Back before we knew that JJ Abrams would be ascending to the Geek Throne by helming the new Star Wars, there was lots of talk around director Brad Bird (The Incredibles, Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol) and writer Damon Lindelof (Star Trek, Lost, Prometheus). The pair were definitely collaborating on something.
As it turns out, it was not the new Star Wars (boo!) but rather an original sci-fi film titled 1952, that had something to do with a box bearing that number that Lindelof found in Walt Disney’s personal development lab.
Now we’ve not only received word that the mysterious project’s name has been changed, but thanks to some dedicated Disney fans, we get to have a look at the enigmatic contents of the suitcase.
We’ve previously heard that George Clooney would be playing an unknown leading role, and now we know that the movie’s title has been changed from the enigmatic 1952 to… well, the equally enigmatic Tomorrowland. And that’s really just about the only concrete pieces of info we have, the rest is all just guesswork and speculation.
Lucky for us, we can now make some informed guesses. Or at least D23, the official Disney Fan Club can. After Bird recently tweeted a photo of the contents of the mysterious box, D23 called in Disney Archives director Becky Cline to pour over the pic with a fine tooth comb (or zoom function on Photoshop, as it were), and here’s what she found, all conveniently numbered for your sleuthing pleasure.
- From the age, type, and conditions of the items I can see, I feel that the materials in the box were gathered together for a project from the past. Perhaps as research for a science-fiction-themed film, television, or park attraction, or even a futurism project like Walt’s vision of EPCOT.
- It looks like someone reused an old banker’s box from another Disney production. We don’t use this style of boxes anymore at the studio. There is another sticker on the cover of the box, but the text on the picture is obscured.
- Someone put tape over the original production label and hand wrote “1952″ in pen—the brevity of the title and the fact that it’s handwritten sounds to me like it’s probably a working title. Both the studio and WED often used working titles before they came up with a final title of the project. “The Concert Feature” was what they called Fantasia before they decided upon a final name for example.
- On the top there are some old photos. The three that I can see are of Walt with visitors, probably taken here at the studio. The one on top is in our photo collection and I was able to identify the man with him as Major Woodlief of the U.S. Army Reserve General Fund. It was taken in September 1943. The Disney Studio worked closely with the United States government and military soon after the bombing of Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, and U.S. Army, Navy and Air Force elements were stationed at the Lot for the duration of the war. I can’t identify the people in the other photos, but we have the negatives for the photos in our collection. They were taken in 1950.
- There is a large manila envelope sealed with a loose sticker. It appears to have material in it, but we can only guess its contents. From the size and shape of the envelope, I would guess it might contain maps, brochures, or some other kind of folded documents.
- The magazine that appears along with this curious collection of documents and objects provides more clues. It is a copy of the science fiction magazine Amazing Stories from August 1928. I got a closer look at the cover by looking it up online. It shows a man in flight wearing some sort of jet pack, powered by a hand-controlled device of some sort. After doing a little more research, I discovered that the cover story of that particular issue is the serialized novel The Skylark of Space, written by Elmer Edward “Doc” Smith and Lee Hawkins Garby. Walt was always interested in futurism and flight especially in the 1950s and early ’60s; in fact, for Disneyland’s Tencennial Celebration in 1965, he actually had a man fly down Main Street, U.S.A. with a jet pack. The man also did flight demonstrations in Tomorrowland in the Flight Circle.
- There are two slide boxes in the box, one features the Technicolor logo; the writing on the other white slide box is indecipherable.
- There is a 45 rpm record that appears to be a master disc. It is probably from the ’40s or early ’50s (these type of records pre-date magnetic tape recording). It’s definitely not the kind of record that is pressed and sold to the public. Unfortunately, its handwritten label is too blurry to decipher.
- There is a blue paperback book in the box. The title appears to be Moral Research. The spine has other writing that I can’t read—the author’s name could possibly be at the top, but I can’t make it out. There is another name that looks to me like “Roland”—probably the name of a fictive publisher.
- There is a small white box on the right side that looks like the boxes we use to store individual reels of 8mm film. There is no print that I can see for further ID.
- There is a U.S. mail letter on the right side. I can see two purple postage stamps, but the denomination is not clear enough to read.
- Under the photos, record, magazine, and the letter is what looks to me like one of the old peg-and-screw albums we used to use here at the Studio for scrapbooks. It appears to have more photos and perhaps art in it (artboard anyway). Under that are the old string accordion files that we used to use for clippings, documents, loose art, etc. And there are a couple of manila mailing envelopes, too.
Well, that tells us a big ol’ mountain of nothing. I know that some online publications have already taken the sleuthing a bit further and determined that the jetpack man on the cover of the comic, is the the same character that would later be renamed\rebooted as Buck Rogers, one of the most famous of all the pulp sci-fi heroes. Now while I think that Brad Bird could direct the hell out of a modern Buck Rogers film, I doubt that after the John Carter naming fiasco that Disney would allow a Buck Rogers movie to be called something as non-specific as Tomorrowland. They’d need some kind of brand awareness to push this on the public, so there just wouldn’t be a reason to rename it.
So what do you guys think? What could this possibly be about? For a long time, many thought it would have something to do with The Washington Flap, a series of unexplained UFO sightings that happened in 1952. There’s also the school of thought that this is far more mundane, maybe having to do with Walt Disney himself, and specifically his unfinished project EPCOT (Experimental Prototype Community Of Tomorrow), a futuristic concept city, which he never completed before his death.The area that was earmarked for this development would eventually be developed to become the Walt Disney World Resort in Florida.
Whatever the movie is going to be about, it looks like we still have a whole long period of guessing ahead of us, as Tomorrowland only releases on December 19, 2014.