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View Full Version : Defining Tomorrowland means defining Tomorrow



ModHatter
12-11-2003, 12:10 AM
If you haven't read it already, I highly recommend that everyone read "1939: The lost world of the fair" By David Gelernter. While he is not talking about Walt's NT World's Fair, his analysis of the 1939 Fair, and why World's Fair culture has more or less died, is an incredibly relevant topic for discussing the renovation of Tomorrowland (and Epcot too).

To sum up his points, and embellish with a thought or two of my own, the 1939 Futurama showed a vision of the future that, in the 1960s, essentially CAME TRUE. This created two problems. 1) The dream of the Future wasn't that great once we got there. 2) Once you reach the Future, where do you go from there?

So, let's put down our pencils and think for a minute... Without trying to come up with rides and attractions, let's do what the Disney's America people did -- find a theme, a vision, an idea to convey.

Let's put it this way... when you take your young kids and grandkids to Tomorrowland, what do you want their future to look like?

iwannabeanimagineer
12-11-2003, 08:01 AM
This topic is a particular interest of mine because I was so inspired as a child by such visionaries as Walt Disney, Stanley Kubrick, Isaac Asimov, Arthur C. Clarke, Buckminster Fuller, Frank Lloyd Wright and others. There doesn't seem to be much of a market for futurist visionaries anymore. I think I'll start sending out business cards listing my profession as "futurist visionary" and see if I get any offers, other than those from mental health institutions.

My favorite futurists focused on a few key themes (followed by what I perceive as the attitude of most people on these themes, not necessarily my own):

1. Architecture: new forms growing out of new activities, institutions and materials. In 2003, to what new activities, institutions and materials do we look forward? 50 years of forward-looking design has outpaced our need, so innovation appears dated. Particularly in the area of housing, people seem less likely in 2003 than they were in 1970 to use housing which is designed around new activities or materials. Since the way we want to use a residence and the materials we want to interact with in our residences seems no different than what we wanted in 1960, our houses still resemble the houses of 1960, not the Monsanto House of the Future.

2. Transportation: alternatives, individual and collective. New fuels and technologies have failed to prove "better" to most people than the old tried and true combustion engine. And the rugged individualist spirit has greeted mass transit innovation as an extension of socialist utopia. Even the Concord has stopped flying. This theme has the distinction of a strong but negatively-perceived tie-in with the eco-ethics of the early 21st century and its Greenpeace and ELF representatives.

3. Space exploration and colonization: the 20th-century frontier. The scientific and technological return-on-investment of space programs are reaching their limit. What's the real purpose of a voyage to the moon or space station in 2004?

4. Sea exploration and colonization: the next frontier. What benefit do most Americans see in spending a lot of money to find another deep-water species or geothermal vent phenomenon? And have you seen how much dry land is uninhabited between Sacramento, California and Lincoln, Nebraska? Why get wet?

5. Social change: internationalism and collectivism. This theme died with the Soviet Union.

6. Energy: clean and plentiful. Coal and oil, once the norm as energy sources, are rare these days and equipped with scrubbers that have removed the black plumes that were once the proud symbol of industry. The old future's favorite sources are under attack: hydro-electric, nuclear, wind. What's left?

7. Urban planning: sanitization. While new planned communities are still popping up all over the world, what do we do with the cities we're already living in? And how much are we willing to restrict the freedom of land-owners for the "better good"? Even the best planned communities need "ugly" industry to keep them running. Where do we put those land uses?

8. Computers: future power. So we have all that we could have envisioned. They run our washing machines, coffee makers and steel mills as we all imagined they would. And we use them to play Star Wars: Galaxies all night. What next?

In my opinion, the difference between 1955 and 2005 is not one of reaching nature's limit on envisioning and articulating the future. I believe we have reached a futurist vision breach in the natural generational patterns of the human race. Robert Putnam, a thinker at Harvard University has labeled the former generation (inventors of the old future) as the Civic Generation. (Read his article at http://xroads.virginia.edu/~HYPER/DETOC/assoc/putnmtv1.html.) I don't buy everything he says and I think he is, in some respects, a Marxist, but he still makes some interesting points. I believe the old future (or more to the point, a better new future) may come back when the generational cycle returns to a new civic generation.

