Any large corporation is overly concerned with how it looks, often to the point of myopia. This is why “environmentally friendly” chainsaws exist. But no company did it first, or does it more extremely, than the Walt Disney Company, and Tomorrowland is a key example.
There is no company that more ruthlessly or efficiently defends its image as a place of magic, joy, and wonder than Disney. Walt is always a loveable man full of joy and kindness. Disney is where your dreams come true. The truth, both about Walt, and about the company, is of course very different. People aren’t perfect and groups of people even less so. But Disney has this odd, institutional need to make Walt look good, no matter what. To the point that Tomorrowland is actually arguing that we should have let Walt Disney build a nightmarish fascist dystopia.
Tomorrowland itself is very similar in many respects to the Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow. Yes, EPCOT. Before it was a giant golf ball you could get drunk in, EPCOT was essentially going to be Walt Disney’s vision of Utopia. He’d apply everything he’d learned about building theme parks to construct, essentially, what cities should be, to his mind. And what cities needed was to be under the thumb of Walt Disney.
EPCOT was going to be a place where you couldn’t vote on municipal matters, where you couldn’t own land, where you were watched constantly, and where you could only live if you had a job in the city. Your home could be modified at a moment’s notice. He even got the land to try this through a series of shady deals. If you want a taste of just how that would actually have worked out, it’s quite similar to how Disney runs its parks, which most notoriously fought to keep employees from cleaning the company issue underwear. The only thing that stalled this plan was Disney dying before he could see it through.
And we’ve now got a movie talking up how great that idea was, and all the most intelligent people in the world thought that was a great idea, too! Stop and think how insane this is for a minute. Disney doesn’t just want you to be rooting for its founder’s worst idea, it wants to you pay twelve bucks to learn why you should do so.
Is this accidental? Perhaps. But consider that this is the same studio that put out Saving Mr. Banks, a movie about the making of Mary Poppins and how Walt Disney served as the magical dream pixie studio head who taught a stuck-up British lady about joy and magic. Disney threw Tom Hanks, Emma Thompson, and $35 million to adapt a DVD extra, and had the chutzpah to insist was the best movie of the year.
EPCOT as Walt imagined it will never be built, but it’s more than a little disturbing to see a movie where they argue the only thing wrong with the idea is cynical people. One hopes that Disney won’t actually consider building this city. Really, the town they built and more or less completely control is enough.