Follow TV Tropes


Film / Tomorrowland

Go To
Remember Tomorrow?
Tomorrowland is a 2015 film produced by Walt Disney Pictures and directed by Brad Bird and produced by Damon Lindelof. The film stars George Clooney, Britt Robertson, and Hugh Laurie, and is inspired by the Tomorrowland area found at the Disney Theme Parks. The first teaser trailer was released on October 9, 2014.

In 1889 at the Exposition Universelle in Paris, a group of visionaries put aside their differences to discuss how to make the future happen: Jules Verne, Gustave Eiffel, Nikola Tesla and Thomas Edison. They established a secret society, known as Plus Ultra, to figure out how and where to change the world. Eventually, Tesla's experiments uncovered an alternate dimension, which would become their living laboratory: A realm that would become known as Tomorrowland. The Tomorrowland we know in the parks was a cover story/orientation space created by later member Walt Disney, who was also giving lucky Plus Ultra inductees the opportunity to visit the real thing via a portal hidden beneath the 1964 New York World's Fair installation of It's a Small World.

In the present day, a young aspiring astrophysics student and daughter of a NASA scientist, Casey Newton (Britt Robinson), stumbles upon the secret when she is given a mysterious pin by a youth named Athena (Raffey Cassidy). She leads her to a jaded ex-boy genius named Frank Walker (George Clooney), who first journeyed to Tomorrowland at the World's Fair. Evading agents seeking to maintain a post-60s masquerade of Plus Ultra's activities, they set out to Tomorrowland to find just what's been keeping the world away from the future.


A prequel novel, Before Tomorrowland was released in April 2015. It tells the story of a mother and son who stumble into a conflict between Plus Ultra, Nazi scientists and an embittered cyborg around the 1939 New York World's Fair.

(Note: Tomorrowland is not connected with a Disney Junior animated series, Miles from Tomorrowland.)

The film provides examples of:

  • Action Girl: Athena, who rescues Casey from the Sci-Fi memorabilia store with gadgets, a blaster, and her fighting skills. However, she is revealed to be an Audio-Animatronic®, aka a robot.
  • An Aesop: "Feed the right wolf." In other words, look for solutions and refuse to give up rather than surrender to despair and hopelessness.
    • "Never give up." As a child, Frank refuses to give up on his jet pack when his father tells him he'll never fix it. He also refuses to give up after Nix rebuffs him. His pamphlet for The World's Fair has "I'll never give up!" scrawled on it. In the end, Frank sends out a new wave of recruiter animatronics with pins, telling them to "Find the ones who haven't given up. They're the future."
    • Advertisement:
    • Casey retells her father's parable about the "two wolves" to encourage him not to lose hope. An Establishing Character Moment montage has her attending classes in which teachers list numerous problems in the world while she struggles to get them to acknowledge her question, "What's the solution?"
    • "Don't be so obsessed with your destination you forget to watch where you're going." This is figurative with Casey's attempts to keep NASA's last shuttle gantry from being dismantled - which get her arrested. It becomes very literal when she finds the Tomorrowland pin, is dazzled with wonder and starts blindly wandering the virtual landscape - into walls, down staircases and into lakes until it runs out of power and she has to find her way to Tomorrowland for real.
  • The Aesthetics of Technology: Best demonstrated by the methods used to reach Tomorrowland. Nikola Tesla's designs are Steampunk; a wood, brass and steel spaceship out of Jules Verne. The equipment Frank finds under the 1964 World's Fair is Raygun Gothic. The modern "bridgeway" is basically a giant IPod.
  • All There in the Manual: Much of the film's backstory is explored in The Optimist ARG and the novel "Before Tomorrowland".
    • A deleted scene explains that Nix was able to turn Frank's invention into the best clean energy source ever discovered, and it is now Tomorrowland's primary source of power. This neatly explains why he doesn't want to turn it off.
  • Alternate Reality Game: The Optimist, which established the film's universe back in 2013.
  • Alternate Universe: Tomorrowland is this, with accessibility through dimensional portals of various sophistications. The "T lapel pins" are more of a VR thing.
  • Anti-Hero: Frank is a cynical old Jedi master-type character who's seen the pins for what they really are and is quite rough around the edges.
  • Apocalypse Cult: How Governor Nix sees the world he was born to. He warned everyone the end was coming and they turned it into entertainment.
