kind of started to notice that that great future sort of disappeared around the time the World’s Fairs disappeared.
Then, you know, the world had went through world wars and had plenty of strife but people clung to the idea that things in the future will be better. And that idea seems to have been retired. And now everybody seems to be going, yeah it’s going to suck. You know? Is there anything we can do about it? No. We’re all just kind of on this bus and we have no control over the destination.
We were just kind of looking at each other going, why did that change? And when did it change? And you know, how do we get back to it? So that was kind of trying to do sort of a fable around that idea was kind of on our minds.
“When we were talking about what happened to the idea of a positive future, we kind of started to notice that that great future sort of disappeared around the time the World’s Fairs disappeared.”~Brad Bird
You both are very creative individuals and it seems like you love storytelling. So what do you do to feed that creativity that helps you tell those stories?
Brad: Coffee. Yeah. It doesn’t have to be Starbucks by the way.
Damon: We watch a lot of TV. We go and see a lot of movies. And we tell our wives and children that that’s work. But it is the idea of constantly sort of surrounding yourself. I do feel, for me in particular and I think that Brad shares this, is we sort of grew up in that culture and the idea of saying like, I want to do this one day. But where we start almost every time that we get together is oh, did you see this? Did you read this? What do you think about that?
We are fans of this material ourselves. The fact that we get to make it. And I think the minute that you start to seal yourself off and say, I’m just going to become completely introverted and write my own stuff and you close the gates to everything that surrounds you. I think in a lot of ways this movie, as Brad was just saying, is a little bit of a response to the sort of apocalyptic storytelling that we’ve been kind of barraged with. And we love the hunger games. And I want to see Mad Max.
But I also think there’s got to be a future that isn’t about people trying to kill each other in the desert or teenagers killing each other.
Brad: Or zombies killing each other …
Damon: Or zombies killing each other. Zombies killing teenagers and all that stuff.
There’s a lot of technology in the movie. What technology from the movie would you like to have in our lives today?
Damon: Well, I would love to be able to travel somewhere without having to actually get on a plane. I mean I love the idea of walking through a doorway and being somewhere else. I think that that would probably change the planet in wonderful and nightmarish ways. But I think that there are a lot of sort of dream concepts in this movie. And that was one of the things that attracted me was getting a chance to glimpse those things. Of course, you sit there and talk about all the things that you could put on screen and that’s a wonderful pie in the sky moment of any movie.
And that’s usually very early. And then pretty soon you have to get down to the sobering reality, after binging on what it could be, you know? So you have to start saying what ideas are central to the story that you’re trying to tell. Sometimes your favorite notions don’t fit into the story you’re trying to tell. So you save that for another day.
“I would love to be able to travel somewhere without having to actually get on a plane. I mean I love the idea of walking through a doorway and being somewhere else. I think that that would probably change the planet in wonderful and nightmarish ways.“~Damon Lindelof
So when you’re writing this did you write in collaboration?
Brad: Yes, Damon has been developing this idea with Jeff Jensen for about six months.
I was an admirer of Damon’s work on Lost. My family and I are totally into Lost. And any time the episode credited Damon had a screen credit on that script I would say to my wife, “This is going to be good.”
I was a fan of Damon’s work. On Mission Impossible, after the movie was basically already shot, there were a couple of things that were not right, but there wasn’t very much wiggle room. Damon came on for about a month to help us fix some really very specific details. It was like brain surgery, kind of writing where it had to fit in here and there. And he did a wonderful job.
And we were just hanging out after, and I said, what are you doing next? And he mentioned this idea that he’d been developing with Jeff. And it just sounded amazing to me. So that’s when I kind of jumped on board.
Damon: I think just in terms of the process, the writing process, Brad was really wonderful because he would come down to LA. We’d hold up in a hotel room for a couple of nights or I’d come back and forth and we’d just flip our laptops open and just sort of sit and talk. Every time that I write in collaboration, I write in a different way but I don’t like writing alone. I really enjoy that process. And Brad makes it great. He also makes these perfect English muffins, I have to say. So, I started writing very slow just so I could get more English muffins. That’s really what it was all about.
Can you tell us more about the discovery of the 1952 box and how that inspired you in the movie?
Damon: The more that we look into what the origins of the box are and where it came from and who found it, the less defined answers that we get. Suffice to say, we became fairly convinced looking through it, that we didn’t know exactly what it was. The items in it, probably 80% of them, were completely and totally uninteresting.
But the ones that were interesting to us felt like, what if we were kids in third grade and someone put this box in front of us and said, tell us a story about the things that you find in this box. How would they all connect? And we took some things like the design for the, It’s a Small World ride and Flushing Meadows in 64, and this weird kind of disk that might have been an animation that Orson Welles might have had some interest in. And we sort of said, “What if Walt Disney was a member of this secret group of geniuses and TOMORROWLAND itself was actually a cover for a real place that they built in an alternate dimension?”, and then we were kind of off to the races. The box became just sort of you know, a part of the Santa myth. It became sort of the North Pole, but we were more focused on trying to leave presents under people’s trees. Bad metaphor but, Santa is real.
