For three weeks now,
photos of a mysterious bankers box have been making the rounds on the Web. Brad
Bird and Damon Lindelof reportedly deliberately put these images out there to
help whet people's appetites for "Tomorrowland," the sci-fi -themed
project that these two wrote which is based on a concept that Lindelof and
"Entertainment Weekly" writer Jeff Jensen originally came up with.
"So what's this motion picture actually supposed to be
about?," you ask. Well, as Matthew Jackson recounted in his October 2012 article for
Blastr, "Tomorrowland" 's origin can be traced back to ...
... a 2011 meeting between Lindelof and Disney exec Sean Bailey.
During that meeting, Bailey apparently brought out a box dating back to the
days of WED Enterprises, Walt Disney's personal development lab that later gave
birth to Disney's "Imagineers." The box was originally labeled
"That Darn Cat
," but had been relabeled "1952." Inside were
materials related to some long since abandoned Disney project (maybe a movie,
maybe a ride) about aliens.
Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved
Earlier this week over on the D23 website, Walt Disney
Archives director Becky Cline took a closer look at that photograph of the
contents of this box which Brad & Damon had put out there. And she then
identified several specific items which I've highlighted below:
So let's review those clues again. We have a picture of Walt
Disney meeting with a senior U.S. military official. We have a blue book. We have a
science fiction magazine entitled "Amazing Stories." And we have a
mystery box with a "1952" label stuck on its side that's filled with
photographs & recordings from the late 1940s / early 1950s.
To borrow a phrase that's heard most every night on
"Wheel of Fortune," "I'd like to solve the puzzle, Pat."
Based on the evidence in this photograph as well as info that has previously
leaked out about this Brad Bird / Damon Lindelof project, I believe that
"Tomorrowland" has something to do with Project Blue Book, the program that the U.S. Air Force launched in late 1952 / early 1953 for the investigation of unidentified flying objects.
And to now get really, really specific here, I believe that
this upcoming Walt Disney Pictures release (which is due to hit theaters on
December 19, 2014) uses a behind-the-scenes story that the late Ward
Kimball loved to tell as its jumping-off point. Where -- during the mid-1950s
-- the U.S.
government supposedly approached Walt Disney and then asked for his help in
producing a TV show that would eventually be used to break the news to the
American public that UFOS are real.
Which -- I know -- sounds kind of bizarre. But you have to
remember that -- back during World War II -- Walt Disney Studios made all sorts
of training films for the U.S.
military. And many of these movies made use of classified
material. And given the care & discretion that Disney staffers had shown
while working on these super-secret training films ... Well, it would only
stand to reason that -- were military officials looking for someone in
Hollywood to help produce a television program of a highly sensitive nature
which would then have to be shot in utter secrecy ... Given that the brass at
the Pentagon already had this history / working relationship with Walt, it would only make
sense that they'd reach out to Walt Disney Productions when it came to a
super-secret project like this.
I know, I know. This all sounds rather far fetched. But you
have to understand -- when it comes to the really-for-real history of The Walt
Disney Company during the mid-1950s -- truth is often stranger than fiction.
Take -- for example -- the stories that Ward Kimball used to tell about his
interaction with senior military officials while he was working on those
"Man in Space" episodes
for the "Disneyland"
FYI: If you'd like to read an exact transcript of this
UFO-related, you can find it in Volume 11
"Walt's People." Which
is Didier Ghez's excellent series of books which has made hundreds of rare
interviews with Disney Legends available to the general public to read.
Anyway ... The interview that we're talking about today was
done by noted animation historian John Canemaker. And as Ward was talking with
John, Kimball recalled the time when he was working with German-American rocket
scientist Wernher von Braun on three space travel-themed episodes of the "Disneyland"
television series. Which -- just to re-enforce the connective tissue here
between the way-out story that Ward loved to tell and the film that Brad &
Damon are now making -- that trio of episodes (i.e. "Man in Space,"
"Man and the Moon" and "Mars and Beyond") -- were initially
presented to the public under that TV show's "Tomorrowland" banner.
Copyright 2012 Xlibris Corp. All rights reserved
When "Man in Space" -- the first of these
Tomorrowland inspired episodes -- aired on ABC back in March of 1955, it racked
up enormous ratings. Over 42 million people tuned in to watch this speculative documentary about how man might
eventually travel into space. In fact, to hear some members of the Eisenhower
administration talk, this particular episode of the "Disneyland"
television show actually played a key role in America's
decision to finally enter the space race.