Edited to add:
More information about the generational cycles:

http://www.timepage.org/time.html#reference

Generations, William Strauss and Neil Howe, 1991, William Morrow Publisher, New York.

The Fourth Turning, William Strauss and Neil Howe, 1997, Broadway Books Publisher, New York.

Morrigoon
12-11-2003, 10:00 AM
Someone else told me about the Fourth Turning. Interesting stuff.

Essentially, the difficulty with designing the future is that it is much less exciting because we're so familiar with computers and so ready to accept that they can do anything. It's kind of like knowing how a magic trick works. Yeah, it's cool, and fascinating to know how it works, but once you do, the trick itself loses all or most of its entertainment value. EG: the "magic" has been lost, just like in our Tomorrowland.

Transportation: run by computers
Space Travel: run by computers - human travel not always necessary b/c computers can do it
Standard of Living: computers

You can keep adding areas for future advances, but computers is the answer for almost all of it. This is the same reason why movie special effects are no longer thought of with the same fascination. We know how they did it: computers.

I do think that brining computers into the 3rd dimension (eg: off the flat screen and into 3-dimensional space for control) has some potential. Sure right now it's just virtual reality gaming, but what else can the technology do?

Maybe Star Trek has it right with the holodecks. Talk about a difficult job! They have spent years trying to stay in the future!

There has also been a major cultural shift (ah, back to the 4th turning, etc). While older generations were still working on going global and reaching outward (to infinity and beyond, LOL), our generation is turning on itself. We are more concerned with what's going on in our backyard, or how things across the world affect us here. We got world travel. We got space travel. It's no longer thought of with the same level of amazement because it's taught in elementary schools. And frankly, civic issues can be very boring, especially to kids.

The World in Motion was still the best concept. We still struggle (especially here in LA!) with the concept of transit. To this day, I think the Peoplemover is cool - they could REALLY use one between the DLH and the PPH! Monorails, while becoming a metropolitan reality, are still a fantastic idea because of their aesthetics and small footprint (when considering ecology, a small footprint does wonders for the environment, compared to something that cuts off the landscape). The Autopia really ought to be updated with electric vehicles, or better yet solar hybrids, but I don't see Chevron going for that. Pity really. Small subs and submarine adventures are a reality for many vacationers (we went down about 100 feet in Maui, cool stuff!). So the sheen is wearing off (slightly... many folks still can't afford the $100 for an hour underwater) of that one. The attraction still holds the attention of kids though - and for that reason, a renewed subs ride, taking it's look more from modern vehicles (with bigger portholes and seats), with updated technology for the underwater effects would still hold for a good, oh, 30 years? maybe more?

A possible twist to it is adding a Finding Nemo theme. True, they could do Little Mermaid, but that will restrict the target audience to little girls, where Finding Nemo will have wider appeal. There is an opportunity for some added ride effects in the currents. Also, they could consider adding an animated "Marlin" or "Nemo" and projecting them on the portholes to narrate the ride.

I still think CoP should return - there is plenty to update it with!
If not, could they consider plowing down the building and throwing in the Paris SM with a new theme (so we can keep OUR SM as well)? Perhaps recycle the Mission to Mars name.

Star Tours fits with the theme. But it needs a new film. Badly.

ModHatter
12-11-2003, 12:44 PM
The Submarines (and Autopia, really) belong now in Fantasyland. They can use the same heavy moving equipment they used when they moved the Matterhorn :D

Carousel of Progress is still a great concept for Tomorrowland. But how to update the last scene? The WDW version felt horribly dated when I went over Thanksgiving. And that really gets to the heart of the Tomorrowland problem.

How about, for instance, re-Imagineering Epcot's Body Wars into a better blend of Star Tours and Inner Space? And maybe using the seat effects and sound effects technology of rides like Alien Encounter and It's Tought To Be A Bug to amp up Peoplemover?