  • Armor-Piercing Question: When one of her teachers recites one of the calamities facing the world, Casey asks him "Can we fix it?". He is completely speechless after this.
  • Artificial Outdoors Display: The Monitor can show anywhere on Earth in a full 3-D display.
  • Artistic License – Biology:
    • You cannot extract DNA from hair. Hair is all protein. Justified, though; if there's a skin cell on the hair, it can provide DNA, and the scanner in question is from Tomorrowland (which is centuries more advanced than the rest of the world).
    • Losing "90% of your blood sugar in 1/100th of a second" is survivable. The highest ever recorded in someone who survived was 2,656 mg/dl, and people are known to still be conscious at 27 mg/dl - let's just Hand Wave that powder Frank and Casey ate beforehand was some kind of ultra-tech "hyper sugar" meant specifically for this purpose. The catch is that climbing back up again is a living hell; Frank warns "You're gonna wish you were dead" but people usually have to lie very still for some time while their body assimilates the cup of honey or whatever they gulped down to save their lives - in many cases people have had to be hospitalized.
  • Awesome, but Impractical: Nix's view of Frank's jetpack.
  • Bait-and-Switch: The rocket launched from the Eiffel Tower makes the audience think the Tomorrowland is located on a distant planet. In reality they only make it to high orbit because that iteration of the technology is so primitive it needs a “running start” to make the jump to a parallel universe.
  • Beethoven Was an Alien Spy: As revealed by The Optimist and additional media, Tomorrowland was founded by a secret society called Plus Ultra formed by Nikola Tesla, Thomas Edison, Jules Verne and Gustave Eiffel at the Exposition Universelle in 1889. Over the years, Plus Ultra has also counted Amelia Earhart (who survived the crash), Mark Twain, Ray Bradbury, and Walt Disney himself amongst their membership, with Disney's parks being Walt's way of preparing people for what Tomorrowland had to offer.
  • Benevolent A.I.: Athena, who wants to find Dreamers and fix the world. She even performs a Heroic Suicide at the end of film to save Frank and destroy the Monitor.
  • Black Comedy:
    • In the "Blast from the Past" shop, Hugo shoots the blaster into the ceiling to show Casey they're serious. A dead bird then falls out of the sky.
    • Athena (the little girl robot) getting run over by a pickup truck. She walks it off.
    • Athena right before she has Frank drop her self-destructing body in the Monitor to destroy it, she tells Frank why he could never make her laugh: "You're not funny."
  • Brick Joke: Frank uses a jetpack in the beginning and at the end of the film, and both times he performs an epic Slapstick crash landing.
  • Character Blog: The Blast from the Past store has a Twitter account, part of the film's lead-up viral campaign.
  • Character Filibuster: Governor Nix's speech about society's obsession with dystopia/post-apocalyptic fiction generating complacency with the Earth's degrading state.
  • Chekhov's Gun:
    • The one 1-kiloton explosive that Frank gives to Athena as an "insurance policy". Although its intended use fails, it still brings about the villain's downfall by destroying the teleport gate and pinning him under the remains.
    • The tachyon-induced glimpses of the near future. One glimpse shows Casey how to activate the explosive, while another one warns Athena that Nix will try to shoot Frank, giving her enough time to take the blast herself.
  • Child Prodigy: Frank Walker used to be this before he went to Tomorrowland.
  • The Chooser of the One: Athena senses in Casey the qualities she's looking for and gives Casey the means to see Tomorrowland. This is actually her job, Frank was her first personal candidate; later after her passing, we see that Frank and Casey have set up a whole slew of new young recruiter units out to do exactly as she did.
  • Clingy MacGuffin: The pin only works if the user is wearing it or holding it. it can also be encoded to the DNA of a specific person so only they can use it.
  • Crapsack World: Our mundane world is this, with societal unrest, climate change, threats of nuclear armageddon, etcetera and this complacency with humanity's self-destruction is associated with the widespread popularity of apocalyptic/dystopian science fiction. Additionally, the continued decline of NASA is a major part of Casey's story, with Neil Degrasse Tyson's "We Stopped Dreaming" speech being one of the major points of inspiration for the film's writers.
  • Crazy-Prepared: Frank's house has secret escape routes, traps including magnets and laser cutters for robots and an escape pod for insurance. Lampshaded by Casey once it's all over: "You were actually prepared for that?!?"