Anywho ... Getting back now to those ridiculously high ratings that the initial airing of
"Man in Space" racked up. As Kimball
recounted to Canemaker, this ...
... did not go unnoticed by Al Meyers and (Edward)
Heinemann, two big shots in Douglas Aircraft, plus George Hoover, who was head
of the office of naval research. (They) came to me and wanted Disney to do a UFO
Ward Kimball introducing the "Man in Space" episode of the "Disneyland" TV show. Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved
(These three) all knew that UFOs were for real. They had
proof, they had everything. And I said, "Sure." I'd been collecting
material on UFOs for years anyway, and I had a cupboard full of stuff there.
Every report and all the books, you name it. I was a student of Charles Fort,
and that was my dream to end the ("Disneyland"
television series of outer space documentaries) with (a fourth film about
Walt sort of went along with it. But we never had any payoff
footage. You've got to end up that last ten minutes with some real stuff.
Our disappointment came when we talked to Colonel Miranda
from the Wright-Patterson [Air Force Base]. Bill Bosché (i.e. the writer that
Walt had assigned to work with Ward on these outer space documentaries for the
"Disneyland" television series) never believed in UFOs even though
Clyde Tombaugh, the guy that discovered the planet Pluto, had seen four or five
in Arizona ...
The commissary at Walt Disney Studios in the late 1940s / early 1950s. Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved
So we're having lunch with this Colonel Miranda over in the
commissary, and he, at Wright-Patterson, had all the footage shot from fighter
pilots, everything, and most of it classified. He told us what we could have
for our picture and what we couldn't have.
And so Bosché ... He gets a smile on his face and he says,
"What about flying saucers? I don't suppose you have anything on
that?" (And then Miranda replies by
saying) "Oh, hundreds of feet!" (And) Old Bosché looked like he'd
(The Colonel continues by saying) "We've got all sorts
of film that we can't show you, it's secret, and it's going to remain
classified until we can take one apart and analyze it."
File photograph from one of Project Blue Book's public meetings
And he [Bosché] says, "Well, how come?" And that's
when (Miranda) taught us our lesson, he says, "Look! Everyone would ask
the Air Force, 'What are these things?' And if we couldn't answer that
question, we would be in trouble. We could have a war start. They would accuse
the Russians of doing it, they're ahead of us." He went through a whole
line of reasons why this couldn't be divulged.
(Which was endlessly frustrating for Kimball. Especially since
the Colonel then went on to say that)
"We have shots (of UFOS) taken from gun cameras, we have beautiful
footage. We've got 'em all shapes and size, port holes, lights ... (But) We don't know what they are yet. Until
we can dissect (one), and give a reasonable explanation without our society
coming unglued, we can't. It's going to remain classified."
Which kind of drove Kimball nuts. Given that Ward had
already done a lot of the research necessary for this proposed fourth outer space
documentary for the "Disneyland" TV
series. As Kimball recalled to
Do these Egyptian hieroglyphics depict unidentified flying objects?
And I had everything up to the last ten minutes (of that
show) ... We had these drawings that people have made (of) the spaceships that had passed for a good
part of a day over the Egyptian army in Egypt in 2000 B.C. They described the
stench and the fumes, the whole thing; it was even done in hieroglyphics. We
wanted to bring that to life (through animation). Great thing, you know.
Pictorially, it (would have been) a wonderful
thing to do.
But without the last 10 minutes of that show, which was to
have featured the Air Force's footage proving that UFOs were in fact real ...
This proposed fourth installment of the outer space documentary series just had
So what if the contents of this "1952" box that
we've all seen around the Web over the past three weeks was all of that
research material which Ward supposedly pulled together for this never-produced
fourth "Man in Space" episode? And what if someone working at Walt
Disney Studios today were to have suddenly come across this stuff? A box full
of slides & recordings which proved that the Company had, back in the 1950s, almost made a television show that would have proven to the American people that
UFOs are real? Wouldn't that be a great MacGuffin to build a motion picture
"Tomorrowland" writer / producer Damon Lindelof
There's only one problem with this theory. Given the numerous questions that Damon
Lindelof had been getting about the mysterious contents of this
"1952" box and what they all might possibly mean, he took to Twitter
back on January 28th to say:
[Brad and I] won't tell you what [our movie is] about (yet),
but we will tell you what it's NOT about. And that would be ALIENS.
