Wednesday, May 20, 2015

It's a Great Big Unexceptional 'Tomorrowland'

By Tim Callaway

Casey (Britt Robertson) marvels at flying jetpacks
in Tomorrowland.
With the possible exception of Saving Mr. Banks, there's not a Disney film in recent memory that fans have rooted for more than Brad Bird's Tomorrowland. Even those with the most rudimentary knowledge of Disney history have been struck giddy with the prospect of seeing the 1964-65 New York World's Fair recreated on screen and the unapologetic optimism of Walt Disney captured for the world to see. This is the movie that was destined to take Walt's vision of the future and weave it into a sci-fi flight of fantasy that restores our faith in humanity.

That's a mighty tall order, even for a director as capable as Brad Bird. And despite his most earnest efforts, he doesn't quite pull it off. Tomorrowland has moments of wide-eyed exhilaration and unwavering optimism, but it's also talky, preachy and, by story's end, a bit of a muddle.

Casey (Britt Robertson) is a forward-thinking young woman who refuses to accept that the troubles of modern society like war, terrorism and climate change are totally without solutions. She asks "Why?" and "Why not?" questions of her teachers, who are so entrenched in the doom and gloom of 24-hour news streams that they can't bother to acknowledge Casey's idealistic challenges. Even her father (Tim McGraw), a NASA engineer on the verge of being laid off, thinks his daughter is foolish to try to postpone life's inevitabilities, which Casey attempts to do by sabotaging abandoned launchpads at Cape Canaveral in an effort to sustain her dad's tenuous job security.

Frank (George Clooney) and Casey in Tomorrowland.
Casey's life changes suddenly when she comes into the possession of a pin that magically transports her to Tomorrowland, a futuristic place where all of mankind's best ideas have been brought together. It's a glistening, otherworldly city jam-packed with jetpacks, flying cars and ethnically diverse citizens happily looking forward to the next great adventure. But is it real? And how exactly did Casey get there? Why did she end up with a magic pin? Even more important, after returning to the present day and time, how can she get back to Tomorrowland again?

The answers may lie with two people: Athena (Raffey Cassidy), a mysterious, wiser-than-her-years girl who has a knack for spotting optimistic types like Casey, and Frank (George Clooney), a jaded technical genius who, as a boy, knew the wonders of Tomorrowland but was ultimately betrayed by them. Together, Casey, Athena and Frank embark on an adventure full of teleportation, rocket flights and killer robots--because not everyone wants the trio to find Tomorrowland and fix the future.

George Clooney and Hugh Laurie in Tomorrowland.
Bird, who also co-wrote the screenplay with Damon Lindelof, set out to tell a story that was markedly different from the dystopian sci-fi tales that have become the norm in Hollywood since Blade Runner. The pervasive theme in Tomorrowland is yeah, the world is pretty screwed up, but we really have the power to change that if we just stay positive and work towards a better future. It's a refreshing a point. Early on, Bird revels in showing us how exciting the future can be. Heck, he opens the movie with a flashback to the World's Fair (exquisitely realized) where Walt Disney held court with no less than four attractions. It was a time when the future looked brighter and young Frank (Thomas Robinson) is in the thick of it, showing off a jetpack of his own design. Circumstances will soon lead him to Tomorrowland (who knew there was a secret portal beneath it's a small world?).  After that, for the majority of the film, Bird keeps the action moving at a spirited pace. But, then the movie bogs down in the final twenty minutes as the characters start speechifying about self-fulfilling prophecies and controlling our destinies (to his credit, Hugh Laurie does the best here as a dour scientific-type who has his own secrets about Tomorrowland). We're left with an ending that feels more forced than uplifting and more manipulative than inspiring.

Just as the future isn't what it used to be, Tomorrowland isn't as good as it could have been.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Inside The Mouse Castle 05-18-2015 - 24 Hours of Disneyland and the Coolest Summer Ever at Walt Disney World

By Tim Callaway

Tinker Bell paints the night at Disneyland
Tinker Bell paints the night.
Team Mouse Castle is going to the Disneyland Resort this Friday for 24 hours of Diamond Celebration fun. Want to join us?

I'll be hitting Disneyland and Disney California Adventure from 6:00 a.m. on May 22nd straight through until 6:00 a.m. on May 23rd...or until I have a psychotic episode. I'll have plenty of friends with me as we battle crowds and exhaustion on our way to get a first look at the Paint the Night parade, Disneyland Forever fireworks and the new World of Color show, Celebrate! The Wonderful World of Walt Disney.

We may even record a podcast episode. Anything is possible.

In today's Inside The Mouse Castle, Anthony and I preview Friday's Diamond Celebration at Disneyland and the Coolest Summer Ever kickoff at Walt Disney World. We also take on these magical subjects:
  • Remember Jock Lindsey, Indiana Jones' snake-loving pilot pal in Raiders of the Lost Ark? It appears Jock is getting a bar named after him at Walt Disney World's Downtown Disney. Jock Lindsey's Hangar Bar will open sometime this fall. 
  • On the Disney Parks Blog, they also announced these shops and restaurants will be joining the Disney Springs expansion sometime between now and 2016:

    Tommy Bahama
    Lilly Pulitzer
    L’Occitaine en Provence
    Edward Beiner

    Blaze Pizza
    Vivoli Gelateria
    Tea Traders by Joffrey’s Tea
  • I attended a preview screening of Brad Bird's Tomorrowland to benefit the Walt Disney Family Museum last week. My full review is coming, but let's just say that for all of the film's good intentions, it's not as great as it aspires to be.
Disneyland ticket #1 will be on display at the 2015 D23 Expo.
  • This August, sixty years of Disneyland history will be celebrated at the D23 Expo. Disneyland: The Exhibit will contain 12,000 square feet of attraction, parade and entertainment history from the Happiest Place on Earth.
  • Screenwriter Stephany Folsom is working on a script for a different kind of Disney princess movie, The Princess of North Sudan. It's based on a strange true story about an American father who claimed control of a disputed piece of land in North Africa so his young daughter could be a real live princess. We're not sure what to make of this exactly.
By the way, if you're looking for a couple of helpful resources for the Disneyland 24-hour party on Friday, this is where to start:


Listen and subscribe to Inside The Mouse Castle on iTunesStitcher and SoundCloud.

Friday, May 15, 2015

The Mouse Castle Lounge 05-15-2015 - Saving Walt's Garage with Bob Bowman

By Tim Callaway

Walt Disney's Garage
Walt Disney's Garage
At the Stanley Ranch Museum and Historical Village in Garden Grove, California, there is a small garage where Walt Disney humbly began what would become his first animation studio in California. How the garage was relocated there from the North Hollywood property once owned by Walt’s Uncle Robert is the subject of Arthur Adler’s book Walt Disney’s Garage of Dreams. It recounts not only the history of the structure, but also Art’s determined efforts--with a group of sometimes unwilling partners--to honor Walt’s legacy and save the garage for Disney enthusiasts everywhere.

Sadly, Arthur Adler, himself a former Disney employee and a lifetime Disney enthusiast, passed away last year at the age of 82, but not before becoming close friends with the retired vice president of merchandising with Walt Disney Attractions, Bob Bowman. Bob spent 25 years at Disney and wrote the Foreward for Art’s book. Bob also contributed a chapter detailing his own experiences with the Mouse. In the Lounge today, Bob talks about his friendship with Art, his own long career with Disney, and the passion of one man to preserve a seminal piece of Disney history. Bob Bowman is my guest today in The Mouse Castle Lounge.