  • Credits Gag: The filming locations credit includes "Tomorrowland".
    • Which is true in a manner of speaking, scenes were shot on location at the Carousel of Progress attraction at Walt Disney World's Tomorrowland, but these ended up getting deleted.
  • Curse Cut Short:
    • Casey when Athena suddenly shuts down mid-conversation.
    Casey: SON OF A- <engine revs>
    • Similarly, Frank mutters a "Son of a-" when he sees the flaming combine Casey has set rolling towards his house.
  • Despair Event Horizon:
    • Governor Nix crossed it when his warning to the people of Earth was completely ignored, triggering his Face–Heel Turn.
      • More than that, it was triggered by humanity in general crossing it and simply deciding to stop trying.
    • Casey comes close to one when she sees what Tomorrowland has become, until her "Eureka!" Moment pulls her out of it.
  • Did Not Do the Bloody Research: Governor Nix’s very last words are "Oh, bollocks", this was enough to get the film a 12A rating in the U.K. despite the film being rated P.G. in America.
  • Distinction Without a Difference:
    Casey: Is that like a portal to Earth?
    Governor Nix: No, it's a bridgeway to Earth.
  • Doomsday Clock: Frank has one at home. It predicts that our planet has 56 days left to survive due to nuclear war, ecological meltdown and natural disaster. There's also a probability counter, showing the chance of that future coming to be an 100%, until Casey comes along and it drops just a bit.
  • Driving Question: From George Clooney's character, inventor Frank Walker:
    Frank: What if there was a place... a secret place... where nothing was impossible? A miraculous place where you could actually change the world? You wanna go?
  • "Eureka!" Moment: Casey has one that shakes her out of her Despair Event Horizon, when she realizes that the Monitor was broadcasting negative images in people's minds, to hasten the End of the World.
  • Even Evil Has Loved Ones: Governor Nix is fond of Athena, despite the fact she's working against him. He is even horrified at shooting her by accident due to her taking the raygun shot meant for Frank.
  • Evil Brit: Governor Nix. He's played by Hugh Laurie, what did you expect?
  • Fallen States of America: As implied with the Crapsack World, the United States is headed down this road.
  • Fantasy-Forbidding Father: Frank's father, who says his attempt to build a jetpack is a waste of time.
  • First Love: Athena is this to Frank. Which is why he's so bitter when they meet again, he never got over her even after his exile.
  • Funny Background Event: During Wallace's livestream for The Optimist ARG, there is a Tomorrow Land DVD sitting on his armoire.
  • Fun with Acronyms: In the expanded materials, the word PIN (in this case Casey's Pin) stands for Proximity Inversion Node.
  • Gadgeteer Genius: Frank Walker, the citizens of Tommorowland, and members of Plus Ultra are this.
  • Glamour Failure: Two notable examples...
    • This is how Casey realizes that Frank’s guard dog is a hologram. It doesn’t leave any footprints.
    • The main defect with "atomic T" pins. When touched they show a person an idyllic field of wheat, with some sort of super-science city in the background that they can explore. However, they don’t transport the person anywhere, so when they walk they still interact and bump into the physical objects around them on Earth.
  • Gratuitous Latin: Though "Plus Ultra" appears a kludge of Totally Radical words, in Latin it means "Further Beyond."note 
  • Grew Beyond Their Programming: Athena, who, in addition to her relationship with Frank, is the one who comes up with the idea to use her self-destruction to destroy the Monitor, despite an earlier comment about how she doesn't have ideas.
  • Hand Wave: David Nix's lack of aging between Frank's backstory and the present timeline is explained away as a shake he drinks every morning.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: Athena is damaged beyond repair when she takes an energy blast to the chest intended for Frank.
  • Heroic Suicide: Athena self-destructs to destroy the Monitor.
  • Hidden Elf Village: Tomorrowland. Notably, they didn't intend to stay secret, they just decided it wasn't a good idea to share everything they created with a world that they warned of a coming catastrophe, but not only refused to change but idealized it. However, Tomorrowland was hardly in an ideal state when Casey, Frank and Athena finally reached it - it was at its height when it was still accepting immigration from Earth. Tomorrowland's isolation was destroying it, and just planning to bring in new recruits rejuvenated it..
