The Two NASA Events That Inspired TOMORROWLAND

Brad Bird explains how two bookending pieces of the space program influenced his new movie.

Opening today, Brad Bird's Tomorrowland juggles melancholy and hope - there's melancholy for a future we used to believe in but no longer do, and there's hope that we can find our way to believing in it again. That tone comes from Bird himself, a man who looks at the world, and who looks at our attitude towards what's to come, and knows we can do better. 

At a recent press event for the film Bird described two space program-related events in his life that influenced the film, and they perfectly encapsulate that dichotomy between melancholy and hope. 

I grew up and remember the Moon landing. I remember how that felt. I was actually in the air when they were about to get out on the surface. We were flying in from Denver, and I was like, “I’m going to miss it!” Fortunately, there were some kinds of technical errors and we landed in the airport [before the Eagle landed on the Moon]. We ran to the nearest TV monitor and there were, like, 400 people just packed in, watching when Neil Armstrong set foot on the Moon. And everybody just went, “Whoo!” That feeling has never left me. 

And when we were first planning the movie, Damon and I were at Disney and the space shuttle took its last sort of circle over LA. And everybody came out and watched it, and there was this weird feeling of pride mixed with great sadness, like we’re not doing that anymore, and why aren’t we?

Britt Robertson, who plays the lead in the film (and who shot some of her scenes at a NASA facility, chimed in: 

I think NASA also sort of represents a very specific hope, and it sort of ties in with the movie in a sort of symbolic way, you know? NASA represents  this unknown, and the human race’s being able to explore the universe and other things that are out  there. And I think that’s sort of in line with the movie, in terms of theme. We’re talking  about a movie that’s saying, “We don’t know what our future is. It’s not determined for us, and  maybe if we go out there and explore the world, maybe if NASA wants to go and see what else is  out there, then maybe that will have some helpful part in making our future something to be excited  about.”

Bird nodded his head, and said: 

Yeah. We can spend our energy creating ways to kill each other, or we can do that.