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Does Brad Bird's 'Tomorrowland' Involve Nikola Tesla?

Photo of Kevin Jagernauth By Kevin Jagernauth | The Playlist September 26, 2013 at 11:00AM

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Nikola Tesla

Aside from Christopher Nolan's "Interstellar," there is no other film arriving in 2014 with as much mystery behind it as Brad Bird's "Tomorrowland." Penned by Damon Lindelof, the project stars George Clooney, Hugh Laurie, Britt Robertson, Raffey Cassidy and Thomas Robinson and has been given this official logline: "Bound by a shared destiny, a bright, optimistic teen bursting with scientific curiosity and a former boy-genius inventor jaded by disillusionment embark on a danger-filled mission to unearth the secrets of an enigmatic place somewhere in time and space that exists in their collective memory as Tomorrowland.” But that creates more questions than answers, and there have been no shortage of theories as to what the movie is really about.

Our own resident Disney aficionado, Drew Taylor, pondered over the summer if Clooney was "would actually be playing a version of Walt Disney," an idea bolstered by the D23 presentation of the movie which included a show floor exhibit that included an interactive booth featuring a variety of content, with an audio reel explaining each object's meaning to arcane Disney history. Well, get out your speculation hats, because another interesting nugget has emerged about the movie.

Matthew Inman, the man behind the excellent comic site The Oatmeal, has revealed that he was called in a few months back to consult with the filmmakers on "Tomorrowland." And while he admits he had to sign an NDA, he says they never talked specifically about the movie, but instead, the conversation focused on famed inventor and visionary Nikola Tesla. So why were they talking to Inman about Tesla? He's also the man behind the successful crowd-sourcing gig to help a non-profit group buy land that contained Tesla's former laboratory, and turn it into a science center. And in short, he's something of a Tesla nut. So what did Brad Bird and company talk about with Inman? Here's an eye-brow raising excerpt: 

...they asked me a bunch of questions about Nikola Tesla. They asked what Tesla was doing in Colorado, and if he'd ever conducted experiments at Mineral King. They asked if Tesla belonged to an organization called "Plus Ultra", and if it was possible for him to have met Walt Disney. They also asked a variety of questions about the recently saved Wardenclyffe, particularly about the buried tunnels underneath the property that may potentially contain some of Tesla's old equipment. I know quite a bit about Tesla, but I'm by no means an expert historian. My insight into the man is mostly centered around his character -- that of an inspiring, geek underdog who changed the world and suffered bitterly for it. There are much better people than me whom Disney could be talking to. I told them I didn't have much insight, but I did my best and tried to separate the plausible from the implausible for them. I got the impression Disney was just covering their bases with some of these questions looking for confirmation of what they already believed.

They also showed me the box which, according to Disney, was uncovered in Disney's archives after years of neglect. Inside was a bunch of memorabilia from the early days of Walt Disney. When looking in this box, they asked me to focus on a few items pertaining to Tesla, including a letter that described a supposed meeting that took place at the 1889 World's Fair between Tesla, Gustave Eiffel, Thomas Edison, and Jules Verne (which, as far as I know, never happened).

So, what does this all mean? Your guess is as good as ours, but maybe the "former boy-genius inventor" is, if not Tesla exactly, than a character based on him? Either way, the intrigue continues to grow around "Tomorrowland" and we'll see what it amounts to when it opens on December 12, 2014. [via Reddit]

This article is related to: Tomorrowland, Brad Bird


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