    Hugo Gernsback: Have you ever wondered what would happen… if all the geniuses, the artists, the scientists, the… smartest, most creative people in the world… decided to actually change it? But where? Where could they even do such a thing? They’d need a place, free from politics, bureaucracy, distractions… Greed… A secret place. Where they could build whatever they were crazy enough to imagine.
  • Historical In-Joke: According to Frank, Tesla discovered the alternate dimension, and then Edison tried to take credit for it because the two hated each other.
  • How We Got Here: The movie begins with Frank telling his story, with Casey interjecting running commentary, in the present day, before cutting to the main action. The movie ends where they leave off, revealing that Frank and Casey are telling their stories to a new line of androids, who will take on Athena's role to distribute newly-minted pins to the dreamers of the world, to invite them to Tomorrowland.
  • Hurricane of Puns:
    • Brad Bird tweeted a picture of the soundtrack album with the message "Another film, another great score by @m_giacchino, and most importantly, another bunch of crazy-ass cue titles—" which this time around include "You've Piqued My Pin-Trist," "Boat Wait, There's More!," "Home Wheat Home," "Pin-Ultimate Experience," "People Mover And Shaker," "What An Eiffel!" and "Sphere And Loathing." Giacchino stated that his music editor came up with most of the track titles, but Giacchino did admit he named the final cue on the album... "End Credits." The soundtrack also continues Giacchino's Running Gag with "World's Worst Shop Keepers".
  • Hypocrite: David Nix, who criticizes Earth for giving up and embracing the Earth's destruction, when he too has given up and embraced the Earth's destruction, to the point that he purposefully tries to sabotage the heroes' attempts to save it. However, it's heavily implied by his "The Reason You Suck" Speech that it was humanity apathy that lead him to his Despair Event Horizon.
  • Insistent Terminology: The human robots being referred to as "AAs" or "Audio-Animatronics", a Mythology Gag as that's the term Walt Disney coined for all his company's robotic figures.
  • I Want My Jetpack: That, and a whole lot more, are available in Tomorrowland.
    • When Nix asked ten-year-old Frank why he built a jetpack, Frank answered "I got tired of waiting for someone else to do it."
  • Jerkass: Governor Nix’s Establishing Character Moment consists of him being an asshole to a 10 year old kid for no good reason.
  • Jerkass Has a Point: Kind of. Governor Nix casually dismisses Casey as a "flicker" and in many ways, he's absolutely right. Her wide-eyed idealism only has the smallest of impacts on the probability of the world being destroyed, reducing it by less than a thousandth of a percent. However, this was the entire point of her character: She's just one little candle flickering in a sea of darkness, but as the old proverb goes, it's better to light one candle than to curse the darkness.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Frank is this when he first meets Casey, flattening her with the house defense system. He does eventually get his idealism back.
  • Just a Machine: Frank originally says this about Athena, but later amends it.
  • Just Got Out of Jail: The trailer starts with Casey picking up her possessions from a police station property room. Say, what's this pin...
  • Karmic Death: Athena ends up Taking the Bullet when to protect Frank from a ray gun shot from Nix. She then has Frank take advantage of her activating self-destruct mechanism to blow up the Monitor... which then proceeds to fall directly onto Nix.
  • Laser-Guided Karma: When Frank first encounters Casey, he uses a wave cannon (likely in case of robots), pushing her away from the door, and leaves her outside in the rain. When Casey stages a diversion to get Frank out of the house, she turns the tables by locking him out of his house, using the wave cannon on him, and leaving him outside in the rain.
  • Like an Old Married Couple: Frank and Athena are butting heads like this almost constantly. Made both extra funny and creepy by Frank being (visually) almost four times as old as Athena.note 
  • Little Miss Badass: Athena can even beat up adult-sized robots.
  • Little Miss Snarker: Athena can be this quite a bit, especially when she's running out of patience such as lying that she's got an automatic shutoff function if someone asks her too many sensitive questions. She's really just playing dead because she found Casey annoying.
  • Logo Joke: The Disney castle is replaced by Tomorrowland.
  • Made of Iron: Frank. As a kid he survives get driven into the dirt at high speeds by his jetpack instead of suffering any serious injuries. It also takes his body a few seconds to disintegrate when shot with a raygun in a potential timeline, unlike everyone else who disintegrates instantly.
    • Also he doesn't seem to need to replenish his sugar levels due to Casey taking his Coke.
