Toon Talk: Tomorrowland: Disney in Space and Beyond DVD
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Disney Film & Video Reviews by Kirby C. Holt
Tomorrowland: Disney in Space and Beyond
Back to the Future
When Walt Disney himself speaks this line in Our Friend the Atom, one of the Disneyland television episodes included in the latest Walt Disney Treasure DVD, Tomorrowland: Disney in Space and Beyond, you can sense his modesty as well as his deep respect for true men of science ... to the extent that he is practically apologizing that he, a mere storyteller, is presenting the topics at hand.
But anyone who has ever seen the programs included here can attest, no scientist or expert could have brought such subjects to life as well as Walt and his staff could. In fact, one can easily surmise that these films enlightened, educated and inspired viewers more so then any stiff lecturer ever did. And, of course, they entertained - that's where that storytelling part comes in.
As collected by Leonard Maltin, this two-disc set features four episodes from the Tomorrowland segment from the original Disneyland television program, one theatrical featurette, and the historical, rarely seen EPCOT film, as well as exclusive interviews and bonus features that all aspire toward one theme: Walt as futurist.
It is widely known that Walt was always fascinated by new technologies and ideas, so it is not surprising that he would so enthusiastically embrace the concepts of space travel as depicted here. And, as pointed out by Maltin, he was one of the few future-minded individuals of his time that did so with an optimistic view. This optimism is certainly apparent in these programs and, viewing them today, one can feel the excitement for such possibilities bristling just under the surface.
To bring these ideas to life for television, Walt chose one of his most brilliant animators, Ward Kimball, to write and direct the first three episodes (seen on disc one). Ward brought his inquisitive nature and quirky style to the projects, all of which follow the same basic format: a fanciful animated segment explores the history of the subject through the ages, followed by live action footage of an expert in the field explaining, in layman terms, such complex theories as space flight or atomic power, ending with a look into the near future to see how such ideas could actually work.
And work they did, for after watching them, President Dwight D. Eisenhower was so impressed, he fully supported America's fledgling space program. Alas, not a lot of the plans seen in these shows ever came to fruition, at least to the extent presented, which is a bit depressing. But with this Tomorrowland set one can see again how, at least back then, there truly was a "great big beautiful tomorrow shining at the end of every dayâ€?.