Posted on Friday, May 22nd, 2015 by Peter Sciretta
I talk with Jeff Jensen about how he went from a television writer at Entertainment Weekly to collaborating with Damon Lindelof and Brad Bird on the story for Tomorrowland. I must admit, I planned to go in and talk to Jensen about how the 1952 box was fabricated and how the script influenced the box and how the box influenced the script, but I found myself kind of blindsided with Jensen’s reaction. Jeff continued to pretend that the 1952 box wasn’t a creation of the team behind the film, which threw most of my prepared questions out the window. We still discuss how the box was used to sell executives and early Disney fans on the ideas behind the backstory of the movie.
I talk to Jeff about the early development of the film which saw two dueling ideas, one being a more Harry Potter approach and another more inspired by Close Encounters of the Third Kind. We also talk about the amazing Plus Ultra backstory which didn’t fully make it into the film but can be discovered through the tie-in prequel novel Before Tomorrowland he also wrote. Read all this and more in my Jeff Jensen Tomorrowland interview, after the jump.
Jeff Jensen Tomorrowland Interview
Peter Sciretta: Most of my readers, the Slash Film audience, probably know you best from all your exceptional coverage on Lost in Entertainment Weekly and EW.com. How did you go from that place to pitching this idea to Damon Lindelof? Or how did is all come together?
Jeff Jensen: It was after Lost was over, so Lost ended like May 2010. And so it was very early 2011. Damon was already in talks with Disney about working on a film. It was gonna be a science fiction film. It was gonna deal with themes of Disney futurism. And it was orbiting around the name Tomorrowland. And there was a lot of things that were coming up in those conversations that would require say like research into Disney past, research into futurism and science fiction. And he thought of me in terms of the recaps I had done, the friendship that had started between us after Lost was over. He knew that this was kind of like right in my bailiwick. That I could be useful perhaps to him in a researching that stuff and maybe turning research of history into story ideas. And so–
Peter: Yeah, because you weren’t just like recapping Lost, you were finding things that might not even be there in the fabric of it.
Jeff Jensen: Oh absolutely. I was projecting more than I was actually like finding in the text. And Wikipedia was my best friend. I got my doctorate from Wikipedia while working on Lost. And because of those interests like yeah, like that’s how it started between us. And I did research for him and then we started working on that new story and then throughout 2011 we worked on the story.
Peter: Okay, the public side of things. There was this unboxing of this mystery box that was found in the archives. That was a created MacGuffin by you guys. Can you talk a little bit about that and how that came about?
Jeff Jensen: My relationship to the box was twofold. One is strictly inspiration during a very specific time in our pre-production and sort of being able to it was just this wonderful, I always likened it to it was like some Imagineer’s junk drawer of Disney futurism. And it was just filled with stuff that was just really great to think about and get us, help get us sort of in the mood of Disney futurism. And then where it became really handy was at D23 that year when we were, you know, wanting to communicate to the Disney fans about what this movie was about at a time honestly when we weren’t really ready to tell people what the story of the movie was about. But really kind of like give them a sense that this is a movie that is a communion with Disney futurism. Things like Epcot, things like Tomorrowland, things like the Science Factual things from the ’50s. And that we’re kind of steeped in that and dialoguing that. We turn that into an exhibition. So I had to do things like create an app that kind of talked about some of the more kind of like, you know, solid, good stuff in the box.
Peter: Yeah. How did the box come about? Was there ever a real box? Or was like how did that materialize?
Jeff Jensen: You know, I understand that there are questions about the authenticity of the box. My relationship to the box was always wouldn’t it be cool if this was real? So I don’t question the authenticity of the box.