Wednesday, July 23, 2008

The Future Is So Yesterday

The Washington Post had an article on Sunday about the new Disney House of the Future. The piece touched on a lot of issues that involve postmodern paleo-futurism and reminds me of a February 23, 1997 New York Times article titled, "Disney Calls Future a Thing of the Past." An excerpt from the Washington Post piece appears below.
Disney -- so far into our heads, hopes and dreams that it is legendarily the Mouse that built the better people trap -- is now presenting not so much the future, but the future that it thinks we want. Wander around Tomorrowland and it no longer gleams with white plastic and blue trim. No "2001." It is an antique future, a bronze future, full of things that look like astrolabes channeling Leonardo da Vinci.

The future of the future is in the past?

"This is an aspirational future," says Disney spokesman John J. Nicoletti.

See also:
Disney Calls Future a Thing of the Past (1997)
Postmodern Paleo-Future
Tomorrowland, Disneyland Opening Day (1955)
Rebuilding Tomorrowland (1966)
EPCOT Publicity Materials (1981)
Mickey Futurism (1980s)
Monsanto House of the Future (1957-1967)
Monsanto House of the Future (1957)
Monsanto House of the Future Brochure (1961)

5 comments:

m.d. mcmullin said...

I've never commented on your blog, just a lurker. I decided today to let you know what an interesting blog I think you have. It is in my google reader so I rarely actually visit the site, but I read it often.

Thanks for putting it together.

min0taur said...

From what I recall from a 1963 visit to the original Disneyland (opened in 1955), the Disney future was one of several literalizations of a 19th-century "progressive" timeline: Frontierland and Adventureland celebrated Euro-American dominance over nature and tribal peoples; Fantasyland relegated magic (in the form of European fairy tales) to the realm of childhood (i.e., the past), and Tomorrowland anticipated the triumph of technology as an "inevitable" extension of those same attitudes. What nobody noticed is that "the past" and "the future" are equally imaginary. They're modes of imagination that impose artificial coherence on our unruly experiences and aspirations.

Mark R. Brown said...

Steampunk.

Cory Gross said...

The paragraph I found the most interesting and incidentally moving was: "There was a time when the future was streamlined jet cars. Rather than create a new sense of the future, they say, 'Ah, remember when we believed that the future was streamlined jet cars?' It's a feeling of connection to the future, rather than connection to the future."

The weird thing is, in Disneyland, I suspect it plays better than the actual future. It's hard for me to say because when I look back on the original Tomorrowland, I inherently see nostalgia. One of the reasons I thought that the 1998 version of Tomorrowland was brilliant was that it was so self-referential and understood that Walt's future was now retro-future.

However, "future fantasyland" works in an environment where you also encounter "jungle fantasyland", "old west fantasyland" and, well, Fantasyland. It strikes me as quixotic to expect that Tomorrowland would be fundamentally different from Fantasyland, Frontierland or Adventureland.

If I were to suggest a real difference between Tomorrowlands then and now, it is in how the original was nostalgic about the future while the current is nostalgic about the past's vision of the future. Walt's vision was still unrealistically idealistic in ways that any thinking person should have been able to anticipate. It was still a reassuring vision that the atom and the Commies weren't going to destroy us. Now perhaps we're just nostalgic for when those were all we had to worry about.

the14thdisciple said...

"Disney -- so far into our heads, hopes and dreams"

Er - are we talking about the same 'Disney' here? The film company that used to make decent cartoons and now makes cheap-looking computer animations ...?

Hardly something to hold up as an inspiration to the rest of us.

Perhaps that section should have read 'Disney -- so far up its own arse'

love fROM 14