Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Tomorrowland Direction?

An excellent post can be found at Passport To Dreams titled "Futures With No Future, and it, and the resulting discussion, were, to me, quite interesting. The basic premise seems to be that Tomorrowland has lost most semblances of being about our future. Instead, it's been replaced with a "camp" version of the future, circa 1994.

In the interesting discussion that followed, someone suggested that because the future is "political", the public company known as Disney would have trouble endorsing a specific direction for that future. Whereas 30 or 40 years we perhaps looked to space for our future, now our future is consumed with worries about health care, about retirement, about security, and any number of other things. It's sort of turned inward.

We no longer have a national agenda for the "future", as we did many years ago, when Moonbases and space stations and Mars missions were on the docket. And we weren't just looking at robotic exploration of those things; we were looking at human involvement in those endeavors. Maybe we need one. Maybe we need one desperately!

Is Tomorrowland the right place for rendering such a vision? Is EPCOT's Future World? Well, why not? Millions of Americans go there to enjoy, be entertained, and just maybe be educated and inspired.

Maybe a better question would be: Does the Disney Corporation care enough about this? (Probable answer: Doubtful, except as it relates to increasing profits and share value.) But that's their problem, not ours.

In 1979, Isaac Asimov published a book called Extraterrestrial Civilizations. Some may remember Dr. Asimov as a science fiction author, the man who invented the Foundation universe, the man who invented the Three Laws of Robotics. Some may also remember him as probably the preeminent explainer of difficult scientific concepts. He wrote dozens of books with this as his goal. This book is one of those. (You can check it out here on Amazon if you would like to.)

In this book, Dr. Asimov suggests as a possible path toward exploration of our Galaxy the creation of space settlements, as detailed by American physicist Gerard K. O'Neill. Asimov suggests that hese settlements could be huge - perhaps holding as many as 10 million people. Moreover, Asimov suggests that these settlements could be set free from their tethers to Earth and become self sustaining worlds which he compared to the Phoenicians, the Vikings and the Polynesians - explorers in a much vaster sea than any previously explored. (Asimov postulates the development of hydrogen fusion reactors at some point in the future.)

Would this be an interesting concept to build a Tomorrowland around? You step into a floating colony that is meandering around a Galaxy that is just full of adventure and surprises. Virtually anything futuristic or alien would fit, and the theme would be positive enough, and far enough in the future, to be depoliticized (is that a word?) and fit with the Disney image. What if each attraction were a different floating colony in a different part of the Galaxy, or Universe? One could be near a black hole, one could encounter alien life, one could stumble into an interstellar war, etc, etc. The only boundaries would be the Imagineers' imagination as to what's possible.

I think something like this would be better for Tomorrowland than for EPCOT Future World just because it's quite a ways in the future no matter what - but it's a possible and plausible future. And who knows if a child will be inspired to be a space engineer and begin working on something like this? Or if the president of the future remembers this experience fondly and decides to listen to the futurists in his own time?

I don't know if anyone's reading, but I'd be interested in hearing what others think of this idea.


Future Guy said...

That's an incredible idea. Very Walt-esque. It'd break Disney's budget, but it would be awesome. Of course, since the Magic Kingdom is Licensed Disney Character Land, I can't imagine the suits would add anything to Tommorowland that wasn't built around a Disney film or character.

You know, a Space pavilion was always planned for EPCOT's Future World (the idea was never really fleshed out, I don't believe) and had the same Imagineering spirit that created Future World prevailed until today, Mission:SPACE might have focused on the future human habitation of space. And speaking of O'Neill, the space habitats in Horizons space scenes look something like Bernal spheres, don't you think?

Scott said...

They do, now that you mention it. I can't imagine the powers that be doing anything like this with Tomorrowland either, but I thought it sounded like a concept that Walt may have embraced...

The more I think about it, the more I think it may fit into EPCOT's Future World, but I liked the idea of basing the whole "land" on the idea...

Thanks for reading and commenting.