Tomorrowland is such an interesting case when looking at theme park adaptions. It’s adapting a ride but rather a whole land from the Disney Parks. This movie is an interesting case of how you adapt a land. The answer that director Brad Bird seemed to have gone with is to focus on the message of the land. I know it might seem crazy to say a land could have a message but think back to Walt’s Opening Day Speech.
Entering the world of tomorrow might be a literal reading of this particular film but considering that is what our main characters do, I think it fits. This brings us to another key theme that is so important to both Tomorrowland (the land) and Tomorrowland (the movie), hope for a better future. This is laid a bit thick in the beginning when our main character Frank Walker arrives at the 1964 Worlds Fair and There’s a Great Big Beautiful Tomorrow from the Carousel of Progress is playing.
Let’s take a look at some of the lyrics.
There’s a great, big, beautiful tomorrow
Shining at the end of every day
There’s a great, big, beautiful tomorrow
And tomorrow’s just a dream away
This ties back into what I said about having hope for a better future. Hope is something that fuels us and drives us. Hope can breed inspiration, hope can keep people going. So often growing up, I had to hear the phrase, “Hope is not a plan” and I sincerely disagree with that line of thinking. I’d rather say “Hope is not the only part of a plan but you still need hope”. To borrow a line from Star Wars.
The same is true of dreams as they are built on hope. So many of our greatest creative minds started with a dream and they had the forethought and yes to see it through to become a reality. Walt Disney wouldn’t be able to build Disneyland if he didn’t have hope things would work out. Yes, the opening day didn’t go smoothly but that’s a snafu, it’s not someone only relying on hope. When you disregard hope and inspiration, you are already giving up on people. This is an interesting trend I’ve noticed in Bird’s work, especially in films such as The Iron Giant and Incredibles The idea of finding hope when things seem bleak.
Hope is an important thing to have and I’m sorry but hope is very personal to me. I wake up every day hoping I’ll be okay and hoping I won’t have a seizure. yes, it’s been years since I’ve had one, and science such as my VNS has helped but hope is a part of my plan.
This is also where the villain of this film, David Nix comes in, he’s an interesting case because while I do believe in hipe and consider him important, he’s not wrong in some of the things he says. So, I’m kinda conflicted about him as a character. In the one sense, I agree with our main character about needing optimism and that is what Tomorrowland (the land) wants to convey but it’s also hard not to be a little headed after everything that has happened these last few years.
And I know I’m putting too much thought and stock into a theme park land especially considering it mostly houses Pixar IPs nowadays but I don’t think I’m wrong. Let’s go back to this sign.
Entering the world of tomorrow is such a big component of this movie and the land, it’s based on. Like the song said, “Man has a dream” Having those dreams are true is what drives so many people. Continuing with how the land this is based on, the original attractions like Space Mountain are part of that as they show how we have come by reaching for the stars.
Again, I realize that I am perhaps overthinking things but I truly believe that Tomorrowland represents these things.
Hugh Laurie is a good actor and he is no stranger to playing villains, not even for Disney as he played Jasper. However, I feel as though he was presented with a difficult character to play. This isn’t like what we saw with Reed Thimple where Walken was given nothing to do as Laurie had quite a lot to work with and it’d be a hard bar for any actor to clear with the type of role this character is. He is trying his best to make the character work and he comes close.
The movie first introduces Governor Nix to us at the World’s Fair when a young Frank Walker shows up with his jetpack and he is left unimpressed as he believes it doesn’t serve any purpose. This idea is interesting as he doesn’t see how science can be inspiring and only looks at it from a practical standpoint. This is his whole character throughout the movie and the movie argues against this line of thinking as it is the wrong way to think. I think one of the best ways it argues against this idea is the inclusion of It’s A Small World.
Yes, historically it makes sense as this is when the ride debuted at the World’s Fair but it also fits thematically because this ride also speaks against what Nix believes and the fact that it’s used as an entrance to Tomorrowland is fascinating in that regard. It’s seen in the lyrics from the song by The Sherman Brothers
It’s a world of laughter
A world of tears
It’s a world of hopes
And a world of fears
There’s so much that we share
That it’s time we’re aware
It’s a small world after all
This could honestly be broken down even further as Governor Nix seems to only focus on the part about the world being full of fear. Which, yes is true but that is ignoring all the good that can come from the world and the good that has come.
I do not know if this was intentional but Governor Nix as presented in this movie seems to be the anthesis of Walt Disney aka in how he and to a larger extent the company portrays him. This is even seen down in his title, he calls himself Governor giving himself a sense of authority. Walt was once asked why he never ran for President and he said something along the lines of why would I want to be President when I have my own kingdom. There are many ways that someone could look at this line but I look at it as Walt saying that he was happy with what he had whereas Nix believing he needed control.
There’s also another aspect where this also fits in as he cuts people off from Tomorrowland and believes that only certain people should be allowed. Again, this goes against one of the core beliefs of Walt also from his opening day speech.
Disneyland is your land is not something people think about a lot but when I look at this line, I think Walt meant that no matter who you are, you should be welcomed to this place whereas, with Nix and Tomorrowland, he closes it off and only lets him, people, he deems worthy enough. This also speaks to how he only cares about scientific thought and not creative thought. This again goes against the idea of what we see with Imagineers if creative thought wasn’t valued, there’d be no Rolly Crump, no Tony Baxter, no Mary Blair, and no Joe Rhode. And that’s a world I don’t want to live in.
These people brought so much joy into people’s lives through the various things they worked on and yes, their creativity played a huge role in that. Yet, Nix would discredit their creativity because in his mind, what they did, doesn’t help advance society. In many ways, this is seen in his big villain speech when he calls out humanity. However, I’ll save that for when I get to his grand desire.