  • Masquerade: Governor Nix says that, in the old days, Tomorrowland would work to have the Eiffel Tower turning into a huge rocket dismissed as a hoax. However, with the world ending in less than two months, he's not going to bother keeping it a secret. It didn't stop his androids from atomizing those three cops when they started asking uncomfortable questions though.
  • Meaningful Echo:
    • Casey at one point tells her father the story of The Two Wolves, a story he used to tell her, reminding him that the wolf that wins is whichever you keep feeding. She later realizes that Governor Nix has been broadcasting apocalyptic images in people's minds, causing them to "feed the wrong wolf".
    • Frank at one point describes the T-pin as "an invitation to a party that never happened." At the end of the movie, Frank says that they should "put the party back on and print out new invitations."
  • Meaningful Name:
    • Athena, named after the goddess of wisdom, inspiration, artisans and strategic warfarenote  among other things, who was born from the head of Zeus. She is the one who seeks out dreamers, encourages them to act on their ideas, and is a pretty decent fighter when she needs to be. She's also the one to come up with the final means to destroy the Monitor at the end.
    • Casey's family name is Newton. Likely after the famous scientist Isaac Newton (although her father, Ed Newton, could double as a nod to Brad Bird's frequent collaborator Ted Newton). Her first name comes from Cassandra, the prophetess whose admonitions were never believed.
      • Even more style points, Casey's name comes from Isaac, when spelled backwards is Caasi (pronounced as "Casey").
    • Hugo, the robotic proprietor of the Blast to the Past store is named for Hugo Gernsback, creator of Amazing Stories and the namesake of the Hugo Awards. His wife, Ursula, is named after Ursula K. Le Guin, winner of multiple Hugo Awards.
    • David Nix. "Nix" means "nothing" or "to end." He's content with doing nothing to prevent the end of the world.
  • A Minor Kidroduction: Played with:
    • While the movie starts with Frank in the present day telling his story, with Casey interrupting, the story kicks in with a young Frank visiting the New York World's Fair, where he meets Nix and Athena and first discovers Tomorrowland.
    • After a very brief shot of her in the present day, interrupting Frank again, we cut to Casey as a kid, identifying various stars and declaring that she wants to become an astronaut.
  • Missing Mom: Casey's mom is seen in the intro, then never again, possibly implying she died in between, though it's never explicitly stated. This might also have added to her father's embittered air. However, Word of God reveals that Casey's mother (along with extended family members) were cut to streamline the story. The Junior Novelization retains Casey's mother and her extended family in the present day time period.
  • Moral Myopia: Governor Nix has a very long and angry rant about why the people of Earth deserve doom, but never stops to ponder that by doing nothing to prevent it, even though he has the means and technology to do so, he's just being as apathetic as they are. He has so few craps to give that he doesn't even bother to stop the Monitor from broadcasting, even though he knows full well it's only making things worse.
  • My God, What Have I Done?: Governor Nix, when he inadvertently shot Athena when she took his raygun shot for Frank.
  • Mythology Gag:
    • The pin is a reference to the pins sold at Disney Parks.
    • Jetpacks were demonstrated at Disneyland's Tomorrowland during the 1950s and early '60s.
    • Much like another Disney film about the future, Space Mountain appears as part of Tomorrowland's skyline. People have also spotted nods to Epcot's Horizons and the Disneyland episode Magic Highway USA. During the end credits, Space Mountain and EPCOT's iconic Spaceship Earth appear side-by-side as part of the landscape.
    • Tomorrowland's transportation is run by the Tomorrowland Transit Authority, a nod to the Magic Kingdom's version of the Peoplemover.
    • In a rather obscure reference, there is a scene where Frank and Casey sit under glowing trees which appear to be being used as a power source. This may be a nod to the Magic Kingdom's version of Tomorrowland, namely the in-universe Tomorrowland Light and Electric Company that uses metal palm trees as a light source.
    • Plus Ultra's origins at the Exposition Universelle and their membership including Jules Verne, who's known as the Father of Science Fiction and inspired H. G. Wells (who, in turn, invented nearly every SF trope) brings classic Tomorrowland attraction The Timekeeper to mind, along with the much-loved attraction for 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea.
  • Murder Is the Best Solution: Nix's androids default to murdering witnesses or those who seek Tomorrowland with shockingly little provocation or without non-lethal alternatives.
  • Nerds Are Sexy: Coming from a family of scientists, Casey is definitely a nerd. And a beautiful one, too.
