Finding Inspiration in Yesterday for Tomorrowland

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Tue, 07/21/2015 - 15:23 -- Nick Dager

yU+co created the main-on-end title sequence for Tomorrowland.yU+co’s main-on-end title sequence for the Walt Disney Pictures movie Tomorrowland presents a series of mesmerizing portraits of the future as imagined by visionaries of the past. The 3D animated sequence, which delivers the movie’s end credits, takes audiences on a breathtaking tour through a vast metropolis whose various iterations show the “world of tomorrow” as envisioned by successive generations of “dreamers.”

The opening scene – inspired by drawings from the 1900 Paris Exposition – shows hot-air flying machines circling the Eiffel Tower. It then progresses through the decades depicting an evolving city of the future through time. The sequence culminates with a contemporary rendition of Tomorrowland, a gleaming city of skyscrapers, rockets and jetpacks. yU+co’s creative team came up with the concept for the sequence in collaboration with Tomorrowland director Brad Bird.

The sequence draws on futuristic prognostications by such far flung sources as Jules Verne, Fritz Lang, Norman Bel Geddes,The Jetsons and NASA. “We found inspiration in many visions of the future,” says yU+co creative director Garson Yu. “In every era, there have been dreamers who project future worlds. They conceived futuristic architecture, cars and flying machines.”

While past generations have imagined tomorrow differently, each has looked forward to it as a better place. “Thematically, the title sequence, like the movie, is about optimism and a positive belief in the future,” explains yU+co Concept Designer Edwin Baker. “It’s a statement of confidence that innovation and technology can improve the world.” The theme of progress is underscored by a subtle color shift that transitions from soft pastels in early scenes, to bold, Technicolor tones near the climax.

The sequence looks to the past to evoke the future.The theme of human progress is advanced in a variety of ways. Art director Synderela Peng notes that each new cityscape presents architectural features and vehicles that are more “modern” than those that preceded it. “The camerawork evolves as well,” she says. “In the opening scene, the camera moves in a linear manner, but in each following section, it becomes more fluid, sweeping and playful.”

Along with spinning its narrative about the future, the sequence includes numerous references to the plot of the movie—a central motif is a jet pack built by the film’s hero Frank Walker (George Clooney). Animated versions of Britt Robertson’s Casey Newton and Raffey Cassidy’s Athena make cameo appearances. The sequence also includes a number of real-world architectural references, including the Frank Lloyd Wright-designed Marin County Civic Center and Disneyland.

yU+co also designed the film’s brief main title, a reveal of the title on an abstract horizon, with the “O” in Tomorrowland replaced by an animated drawing of an atom. The atomic drawing recurs at the end of the end title before resolving into an image of the earth from space. Its surface it lit up by interconnected pins that identify dreamers.

The atom relates to Brad Bird’s conception of Tomorrowland. “Brad described Tomorrowland as like a dream that we can’t reach, but is there all the time,” says Yu. “That was a very important concept. In the main title, we reveal the name Tomorrowland in the distance, lit, not by the sunrise, but by the energy of the atom, representing hope. Hope is always there, even if we can’t reach it.”

The sequence also harkens back to different architecural styles.Intensive research of archival drawings, architecture, art objects and photographs was followed by months of design and animation production. The sequence was animated in 3D and delivered in 4K in Dolby’s new EDR (Extended Dynamic Range) format. Production was completed entirely in-house at yU+co, says Peng, adding, “Our animators worked very hard and did an awesome job in bringing our vision to life.”

yU+co has been working to redefine the role of design not only in motion picture titles, but also in many other forms of visual media. It designed and produced one of the largest 3D digital mapping displays in Los Angeles history for the The Los Angeles Music Center’s 2nd Annual Grand Park’s N.Y.E. L.A. event on New Year’s Eve. It is currently working an equally ambitious project for a major Internet technology company.

“We are intrigued by the possibilities of combining design with storytelling in new types of entertainment content,” says Yu. “Our goal is to create rich experiences that people have not seen before.”


See yU+co’s “Tomorrowland” credit sequence here.