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'Tomorrowland' Director Says Home Video Helps Film Exist 'On Its Own Terms'

9 Oct, 2015 By: John Latchem

Brad Bird

ANAHEIM, Calif. — Director Brad Bird’s Tomorrowland, co-written with Damon Lindeloff (“Lost”), carried an air of mystery since production began in 2012, creating a huge buzz about what the film was ultimately about. When it finally arrived in May 2015, it tallied just $93 million at the domestic box office ($209 globally) against a total production and marketing budget estimated at $330 million.

“It’s a very aggressive marketplace, especially in the summertime, between these large movies that are already presold and have the advantage on you,” Bird said. “So you have to kind of announce yourself in ways that sometimes make surprise difficult. I don’t want to tell the story before I tell the story. I want the lights to be dimmed. I want people to sit down and give me their undivided attention for a couple of hours. And that’s difficult.”

However, he expressed excitement about the prospect of audiences discovering the film on home video.

“The film exists in this ether where it’s kind of viewed on its own terms and not in terms of other movies that are coming out around it or what other peoples’ expectations were of it,” Bird said. “The movie kind of has to exist by itself like a book on a shelf. And I’m interested to see how it’s perceived in the long run.”

Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment brought Bird and two of the film’s young stars, Raffey Cassidy and Thomas Robinson, to Disneyland, home of the original Tomorrowland, to discuss the film in anticipation of its Oct. 13 Blu-ray and Digital HD release.

Tomorrowland relates the story of a girl named Casey (Britt Robertson of The Longest Ride), who is recruited to help a former boy genius (George Clooney) save a futuristic secret colony established by the world’s brightest minds to change the world.

Bird said that he and Lindeloff envisioned the film as a way of tapping into a sense of hope they had when they were younger.

“Certainly the world was not a perfect place when we were kids,” Bird said. “The Cold War was going on and there were assassinations in the ’60s, and Vietnam, and our leaders were failing us and all kinds of bad things were happening, but we seemed as a species to hold onto this view that the future was going to be better and that we were going to somehow solve all these problems. Somewhere along the line that changed and we wanted to know why. We thought that would be an interesting question for a fable to pursue.”

Cassidy (Snow White and the Huntsman, Dark Shadows), who plays Athena, a girl tasked with finding fresh young minds to join Tomorrowland, said that during filming Bird’s enthusiasm for the project was infectious, and that helped her appreciate the final film even more.

Thomas Robinson and Raffey Cassidy

“I really like the message that someone can walk out as an individual and think ‘I can change the world and make a difference.’ All that hope and that optimism,” Cassidy said.

Robinson (The Switch), who plays the younger version of George Clooney’s Frank character, said the film’s message doesn’t get in the way of it being entertaining.

“I think it balances action and storytelling really well, and it’s kind of a fun movie,” Robinson said.

The kids also enjoyed having a chance to work on some of the film’s stunts, and were quick to praise the stunt crew for making sure everything was fun but safe.

“They were so kind and always put your safety first,” Cassidy said. “We had so much fun doing the stunts.”

The Blu-ray includes several behind-the-scenes featurettes, deleted scenes, a new animated introduction and more.

Bird, who won Best Animated Feature Oscars for The Incredibles and Ratatouille, said the effort to balance Tomorrowland’s themes with the need to keep it entertaining at times made it seem as if the production were taking on a life of its own, more so than his previous films.

“I think it probably surprised me more than any other movie in terms of it had its own agenda, and we definitely had to respond to it,” Bird said. “Tomorrowland definitely was hard to corral into its shape but I’m happy with how it turned out.”

Bird said his favorite ride at the real Tomorrowland as a kid was Adventure Thru Inner Space, the 1967-85 attraction (replaced by Star Tours in 1987) that “shrunk” guests to a microscopic level.

“I loved the idea of going inside a snowflake, and having atoms zipping all around me,” Bird said. “And the design of the initial room that you entered, where you saw living people get on the ride and then the illusion was very effective of them being shrunken down in front of your eyes. If you’re a little kid and your imagination is already a little active that kind of stuff is catnip.

“I love that it was somewhat educational without seeming so. And that it was just about the strangeness of life and the fact that tiny things can have life.”

And his current favorite?

“Well it’s hard not to like Star Tours,” Bird said. “But, you know I’m still a sucker for Space Mountain. And I like the Michael Giacchino music in it.”

Giacchino, of course, is the Oscar-winning composer who has done the music for all the films Bird has directed, with one exception. That would be Bird’s directorial debut, the acclaimed 1999 film The Iron Giant, which has become something of a cult classic and was recently re-released as an extended cut.

The Iron Giant: Signature Edition includes two new scenes and is now available on Digital HD from Warner Bros. Home Entertainment after a special screening in select theaters.

“They are a couple of scenes that I wanted to do originally and I’m very happy that the scenes fit in pretty seamlessly with the original footage,” Bird said. “It was conceived back then and we recorded the sound but we executed it now, and yet we used a lot of the same animators that we had back then and it looks the same.”

According to Bird, both the extended cut and the original cut will be available on Blu-ray in 2016.

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