“The box became just sort of you know, a part of the Santa myth. It became sort of the North Pole, but we were more focused on trying to leave presents under people’s trees. Bad metaphor but, Santa is real.”~Damon Lindelof
What do you think people will learn or take away from watching this film?
Brad: I think we are hesitant to make it like broccoli (although I like broccoli) go see this movie because it’s good for you. That’s the sure way to have sagebrush blowing through the theater.
Damon: Do you like broccoli kids? You’re going to love TOMORROWLAND. Broccoli and homework? Yeah. We’re doing something viral with the broccoli industry. On the back of the box just a tie in.
Brad: A talking broccoli.
Damon: Yeah, absolutely. Hey kids. I’m good for you just like TOMORROWLAND. No one is writing this down. This is gold.
Brad: Our goal first and foremost is to make a great time at the movies. You know, go well with popcorn and all of that. That said, my favorite rides in terms of movies are rides where I still think about them later. And there’s a lot of very loud, very fast, very disposable entertainment right now where everybody goes zxzzgyzzxych and afterwords it’s like….
Damon: Do you guys need a spelling on that? It’s Z- X-Z -Z- G- Y- Z- Z- X- Y- C- H.
Brad: It’s all of that. Before the lights even come up in the theater you’re thinking about something else and you know that you paid money, you know that you were not bored. And you know that you heard a lot of loud sounds and saw some flashy movement. But there’s not a lot to take away. And I don’t think those two things need to be mutually exclusive, you know. I loved ET years ago. On the face of it, it’s a movie about a rubber alien puppet, but it absolutely swept you away and got you emotionally involved. And you thought about it. You know? I think we would like to be that. And we would like people hopefully come away thinking that they have a hand in the future. I’m not a passenger on this bus. I can be the driver.
That we collectively are in charge of where and what we want the future to be. That it’s a malleable thing that’s changing every day. And it’s being created by what people do today.
Damon: We have a young woman in the movie that you guys are well aware of and she is being barraged with the polar ice caps melting and that things are going to be much worse in the future. She asks the only relevant question which is, can we fix it? And we hope that you walk out of the movie at the end saying, you can, but you have to do something. You can’t just sit around. The future isn’t something that happens to us, it’s something that we make happen. And I think that she certainly comes out of the movie feeling that way.
“I loved ET years ago. On the face of it, it’s a movie about a rubber alien puppet, but it absolutely swept you away and got you emotionally involved. And you thought about it. You know? And I think we would like to be that. And we would like people hopefully come away thinking that they have a hand in the future. I’m not a passenger on this bus. I can be the driver.“~Brad Bird
Did you know where you where going with the storyline from start to end or did it change?
Damon: It was originally called LOST IN TOMORROWLAND, which kind of gets you off the hook, too. Hey, I didn’t say I was going to find anything.
I think that when I get engaged in a story there is a fair amount of sort of mystery involved in it. I just, I love the idea of the unknown and sort of like, what is that? Especially when we go to movies these days and you see the trailers before the movies.
It sort of feels like in two minutes they just told me the entire movie. I want to go see AVENGERS but I kind of feel like I just saw AVENGERS. So we were engaged by this idea of TOMORROWLAND because you hear that title and it feels familiar, it creates an emotional idea in me, but I don’t exactly know what it’s about. And the same is true of Lost. At the same time you can’t write unless you know where you’re headed.
Because every time you come to a crossroads, every time you’re at a fork, if you don’t know where you’re headed you’re just going to sit there and basically not know which way to turn the wheel. That said, as you’re driving, if you switch the driver and the passenger from time to time, you make all these very interesting discoveries, which is why I love collaborating. And I think that when Brad and I and Jeff Jensen all sort of got together and started talking about the story of TOMORROWLAND, we all kind of felt like we knew what the story that we wanted to tell was.
How it was going to end. Where it goes from here? …there are a number of different possibilities. But we didn’t want it to feel like this movie is a cliffhanger or were setting up a franchise or there’s nine different characters coming in at the end. And you know, now we’re setting up our own Tomorrowland universe. We sort of felt like if this is the only movie that we get to make, we wanted to feel like it’s complete, which is a much different storytelling mechanism than TV, where every episode is designed to get you to watch the next episode.
There was somewhat of a relief to say this is their journey. This place has a problem. These characters fix that problem and things are much better off than they were when we started the movie.
“There was somewhat of a relief to say this is their journey. This place has a problem. These characters fix that problem and things are much better off than they were when we started the movie.“~Damon Lindelof
Stay tuned for even more TOMORROWLAND excitement, as I will be sharing even more with you from my cast interviews and the screening of the movie itself! Check out my post about the TOMORROWLAND props and sneak peek to get a fun look at even more TOMORROWLAND excitement.
And … in case you missed it, Make sure to read my interview with George Clooney!
Remember the Future!
TOMORROWLAND is rated PG and hits theaters May 22nd, 2015!!
Check out this exclusive TOMORROWLAND sneak peek that will bring you into the world of TOMORROWLAND and tease you with the futuristic possibilities:
Follow all of the excitement in social media:
Photo credits to Disney and Louise Bishop of MomStart.com
AND … a very, very special thank you to the folks at Disney for this wonderful and once in a life time opportunity that I will NEVER forget!