  • Never Trust a Trailer:
    • The trailer makes Casey's dad out to be a Jerkass Fantasy-Forbidding Father when in the actual movie he's… a NASA engineer who's facing unemployment as Cape Canaveral is getting closed down, but still is a loving and supporting father despite being left a tad embittered and bearing a somewhat fatalistic viewpoint over being on the verge of unemployment. His angry outburst seen in the trailer is entirely justified because he just bailed Casey out after she gets caught breaking into NASA and sabotaging the demolition efforts, and he plans to ground her for it.
    • There's also an in-universe example that doubles as Leaning on the Fourth Wall a bit, especially given that some of the footage was also used in the trailers: The lapel pin that apparently transports Casey to Tomorrowland is actually playing a sophisticated interactive promotional short, and the real Tomorrowland is largely run-down and mostly abandoned.
    • In relation to the above, one might view the trailer and get the impression that this was going to be a sci-fi movie about a parallel world existing on top of Earth à la The City & the City - and while it technically is, the movie is more of an adventure film that just happens to involve some sci-fi elements (the titular Tomorrowland only makes up a small portion of the story).
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: Governor Nix saw that, the way things were going, the Earth wouldn't last forever unless something was done to save it, so he used the Monitor to subconsciously project the images of doom it had predicted in the hopes that it would scare the people into action. Instead, the only thing it achieved was to desensitize people to the possibility of armageddon which actually hastened it dramatically.
  • Nostalgia Ain't Like It Used to Be: A Decon-Recon Switch; Frank is a cynical and paranoid outcast because he was exiled from Tomorrowland after inventing a machine that showed Earth was coming to an end, which he believes proves that the optimism that built it was all a lie. After discovering that the machine broadcasts its predictions, creating a Self-Fulfilling Prophecy, he realizes that he was the one who made it a lie, by giving up on the future. Thus, the past wasn't "better", it was just more optimistic - despite the myriad problems that those eras faced, people who lived in them believed they would ultimately be solved. The modern world's cynical view of the problems it faces - pollution, sickness, war, hate - has made those problems appear unsolvable, and embracing the optimism of earlier eras will help solve them.
  • The Omniscient Council of Vagueness: Plus Ultra was the benevolent kind, working behind the scenes to make a better future for everyone. Unfortunately, by the time of the movie, they relegated their work to the utopian city of Tomorrowland while the "for everyone" part of the plan fell by the wayside.
  • The Oner: Casey's first full look into Tomorrowland, what Frank calls "a commercial," is this.
  • Paper-Thin Disguise: Athena briefly tries passing herself off as a Girl Scout to explain why she wants to see Casey. Her brother doesn't buy it because 1) she's not even wearing a uniform, and 2) the "Girl Scout cookies" Athena is holding are a box of Oreos.
  • The Pollyanna: Casey. Her boundless optimism breaks all of once in the entirety of the film. And even then, it takes but a few short seconds to snap her out of it.
  • Precision F-Strike: Nix says, "Oh, bollocks!" as his last words.
  • Portal Cut: Used to defeat one of the robots near the end.
  • Product Placement:
    • The World's Fair features a number of brands, which is probably true to life. A Greyhound-branded shuttle drives past Frank when he arrives. Disney's It's a Small World ride factors into the plot.
    • After they go through a portal, Frank offers Casey a Coca-Cola, which she chugs, then she grabs a second one and chugs that as well.
    • Casey's little brother can be seen using what looks like a PSP or PS Vita.
  • Quantum Mechanics Can Do Anything: Downplayed. While never explicitly mentioned, the tachyon broadcasting antenna seems to be influencing how wave functions collapse.
  • Raygun Gothic: Tomorrowland's primary architecture style seems to be this, with very Wells-esque touches.
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech: Nix's speech about the state of the modern world to the heroes at the climax is essentially this towards society as a whole.
