Brad Bird was asked to direct Star Wars, Episode VII. But he chose to bring Tomorrowland to life instead.
While the movie shares the name of the beloved area of Disney's theme parks, Brad Bird and Damon Lindelof both see Tomorrowland as an original film, something Hollywood studios are making less and less these days. Bird claims the idea of bringing this original vision to the screen, which already had George Clooney attached and was in location scouting mode, was the main reason he turned down Star Wars. And no, Bird and Lindelof did not add a Space Mountain action set piece to the film (although the signature ride does appear in the skyline of Tomorrowland in the film).
Bird and Lindelof sat down with Talks at Google for a full hour to describe their process for writing and creating Tomorrowland. You can check out the video below. If you don't have time to watch right now, you can read some highlights I gleaned just below the video.
Around the 13:59 mark, Lindelof talks about the struggle he and Bird had finding the balance between telling the story with no explanation and offering too much explanation that would bring the movie to a halt. As Lindelof points out, both he and Bird felt they had achieved the proper balance on the page when they finished the script, but once they were in the editing room, they understood that the balance was out of whack. Lindelof notes that you need some explanation for the audience, "but then there's a line that you cross, and it's razor thin where you've suddenly explained too much."
Earlier, Bird explains that they originally planned to show more of George Clooney's character's backstory through a ride-like experience he had as a child, but the animation device they created to accomplish this goal stopped the movie in its tracks. So, they had to take the animated sequence out of the film to serve the momentum of the story. Bird recently shared that animated concept film, titled "The Origins of Plus Ultra", on YouTube, which you can watch below:
Video is no longer available: www.youtube.com/watch?v=w-USh0Womb4
Perhaps the most important point Bird and Lindelof make for filmmakers ties into one of the themes of Tomorrowland, which is the characters in the film can't wait for someone else to create what they want to see and have for tomorrow, they have to do it themselves. The two filmmakers go on to talk about how they needed to stop complaining about the dearth of original movies coming out of the studio system and make an original movie themselves.
The key takeaway for all of us filmmakers is to remember that no one is going to make your movie for you. You have to make your own success, and that means finding a way to make your movie in spite of all of the obstacles in your way. As Bird keeps saying throughout the conversation, nobody wanted to make the original Star Wars, and George Lucas had to fight the entire way to get it done.
What is your vision for your own personal Tomorrowland in regards to writing and creating your own film?