In director Brad Bird’s stunning “Tomorrowland” (opening Friday) we are thrust into a futuristic world that’s a playground for those with big ideas.
This magical place is the brainchild of one of the biggest idea men ever, Walt Disney. In 1955 he unveiled the Tomorrowland theme land in his Disney theme parks, which depicted views of the future. 60 years later those ideas have been expanded by the marvels at Industrial Light & Magic.
The visual effects studio created by George Lucas to achieve the special effects feats for his "Star Wars" saga and has since made the impossible possible on everything from "Jurassic Park" to the recent blockbusters from Marvel, were tasked in 2013 to convert Disney’s theme land to an eye-popping futuristic world for the screen.
“There were many, many ideas originally,” “Tomorrowland” co-visual effects supervisor Eddie Pasquarello told Business Insider. “If you see the different iterations you would see the theme park in the '70s, it ran the gamut. Even while making the visual effects for the film, the look of 'Tomorrowland' didn’t get locked until half way through our post production process.”
The look that was finally decided is a sleek city with pointy skyscrapers and filled with people flying on jet packs, rockets launching in the distance, swimmers diving down bottomless floating swimming pools, and monorail tracks weaved throughout it. Oh, and if you look hard enough during the movie you’ll see Space Mountain, the theme land’s flagship ride, tucked away in the city.
“It wasn’t just a wink to the theme park,” Pasquarello notes, “it’s one of the best designed buildings in the Tomorrowland park.”
ILM spent two-and-a-half years on the film and produced 1,037 effects shots with a staff of close to 200 split between their San Francisco and Vancouver offices.
Most of the effects done for the Tomorrowland world were almost completely computer-generated, though some were done with stationary pieces that the actors stood on during shooting in Vancouver and Valencia, Spain.
Pasquarello said the biggest challenge ILM took on was creating the experience Britt Robertson’s character, Casey, has when she first visits Tomorrowland.
In the film, Casey and Frank (George Clooney) are optimistic dreamers who have visited Tomorrowland and are determined to return. Frank first visited as a young boy, who found his way there when he was at the 1964 World's Fair in New York. Casey's initial visit happens after she finds a special pin that gives her a glimpse of the world when she touches it. In a four-minute sequence that’s one continuous shot, we follow Casey as she marvels over the world.
“Making that feel like one big long shot was a huge undertaking,” said Pasquarello. “It was like a movie within a movie.”
The sequence was broken down into four parts and taken on by a team of 30 people total.
“The challenge was seaming into one shot all of the stationary pieces together [with the computer graphics],” Pasquarello explained.
To give an example, Pasquarello said a shot of Robertson on a sound stage in Vancouver would become her riding a monorail in the sequence. ILM would then have to sync that shot seamlessly with a shot of her standing at a stationary piece in Spain, which after they were done with it would become a section of the sequence where she's standing on a rocket-launch platform.
Pasquarello says out of all the FX shots ILM did for the movie that sequence was the most rewarding when watching the finished film.
“Seeing everything put together to work, I just smiled watching it all,” he said.