Proposal

  1. Description of the original text and its socio-cultural and historical contexts.

Brad Bird’s Tomorrowland, a Disney sci-fi mixed genre production, is a film set in vision—a new imagining—alternating between reality (a place) and another dimension (time and space). As humanity’s Doomsday clocks gets closer to midnight, a teenage girl, Casey, goes on an unexpected journey by means of touching a magical lapel pin, transporting her to a futuristic “utopian” city, Tomorrowland. The city is built on the hopes and dreams of a better future, a future of cultural diversity and innovation. Tomorrowland is “…a well-thought-out, refined, and polished product of its historical moment and its culture’s social and ideological situation. It is a film in search of a better future…” (Hantke).

In Tomorrowland, the ideology and thought experiment in human consciousness creating reality, pessimistic or optimistic, reflects upon our present day “doom room” media coverage. In our real world, if an alternative reality that is aided with conscious lies, media coverage and rhetorical speech can be created, then the past four presidential years is a testimony for this thought experiment. Cognitive science has explanations for how we experience this type of phenomenon. In Psychology Today, “How Your Thinking Creates Your Reality,” Jennice Vilhauer writes,

“Your thoughts, if you think them over and over, and assign truth to them, become beliefs. Beliefs create a cognitive lens through which you interpret the events of your world and this lens serves as a selective filter through which you sift the environment for evidence that matches up with what you believe to be true.”

In the film, pessimistic middle-aged Frank Walker, played by George Clooney, has lost his youth-filled hope and watches world media coverage from his “doom room” filled with television screens, reporting negative and disastrous news coverage. It is a bombardment of negative news on all fronts, an annihilation plot attempt (from the white male supreme leader of Tomorrowland) against humanity’s future. The consciousness of negative thought propels the Anthropocentric world closer to an extinction event. The story’s timeline jumps decades: 1964, 1984, 2014/15 and into an unknown future. Interestingly, the film was released fifty years after the real-World Fair opened in 1964.

On-screen, young Frank Walker (flashback) visits the 1964 World Fair in New York. The real-life World Fair was themed, “Peace Through Understanding.” The Fair highlighted innovations of the 20th Century and consumer goods. Technology and computers were just beginning to come into the public’s awareness. Automaton culturally diverse dolls, created by Disney, sang during a boat ride, “It’s a Small World.” In Tomorrowland, this ride element is the entrance time portal into the futuristic city. Humanity’s hope for the future included the exploration of space, nuclear power, people movers, technology, and automobiles without engines: the beginnings of new imaginings in the film and real life.

Jumping decades later, NASA’s space program was defunded which is another connection of real-life to film, as Casey’s father is facing possible unemployment from the Space program (dismantling of equipment/launch pads). At the film’s end, humanity is, of course, saved. Robots and humans work together creatively for a better future.

  1. Justification for the alternative version that explains the new sociocultural historical contexts.

The Tomorrowland I propose is not a utopia, but a past imagining, “Peace Through Understanding,” for a better future. Why not create a world shaped by individuals who strive to move beyond their individual and collective boundaries? Space is the place where we can imagine these new beginnings. While place is connected in deep meaningful ways to people and culture geographically, space can provide a new place for new perspectives. It is a Tomorrowland of space created place in time. If we can “see small and think big” then a new story can be created (Bodenhamer).

New imaginings are needed to move beyond our “cultural assumptions” and beyond the old narratives. Will humanity be stuck in the “doom room” until our ultimate annihilation? Can reportage storytelling change our human narrative? Would people, or could people, embrace a new Tomorrowland or not?

  1. Engagement with relevant theoretical perspectives as they apply to the original work and to the new version.

In Literary Theory, A Very Short Introduction, Johnathan Culler states,

“Theory is driven by the impossible desire to step outside of your own thoughts, both to place it and to understand it, and also by a desire for change—this is a possible desire—both in the world our thought engages and in the ways of your own thought which always could be sharper, more knowledgeable and capacious, more self-reflecting” (17).

Understanding ourselves and the world around us requires our minds to be open containers. What if we stopped “matches[ing] up with what you[we] believe to be true [?]” (Vilhauer).  I propose seeing ideas, issues, and events in new ways.  Edward W. Said wrote about historical “overlapping territories” and “intertwined histories,” and William Cronon wrote about historical cultural construction of humankind’s relationship with nature. Both views include dominating human cultural perspectives. Can humanity travel into another conscious space, with “Peace Through Understanding?”  In our media driven world, can a better Tomorrowland story be created? Humans can create a different story and exist in another thought-filled space and preserve geographic place.

  1. A work plan for the project.

My work plan includes creating an interactive media experience (assistance will be needed!) where the user/rider steps into the “It’s a Small World” boat ride, floating—traveling—through a portal of time & space, vertically and horizontally. The ride stalls at designated historical periods, sometimes moving forward in time, sometimes moving backward in time. The user/rider must choose from a list of scrolling news headlines before proceeding on. Which headline will the rider choose? Will the headline of choice change [what you know of] history, or not? This is a thought experiment in how humans move through time, space, and place. Each rider can create a different Tomorrowland of new imaginings. The ride never ends until the user chooses to get off.  The “stalled stops” change (place) and evolve (in time and space) with the user’s conscious choices.

 

Works Cited

Cronon, William. “The Trouble with Wilderness; or Getting Back to the Wrong Nature.” New York Times 1995.

Culler, Jonathan. Literary Theory A Very Short Introduction. New York: Oxford University Press, 2000. Book.

Hantke, Steffen. “”When I was a Kid, the Future Was Different”: Corporate Utopianism in Brad Bird’s Tomorrowland.” The Journal of Popular Culture 50.4 (2017): 743-760. 13 March 2021.

ProQuest Ebook Central. Deep Maps and Spatial Narratives. Ed. et al David J. Bodenhamer. Indiana University Press. 2015. Ebook. <ebookcentral.proquest.com/lib/nyulibrary-ebooks/detail.action?docID=4697517>.

Said, Edward W. Culture and Imperalism. Random House, 1993. Book.

Vilhauer, Jennice. Psychology Today. 27 September 2020. Journal. 13 March 2021. <www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/living-forwar/202009/how-your-thinking-creates-your-reality>.