Kathryn Hahn and Keegan-Michael Key play a couple named Ursula and Hugo that run a sci-fi novelty shop but the thing of it is, they aren’t human. They’re robots or rather they’re Audio-Animatronics and this is something I find fascinating as Nix uses them merely as weapons. This speaks back to how Nix doesn’t believe in the value of creativity and how that can help better society. Which I think is very much wrong as it has been seen time and again, in how Audio-Animatronics can show both technical achievements while also being important in a historical sense. A wonderful example of this is Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln.
In someone like Nix’s eyes, a show like Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln would serve no purpose as it is just a show for entertainment in his eyes. But that is the wrong takeaway as in many ways, Walt helped preserve history and found a new way of bringing it to life with this show. I have to imagine that if Nix saw Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln as a failure if he had seen it at the 1965 World’s Fair as it didn’t run smoothly if I remember right, there was a leak that made it look like Lincoln was bleeding. This ties into Nix’s character because when he first meets Frank Walker as a child, Frank shows him a jetpack he had built and Nix dismisses it because it doesn’t work. This goes against what is perhaps the most important lesson I’ve learned from studying Walt’s life.
Life is made of failures and you’re going to have to learn from those failures. You can drown in them and let them swallow you whole or you can “keep moving forward” Those three words hold so much weight as it speaks back to the core idea of hope. As long you keep your head up and keep moving forward you will still have hope on your side. Remember how I said hope is part of the plan, moving forward is the next step in that plan.
Before I go further into his grand desire, I feel you need to watch this speech as it truly helps in explaining his mindset.
Yes, in many ways what he says is true. Humanity is prone to giving up because it’s easy and nine times out of ten, we go for the easier option. And we indeed glom onto media that shows our demise like zombie movies or stories set in dystopian futures. However, Governor Nix is missing a key detail of those stories in that they also show hope can prevail and they can overcome what society has placed upon them. Look at the character of Katniss Everdeen, what she goes through is hard, and yes she wants to give up at points but she carries on. This line sums it up wonderfully.
…. hope can shine through even in an oppressed society.
This is so fascinating to consider because Nix accuses humanity of giving up after he had sent out warnings of our demise but he gave up on humanity as well. So many villains believe themselves to be right and Governor Nix’s speech isn’t wrong in pointing out that humans can tend to ignore big issues or just place them over there.
The thing is, he did the same to humanity and that brings us to what he intends to do. He intends to let the apocalypse wipe out humanity because, in his eyes, we deserve to die for ignoring the messages he sent and turning them into media. I find that fascinating because Nix acts as though he’s better than humanity but he truly isn’t and believes humanity is doomed to die and is willing to let that future play out. I’d like to use a line from my favorite science-fiction trilogy to fight that belief.
That line has stuck with me since I first heard it because it’s true, our future is decided by us and we have the choice to make and shape our future. Nix wants to take that decision away from us as he believes that our future has reached its final chapter. To borrow a song The Muppets had performed numerous times.
If just one person believes in you
Deep enough, and strong enough, believes in you
Hard enough, and long enough
Before you knew it, someone else will think
“If he can do it, I can do it”
People like Walt Disney and Jim Henson had people that believed in them and they in turn believed in others to help see their dreams become a reality. To deny the world of dreamers and say the world deserves to die because of events happening that some people can’t control is truly monstrous. Denying the world the dreamers is one of the worst things someone could do. There’s no life worth living if we don’t have dreamers.
Most Evil Deed
In many ways, I could argue that Nix giving up on humanity is the worst sin he committed and in a way, it is but I think of something so much more personal that he did to Frank. It’s the revelation as to why Frank was banished from Tomorrowland and it is so heartbreaking as it comes from the one being that was Frank’s friend, Athena.
Log 78. April. 1984. Frank Walker has been banished by Governor Nix. He says he’s lost hope and he holds me responsible for having given it to him in the first place. I do not understand this. He says I never will, because I do not feel anger… or disappointment… or love.
This ties back into my theme of hope and how you cannot give up on hope and yet Governor Nix blamed Athena for giving someone hope and when they lost it, they must be removed. It is so frustrating to see someone think this way. After all, we need people to give us hope because people that give us hope can lift us.
Athena is different from the other robots in the movie because she can feel and she can love. She never stopped caring for Frank. Also in some ways and I admit that this might be a stretch but I think her name might be a clue. Consider, she’s named Athena and in Greek mythology, Athena is the goddess of wisdom. (Thank you for being a Percy Jackson fan, Tim). I believe if I take this further Athena is shown to be wise as she still believes in Frank when stopped believing in himself. There’s a point in the point where Frank said he was just a dumb kid. Athena replied by saying.
You were many things Frank Walker but you were never dumb
This line speaks volumes to how important Athena is and also how Nix undermined his creations and the value of hope and never giving up.
In many ways, Nix’s death is itself a self-fulfilling prophecy as he dies when a piece of debris from the Monitor he used to send images of earth’s dystopian future fell upon him. This is not saying he deserved to die but rather that he went on and on about how humanity did nothing to prevent our future. But in many ways, he was brought down by his own hubris as he was so focused on killing Frank instead of trying to save himself.
Is Governor Nix A Good Villain?
Governor Nix is a character that stands against everything I believe. I believe hope is important to have and that creativity can breed inspiration. I truly believe there are good people on this earth. In many ways, this reminds me of two lines from a song from the movie, Anna and the Apocalpyse.
There is good on this Earth
And it’s worth trying to save
This is exactly the mindset that I wish to go through in my life as there have to be good people out there that are willing to do the right thing. It’s easier to be cynical and say good people have disappeared but I don’t want to succumb to those dark thoughts. That is what Governor Nix did and that in a way makes him a tragic villain as he believed he was doing the right thing but he ignored how powerful hope is.