It’s named after a section of Disneyland, but it really embodies the purpose of EPCOT and the spirit of the Kodak-sponsored adventure, the original “Journey Into Imagination.” One indication: in the first fifteen minutes, the movie features two Sherman Brothers songs, including “It’s A Great Big Beautiful Tomorrow.” Those brothers wrote all the music for the Imagination pavilion. This is a movie Walt Disney himself would have loved; it celebrates the “dreamers and the doers” among us, those who believe – in the words of Albert Einstein — “Imagination is more important than knowledge.” This is education as entertainment-with-a-moral: We get the future we imagine – and are willing to work for. Part chase film, part buddy film, part sci-fi adventure, this offers the inventiveness of “The Jetsons,” the wackiness of “Back to the Future” and the single-parent family values of so many Disney classics.
What it doesn’t offer is enough of Tomorrowland. The future it shows has all the whirring wonder of a child’s dream, all the magic we could imagine in a place “built by the smartest people in the world.” We want to explore it, experience it, do much more than view it from a distance. We want to believe it’s more than an animated matte painting. Instead, the plot pulls us too quickly and too often back to reality, forcing us to wander around in the present watching people and robots talk endlessly to one another. There are missed opportunities for humor and heart — and unnecessary flashes of darkness: heads are severed, an arm is chopped off, there’s a violent traffic accident. They involve robots, still… The story eventually straightens itself out with a monologue that borders on a sermon; parts are scientifically complex, names are symbolically obvious. It would have been more fun putting this puzzle together if we understood earlier the picture we were trying to assemble. At the end, the audience clapped; it’s hopeful to know the world is still filled with “dreamers and doers.” But, as a young girl said to her friend as they left the theatre: “Well, that took a while.”