    Governor Nix: Let's imagine, if you glimpsed the future, were frightened by what you saw, what would you do with that information? Would you go to... The politicians? Captains of industry? And how would you convince them? With data, facts? Good luck. The only facts they won't challenge are the ones that keep the wheels greased and the dollars rolling in. But, what if? What if there was a way of skipping the middleman, and putting the critical news directly into everyone's head? The probability of widespread annihilation kept going up. The only way to stop it was to show it, and to scare people straight. Because, what reasonable human being wouldn't be galvanized by the potential destruction of everything they've ever known or loved? To save civilization, I would show its collapse. But, how do you think this vision was received? How do you think people responded to the prospect of imminent doom? They gobbled it up! Like a chocolate eclair! They didn't fear their demise, they repackaged it! It can be enjoyed as video games, as TV shows, books, movies – the entire world wholeheartedly embraced the apocalypse, and sprinted toward it with gleeful abandon. Meanwhile, your Earth was crumbling all around you. You've got simultaneous epidemics of obesity and starvation! Explain that one! Bees and butterflies start to disappear, the glaciers melt, algae blooms... All around you the coal mine canaries are dropping dead and you won't take the hint! In every moment there is the possibility of a better future, but you people won't believe it. And because you won't believe it, you won't do what is necessary to make it a reality! So you dwell on this terrible future, you resign yourselves to it. For one reason — because that future doesn't ask anything of you today. So, yes, we saw the iceberg, we warned the Titanic. But you all just steered for it anyway, full steam ahead. Why? Because you want to sink. You gave up. That's not the Monitor's fault. That's yours.
  • Reed Richards Is Useless: A Discussed Trope. While the founders of Tomorrowland went so far as to travel to another dimension to be able to work in peace towards a better tomorrow, once they found solutions to all the problems back home they decided not to share them, so essentially that "better tomorrow" is relegated to the tiny elite of Tomorrowland while the Earth is left to rot. Casey calls Nix out for isolating Tomorrowland instead of revealing the existence of the fantastical realm to the world as its founders originally planned and not doing anything to help prevent it; Nix reveals that they did try - just as people on Earth are trying - only to be rebuffed by the rich and powerful, who only care about business as usual and status quo. So he modified the Monitor to directly broadcast that information to the world at large... only for them to turn it into a genre, which they proceeded to idealize even as the signs of it approached. This drove Nix right past the Despair Event Horizon, which is why Tomorrowland turned its back on the world it came from.
  • Ridiculously Human Robots: Just Athena. The later robots sent to hunt her down slide too far into the Uncanny Valley. Even the robots built to succeed her mission don't have her liveliness. However, her successors are fresh off the assembly line while she had decades to become more human. Given some time and care, the new recruiters are more than likely to become like her eventually.
  • Rule of Symbolism: When Casey uses the monitor to peer into the future, she watches as the gantry she was protecting is dismantled. Just as the gantry is completely gone - symbolizing how mankind no longer plans to launch rockets, and thus has given up the future - the prediction dissolves into static, and when it clears an indeterminate time later, the entire world is in ruins.
  • Screw Destiny: Casey pretty much says this word for word in a conversation with Frank about what she would do if he could tell her exactly when she'd die; that yes, she'd want to hear it, but only so she could refuse to believe it. This causes the probability of an Apocalypse How to drop from 100% to 99.9994%.
    • Athena does this later when she sees a tachyon image of Nix shooting Frank, Taking the Bullet for him.
  • Self-Destruct Mechanism: When one of Tomorrowland's androids (sorry, audio-animatronics) suffers catastrophic damage, they will self-destruct shortly after. However, despite having the technology to atomize matter, the self-destruct is more akin to ten pounds of C4 going off, quite likely with the intention of taking out whoever destroyed the AA in the first place.
  • Self-Fulfilling Prophecy:
    • Discussed when Frank asks Casey a hypothetical question in which, if it were possible for her to know the exact moment of her death, would she want to know. Casey ponders this, thinking out loud about whether accepting your death would be what brings it about in the first place. She comes to the conclusion that the correct response is that she should know, but refuse to believe. This answer is what causes the 100% probability of doom to go down by 0.0006%.
    • Frank later refers to the trope by name upon the discovery that not only is the Monitor, the machine Frank built, predicting the end of the world, it is also actually the thing that is making it happen. Governor Nix, in an attempt to prevent disaster, zaps the prediction into people's minds so that they can try to keep it from happening. Instead, it made people accept the idea and even embrace it, thus ensuring that the disaster does happen, much to his disgust.
  • Shout-Out:
    • Literally all over the place when Casey visits the Blast From The Past shop, as sci-fi/fantasy collectibles of every type fill the place, and the Star Wars theme plays when Hugo steps out of his room. Notable are the figures of The Iron Giant and Mr. Incredible, since their films were directed by Brad Bird.
