Tomorrowland Panel

by: Anthony Zangrillo


As mentioned previously, Disney gave away a ton of promotional items during their opening day panel. Disney placed a limited edition pin and a book preview of the tie-in-novel from the upcoming Tomorrowland film underneath every attendee’s seat.


As Big Hero 6’s panel finished, Chris Hardwick (Nerdist) introduced Brad Bird (Director and Producer) and Damon Lindelof (Writer and Producer) to begin the Tomorrowland panel. Everyone eagerly anticipated the most comprehensive discussion of the plot surrounding this mysterious film. The creative team finally explained the image of an old briefcase released months ago. Lindelof and Bird admit that it was really fun to look through all of this material, created by past imagineers. The secrets of a lost Tomorrowland provided a lot of inspiration to begin the project. The writing team always wanted to use this asset, but Bird helped the team refine their vision.


A poster showcasing the logo image lit up the stage’s screens. It utilized the tagline: “Imagine a place, where nothing is impossible.” It is announced that the audience will be treated to a teaser trailer that has never been shown before. The crowd erupted, knowing that they would be the first audience in the world to see the footage.


In the trailer, attendees discovered that the pin everyone received is actually crucial to the plot of the movie. In fact, the pin could be interpreted as a portal to the mysterious world of Tomorrowland. Clooney performs a voiceover towards the middle of the trailer. At one point, Clooney ask the protagonist (and possibly the audience) if they want to go to Tomorrowland.


The trailer truly showcased Bird’s impeccable direction. The beginning of the teaser definitely caught the live audience off-guard. The jarring juxtaposition of two radically different sceneries, with little build-up, creates a shock effect, which had a tremendous effect on engaging audiences. Bird really loves these mysterious landscape shots. The fact that this movie is being released in May and that there is so little information around the plot brings back the joy of the old cinema world. Unfortunately, trailers and burdensome marketing campaigns often spoil modern films (ie: Amazing Spiderman 2). The small glimpses of this dynamic world show that Bird is not holding anything back in his interpretation of this glorious city.


It seems that the central theme of the plot will revolve around discovery, which I am sure will extend to our diverse characters’ inner discovery as well.  The rest of the cast walks on stage, including Hugh Laurie, Britt Robertson, and Raffey Cassidy. Hardwick pushes them for information, but most of the actors are struggling with not giving any plot details away.


Hardwick begins to joke with Hugh about the possibility of his character being evil. Hugh squashes these rumors and says that he’s a good character. Hugh explained that he became passionate about the role because of the way Bird described this unique attitude about a way of looking at the world. Hugh left the original casting meeting with no memory of the story, but was utterly blown away by the movie’s ambitious themes. Hugh remarked that he’s not easily uplifted, (because he’s English) yet he left the meeting “on wings of hope.”


Britt remained diligent in not giving away any spoilers. She actually let out something earlier in the press tour and got in trouble with Disney. All Britt will say is that someone recruits her character to explore Tomorrowland.


Suddenly, Hugh began a tirade against the film’s lead George Clooney. This speech prompted a surprise Clooney appearance. This was the first time Clooney had attended comic con. Clooney mentioned that he “loved” spending his honeymoon at Comic Con, and he sarcastically mentioned that he would give away all of the twists in the movie. Hardwick took a selfie with the cast, while Clooney gave one of his best grumpy man/confused looks. Hardwick praised Clooney’s excellent Bruce Wayne cosplay, which prompted Clooney to make fun of Batman and Robin. He mentioned that he apologized to Adam West for “Bat-nipples” and “Freeze!” Clooney referenced the irony of two of the best TV doctors performing in this movie. Clooney appears to be in top-form during the panel, even mentioning that he is a “big star,” so he brought his own clip to show the audience.


This clip showed the first meeting between Frank Walker (Clooney) and Casey Newton (Robertson). Walker didn’t seem interested in helping Newton find a way to return to Tomorrowland through the mysterious pin. When we were first introduced to Walker, the sunlight blocked most of the character’s face, teasing out Clooney’s full appearance. It could also have been a metaphor to the probable fall from grace Walker experienced in his past life in Tomorrowland.


Newton eventually tricked Walker and entered his base of operations. She uncovered many interesting inventions and a mysterious countdown timer. Her victory was short lived because a squad of android hunters swarms on Walker’s house. Luckily, Walker had booby-trapped his house, which allowed Bird to create a fun scene, resembling a high-tech version of Home Alone. The action was very exciting and tension-filled. Clooney used a barrage of unique weapons, including a taser-like pen, trap doorways (which lead to decapitations), a black hole hoop weapon, tiny red lasers, and a magnetic wall trap. When all of Walker’s traps fail, Newton is there to demolish a bot with a baseball bat.


By the end of the trailer, I had more questions than answers: Who are these mysterious robots, and why are they pursuing Walker? What is the timer counting down to?


Overall, this movie appears to be larger than life. Bird definitely has a vision, and he appears to be having a lot of fun creating these unique inventions.


Hardwick mentioned earlier in the panel, that the first 200 people to text “Tomorrowland” to the number on the back of the promotional pin win an exclusive piece of Syd Mead artwork autographed by Mead and Bird. I luckily won one of these limited pieces of concept designs.


The panel ended on the mickey mouse club theme song!






Anthony Zangrillo is the President and Owner of the Motion Picture Club. While an undergraduate student at NYU, he founded the Motion Picture Club. At the Fordham University School of Law, he was the Online Editor of the Fordham Intellectual Property, Media & Entertainment Law Journal and started the IPLJ Podcast, which continues recording to this day. You can find him on Instagram: @anthony_mpc.


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