Riddles wrapped in mysteries wrapped in enigmas: welcome to an elusive edition of BAM! POW! ZAP! in which we get hints, glimpses and teases about a couple of secrecy-surrounded projects in the Hollywood genre-sphere: Star Wars: Episode VII and Tomorrowland
The Force Is Strong in Him
While promoting Bad Robot’s new sci-fi series Almost Human on ABC, writer-producer-director J.J. Abrams offered a bit of backstory on the recent changing of the writing guard on his next directorial effort, the supersecret, as-yet-untitled Star Wars: Episode VII that just got a release date announced of December 18, 2015.
The project’s initial screenwriter Michael Arndt (Little Miss Sunshine, Toy Story 3) recently departed the project. Taking the lightsaber from him is Lawrence Kasdan, legendary for his work with George Lucas on The Empire Strikes Back, Return of the Jedi and Raiders of the Lost Ark, as well his own Body Heat, The Big Chill and The Accidental Tourist.
“Given the time frame and given the process, the way the thing was going, it became clear that working with Larry in this way was going to get us where we needed to be and when we needed to be,” adds Abrams. “And that doesn’t preclude working with Michael again in the future, and I couldn’t say enough good things about him. He’s really, obviously, one of the smartest guys and one of the best writers around.”
A "Mystery Box" Inspired Tomorrowland?
Damon Lindelof is a vocal proponent of Abrams’ famed “mystery box” school of TV and filmmaking (maintaining the promise of infinite possibilities by closely guarding story secrets until the moment they have to unfold). Now we’re to believe that he found a real-life mystery box in Disney’s Imagineering archive? A mystery box with contents so compelling that he built an entire screenplay around it, Tomorrowland, to be directed by Brad Bird and starring George Clooney?
“I didn't find the box – I almost feel like the box was magnetized to me,” says Lindelof, who explains that Disney studio exec Sean Bailey showed him the box in 2011.
One day over lunch Lindelof had suggested to Bailey a movie called Tomorrowland, named for Disneyland’s most futuristic division. With the looming 50th anniversary of the 1964 World’s Fair in New York, which centered on optimistic future ideals, Lindelof thought the timing might be right to resurrect forward-thinking utopian enthusiasm. “And Sean said 'The '64 World's Fair? I need to show you something.'”
A week later, Lindelof claims to have found himself donning protective gloves and sifting through the contents of the enigmatic box in Bailey’s office. Bearing the title of the 1965 Disney comedy That Darn Cat!, which had been crossed out and replaced with a handwritten “1952,” the black cardboard box was left unattended in studio founder Walt Disney’s personal development laboratory under the Burbank studio’s Old Animation Building for decades.
Inside were items including black-and-white photos of Disney himself (including one with aviatrix Amelia Earhart dated after her death – an obvious fake, but the reasons for its existence still tantalizingly obtuse), a 45 record, concept art, props, memos, an August 1928 edition of Amazing Stories magazine, a LaserDisc, and a scratchy film predicting cataclysmic outcomes from corrupt usage of new technologies.
“I was completely and totally into it – I don't know if the box is a bunch of props from some sort of discarded Imagineering product, or whether there's some authentic stuff in there,” says Lindelof, who adds the contents inspired him to create the concepts and characters that ultimately comprise Tomorrowland.
“There's stuff in it from as early as the late 1920s and as late as the early 1980s, so it basically spans this 50-year period in the 20th century,” he says. “1952 was sort of the birth of Imagineering, and the box obviously has links to Imagineering – the history, the undercurrent, the backstory of the movie, if you will, is tied to Imagineering.”
So what do you say… is your curiosity piqued? Tomorrowland opens December 19, 2014.
MORE FROM AROUND THE WEB: