1.11.2019

On December 3, 2018, Tomorrowland producer John Walker was a guest on The Tomorrow Society Podcast. He offered his perspective on tackling the film's difficult story, and its many iterations:
"It was tough. We struggled with it. In the original version, we didn't meet Frank Walker until deep into the second act. So, George didn't even appear until pretty deep into the film. That didn't seem to work. We were trying to figure out how to get him, and his younger self, and Britt, and everybody setup at the beginning. It got a little clunky. I don't think we solved that completely. 
It would be fun to go back and try to recut it a little bit, more the way we wanted it. We also had this huge animated sequence that played while young Frank was in the boat going to Tomorrowland, and we had to cut all of that too." 
When asked why he thinks the film didn't get the success it deserved:
"I don't think we solved it ourselves. There were things we wanted to change, and we didn't really have time to do it. We didn't succeed as much as we wanted to. I also think that part of it is that it's not a cynically movie. It kinda wears its heart on its sleeve. It's an easy target. I think a lot of people would rather have edgier, darker visions of the future than ours was. 
And I think we made the mistake of being too coy in the marketing. We didn't want to reveal a lot about it, so we were kinda secretive about what the movie was about, and I think we gave the impression that it had some huge twist. That is was like The Crying Game or something. That if you gave it away, you'd ruin the movie. And there wasn't anything like that in the film, it was just that we wanted it to be a surprise for folks ... 
... I think that was a mistake on our part. And I don't think we realized at the time. We were just like, 'we think movie's in general show too much in the trailers', we just want everybody to open their Christmas presents on Christmas. I think that got conflated with this idea that there's this big, big surprise in the film that will be ruined if we give too much away. That was never our intent, but I think it may have been perceived that way."
He ends on a hopeful note:
Who knows? Maybe Tomorrowland will have a life like The Iron Giant. It just keeps rolling along.
When considering Walker's comments on "the way we wanted it" coupled with editor Walter Murch's "shoot the chicken to scare the monkey" firing from the film, a picture is painted of a struggle not only with the creative challenges of the film itself, as director Brad Bird described in our interview with him, but also with the studio powers-that-be. Despite Bird's previous insistence that the theatrical release is his director's cut, there may still be interest in alternate versions of the film. (Even if only as an educational curiosity, in the vein of the Blade Runner Workprint.)

As it sits completed on a hard drive collecting dust, Perhaps The Tomorrowland That Never Was could one day make its way to Disney's forthcoming streaming service.


It is also interesting to note that Walker's justification for the controversial "bookends" added to the film during reshoots aligns with writer Damon Lindelof's explanation given in his interview for our anniversary commentary a few years back:
"You just cut out all the stuff that doesn't work, and see what's left. Then you try to identify other problems. To speak specifically to the idea of the bookends, Frank's voiceover, or George appearing at the very beginning -- there was a sense that the movie took too long to get to Frank Walker. By the time Casey got to him, it was sort of like, 'hey, George Clooney's on the poster, we saw him in the trailer', it's not like he's some mysterious reveal. And even Luke gets to Obi-Wan twenty minutes in. 
Even though the prologue features young Frank, we felt like we needed an injection of George very, very quickly. That was the thinking at first in terms of, 'lets start with this opening of him directly addressing the audience.'  
And the other issue was the stakes of the movie. It takes quite some time for Casey to reveal that not only did something happen in Tomorrowland, but what happened there, if it cannot be solved, will impact the fate of the world itself. We needed, right out of the gate, for somebody to say, 'this is what we're looking at.' We're looking at potential apocalypse. This is the state of the world that we live in now.  
It was probably not done in the most deft way. When you're dealing with reshoots or solving problems in the editing room, all the ideas that you had of nuance and trusting the audience, writing above the audience, and knowing that they're intelligent enough to basically get it, you start to doubt yourself, and you're just like, 'I need a character to basically say 'here's what the plot of the movie, and we'll get to me shortly, etc. etc.' That was the thinking behind the framing mechanism."

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