No recent Disney project has played up the aura of mystery more than Tomorrowland. A collaboration between director Brad Bird (The Incredibles) and Damon Lindelof (Lost, Star Trek Into Darkness), the 2014 release will feature George Clooney as an inventor involved with the creation of Tomorrowland itself. It was allegedly inspired by a mysterious box found in the Disney archives, labelled simply "1952." Lindelof and Bird took the stage here at D23 to show off the mystery box and the magazines, sketches, and photographs contained within — and also announced a companion mobile app for those that weren't in the audience.
The artifacts included a faked photograph of Walt Disney and Amelia Earhart (it was actually a doctored photograph of Cary Grant), a sci-fi magazine with accompanying decoding mask that revealed a seemingly nonsensical message, and blueprints for the It's A Small World attraction as built for the 1964 World's Fair. When viewing the blueprints under a black light, they said, additional plans for a mysterious theater and "hold room" underneath the attraction were visible.
The cleverest piece was a strange glass disc that they claim held encoded information not unlike a laserdisc. Some of the information, they claimed, had been pulled off the disc and reconstructed. The resulting animated sequence, drawn in the style of Disney's 1960s animation, was a short film warning about the dangers of unimpeded progress and technological development, including nuclear warfare. While large sections were missing, it alluded to a mysterious meeting with four of the world's brightest minds — including Edison and Tesla.
"And that, fellow traveller, is why you have been invited here," says the film's narrator as the footage begins to wrap. "At long last, we are building that tomorrow. You are about to enter a world of miracle and wonders. A shining beacon of hope for humankind. And in just 20 short years we will share this extraordinary place with the entire world. So, would you like to see it?"
Whether any part of the mysterious box's origins are true or not, Disney is clearly going all-in with the mystery marketing for this particular film. The company's been embracing ARG sensibilities for several different projects at D23, and in this case it's perfectly matched — Lindelof has built a career with mystery and slow, teasing reveals. If you'd like to check out the box's contents for yourself, the Tomorrowland D23 app is live in the iOS App Store now.