When I think of Tomorrow, it always comes back to better living through technology. In the 1939 World's Fair, the power poles we now see as eyesores were greeted with open arms as a means of bringing electricity to America's Midlands.

Transportation. Space exploration. Medical science. These are still unconguered frontiers that will challenge the people of Tomorrow, and in my opinion, should inform the choices made by Tomorrowland's new re-Imagineers.

For instance... how do we make the Monorail and Peoplemover more relevant? Start out by having a queue area that tells riders the statistic that 2/3 of LA land usage is devoted to cars and car support. Then show a City of the Future where, say, 1/3 of that land reverts to commercial and residential use. Cities double their revenues, communities and neighborhoods grow closer, etc. Don't just give us a ride on technology that's been operating daily in the Western Hemisphere for about 4 decades. Remind us why the Monorail, and Tomorrowland in general, still has something to teach and inspire the 21st Century.

Morrigoon
12-11-2003, 01:16 PM
To add to your idea: since less space is devoted to transport (or transport has a smaller footprint as in the pplmover and monorail), more space should be devoted to green. More grass and stream, less concrete.

Ooh, you know what would totally rock? A walkway of clear plexiglass over some fantastic type of stream, perhaps one with glass pebbles and little fish. Something very crystalline and future-y (eg: otherworldly like sci-fi)

ModHatter
12-11-2003, 02:06 PM
Originally posted by Morrigoon
To add to your idea: since less space is devoted to transport (or transport has a smaller footprint as in the pplmover and monorail), more space should be devoted to green. More grass and stream, less concrete.

Ooh, you know what would totally rock? A walkway of clear plexiglass over some fantastic type of stream, perhaps one with glass pebbles and little fish. Something very crystalline and future-y (eg: otherworldly like sci-fi)

I'm getting SUCH a Logan's Run vibe! Maybe Rocket Tower should have the huge silver hand with the flashing red Timeclock... Hmmm, they had something like a peoplemover there. Though I wouldn't want Innoventions to become THAT kind of Carousel!

Of course, that's part of the problem too. There was a point right around Kubrick's "2001" where the future became scary. EVERYthing was cement. Sterile white, or institutional gray. It really did become a City of Domes kinda thing where people shriek and yell, "I hate outside!"

I wonder how structurally sound it would be to create rooftop greenbelts. OR... one of my favorite ideas, the sand gardens of Epcot's "Living with the Land."

Maybe that's the theme to counteract the doom and gloom futre... "PreservingTomorrow Land"

hazlnut
12-11-2003, 03:19 PM
This, unfortunately, could be the one sci-fi movie that will ultimately be called prophetic.

http://www.thedayaftertomorrow.com/

New Attractions/Themes for Tomorrowland:

The Global Warming Cafe.
A giant walk-though tanning bed.
No-Ozone Mountain.

Something along those lines...

ModHatter
12-11-2003, 04:14 PM
Originally posted by hazlnut
This, unfortunately, could be the one sci-fi movie that will ultimately be called prophetic.

http://www.thedayaftertomorrow.com/


Oh wow... I got super excited seeing that... until the part about "from the director of Independence Day."

But let's ponder this a second... I saw on some rumor site or something that there would possibly BE an Armageddon attraction in Tomorrowland... Do we honestly want this??? Or, more importantly... don't we already have this? Tomorrowland is a ghost town, symbolized by empty tracks in the sky and things floating to the top of a gunky lagoon.

Talk about scorched earth.

hazlnut
12-11-2003, 04:26 PM
Originally posted by ModHatter
But let's ponder this a second... I saw on some rumor site or something that there would possibly BE an Armageddon attraction in Tomorrowland... Do we honestly want this??? Or, more importantly... don't we already have this? Tomorrowland is a ghost town, symbolized by empty tracks in the sky and things floating to the top of a gunky lagoon.

Talk about scorched earth.

LOL!! That's brilliant. :D

3894
12-11-2003, 04:30 PM
The submarines belong in Tomorrowland. They can be rethemed to a saving-the-reefs (etc.) theme. The world of tomorrow will be very concerned with environmental destruction and reclamation.