Of course, if "Tomorrowland" does in fact touch on
the history of Project Blue Book (i.e. that investigative group which
the U.S. Air Force set up in early 1953 after UFOs had repeatedly been seen in the night sky over Washington DC during the Summer of 1952), wouldn't it stand to reason that -- were Damon looking
to throw would-be cinema sleuths off the scent here -- Lindelof would then channel his inner Air Force
Officer and, in the spirit of Project Blue Book, insist that
"Tomorrowland" had absolutely nothing to do with aliens?
Cover of an actual Project Blue Book report
That said, to give Damon some plausible deniability to this
scenario, please note that -- in his posting on Twitter -- Lindelof said that
"Tomorrowland" is not about ALIENS. At no time does Damon say that
this December 2014 Walt Disney Pictures release isn't investigating the
possible existence of unidentified flying objects.
Okay. That's a fine distinction to make. But it is worth
It's also worth noting here that -- right after he graduated
from the California Institute of the Arts -- Brad Bird's very first job in
animation was at Walt Disney Studios. Where Brad worked (albeit briefly) on
WDAS's 1981 release, "The Fox and the Hound
Brad Bird behind the camera onset for "Mission: Impossible -- GhostProtocol." Copyright 2011 Paramount Pictures. All rights reserved
And given what Walt Disney Productions was like back during
those pre-Michael Eisner days (i.e. a smallish movie studio whose best years
really seemed to be behind it. A sleepy collection of 1940s-era administrative
buildings & soundstages hidden behind high walls in the quiet corner of
Burbank) ... It's not all hard to imagine that a young Brad Bird might have spent
a lot of his free time wandering the halls of Walt Disney Animation Studios.
Maybe opening a few closets and coming across a couple of bankers boxes just like the one that he & Damon Tweeted pictures
of back in late January.
More to the point, Brad did actually know Ward. In the
foreword that Bird wrote for Amid Amidi's yet-to-be-released biography of
Kimball, "Full Steam Ahead: The Life and Art of Ward Kimball" (Chronicle
Books, Summer 2013), he mentions that ...
Over the years I saw Kimball at various events and talked to
him many times ...
Copyright 2013 Chronicles Books. All rights reserved
So who knows? Maybe Ward himself told Brad about Disney's
never-produced "UFOs are real" television show? And maybe Bird then
shared this story with Lindelof?
Either way, given the specific items that Walt Disney
Archives director Becky Cline spotted in that bankers box as well as that Sean
Bailey / long lost WED box story that Matthew Jackson shared with Blastr readers back in October of last year,
I'm thinking that -- at this point -- the evidence at hand strongly suggests that this
soon-to-begin-shooting George Clooney movie is going to be using this seemingly
forgotten, fantastic piece of Walt Disney Company history as the jumping-off
point for a brand-new sci-fi adventure.
Of course, your mileage may vary. But what do you folks
think? Have I properly interpreted the clues that Damon & Brad have placed
before us? Or do you have a theory of your own what "1952 /
Tomorrowland" might be about?
My interest is restored for this film, I was fearing it was going to be another advertisement for Disneyland.
I think it is pretty well known that George Clooney will be playing Nikola Tesla and that he wil be helping the G-men looking for E.T. on earth/outer space. I think that the discovery of alien radio signals is what spurs the space race, according to this film.
I LOVE the fact that Brad Bird is involved. Everything he touches turns to gold and it's just a shame that he wasn't picked to do Star Wars 7 instead of JJ Abrams.
I HATE that Damon Lindelof is involved. Couldn't stand Lost and absolutely hate how he ruined Prometheus.
Casting Calls: Adding to the mystery?
Hey, amazing article ! one quick thing tho, you said that maybe Ward shared the story with Brad then Brad shared it with Damon. But, it has been stated in interviews and different articles that Damon is the one that approached Brad with this project after it was already in the early stages at Disney, not the other way around.
Jeff might be on something and could have find a big clue... Indeed if the photos with Walt Disney are just photoshop montages, the persons he's supposed to be hanging with should be big clues about the film... Amelia Earhart would confirm something about aircraft...
I'm convinced this is the 4th TV special, the one proving that UFOs are real. It just took them 40 more years to make it and it's masquerading as an ad for a ride. It showed on only a handful of local TV stations without any notice before disappearing, only resurfacing a few years ago. It is rumored to have one clip of the promised Air Force UFO footage that had been promised to Disney (as well as other filmmakers in later decades) in the 1950s.