    • The Monitor is essentially a disproportionate homage to the Trylon and Perisphere of the 1939 New York World's Fair.
    • Some of the futuristic images during the end credits animation resemble images from either Metropolis or another film called Just Imagine, or possibly both films. And another image even seems to refer to The Jetsons.
    • Athena adjusting her translator by turning a dial near her neck, during which her voice switches to speaking different languages, including Japanese, harks back to the scene with Dug the dog's translator collar in Up, from Brad Bird's colleagues back at Pixar.
    • A very small, easy-to-miss one is during Athena's playback of her journal recordings in her final moments. The year of Frank's banishment from Tomorrowland was 1984, also the signature title among dystopia fiction.
  • Silly Rabbit, Idealism Is for Kids!: Frank's exile from Tomorrowland helped harden him into a pessimistic loner. He regains a measure of optimism before it's all over.
    • However, Frank truly lost his idealism when he found out Athena, his first love, was actually a robot. This was what led to his exile.
    • Silly Rabbit, Cynicism Is for Losers!: In contrast to Frank, Casey maintains this attitude.
  • Sir Not-Appearing-in-This-Trailer: Athena is almost entirely absent from the trailers despite being one of the three main protagonists and appearing in most of the film.
  • Slapstick Knows No Gender: Casey is subject to most of the physical comedy of the movie. Her painful interactions with the real world while inside the pin-induced vision is the prime example.
  • Sliding Scale of Free Will vs. Fate: Besides the idealism debate, the level of inevitability the future has is a major plot point, with Nix being firmly on the Fate side of the scale, and Casey on the Free Will side. The events of the film, particularly Casey's ability to make the supposedly inevitable Apocalypse How future (which is itself a Self-Fulfilling Prophecy) "flicker" to a better one, and Athena changing a tachyon vision by Taking the Bullet for Frank, suggest that the Free Will viewpoint is more accurate.
  • Sliding Scale of Idealism Versus Cynicism: Refreshingly for a modern-day summer blockbuster, firmly and unironically on the "idealism" end of the scale. There are a few references to grimmer, darker media (such as a very b-looking movie called 'toxiCosmos 3') being the result of people affected by the Monitor's announcement of the apocalypse.
  • So What Do We Do Now?: Frank and Casey end up asking this once Nix is dead and his plot to destroy the world is undone. They decide to begin rebuilding Tomorrowland with help from Casey's dad, a NASA engineer, and start sending out new pins to the dreamers of the world, to invite them to Tomorrowland.
  • Spiritual Antithesis: The movie is best described as Disney's take on BioShock, only with Rapture working instead of going to hell.
  • Steampunk: The Eiffel Tower rocket has lots of brass, gears, and very much fits the aesthetic of Jules Verne and H.G. Wells.
  • Super-Powered Robot Meter Maids: Athena was built for finding special people and giving them a special pin. All she needs for that is to be a charming little girl. She's also kitted out with gear and superhuman abilities that rivals or surpasses the Terminator, including having X-Ray vision.
  • Supernatural-Proof Father: Casey tries to convince her father that the pin is showing her another world but it doesn’t work on him, as it only make him think Casey was fooling around, prompting him to confiscate the pin from her, reprimand her and then seemingly ground her. Justified because Athena was earlier seen encoding it to Casey’s DNA.
  • Take That!: Against apocalyptic, "Bad Future" science fiction. The film argues that the genre's popularity is proof of mankind "giving up" and embracing imminent destruction rather than fighting against it.
  • Taking the Bullet: Athena sees a tachyon image of Nix shooting Frank, and dives in front of the blast instead.
  • Teen Genius: Casey. Frank is one that grew up and burned out.
  • Teleportation Sickness: The teleporter used to take the main characters to Paris also causes a good loss of blood sugar. While Frank and Athena aren't so badly affected, Casey is.
  • Teleporters and Transporters: The main means of transportation between Earth and Tomorrowland. They are also used to take Casey, Frank and Athena from New York to Paris. Some of them can be a fairly rough ride.
  • Things Man Was Not Meant to Know: Building a machine that predicted the future turned out not to be such a great idea. When people became aware that it had predicted The End of the World as We Know It, they gave up hope and actually brought the world closer to that outcome.
  • Title Drop: Done by Frank himself at one point in the movie.
  • This Is Not a Floor: Since Athena hands out her pins without any context or warning whatsoever, thinking that they are transporting the user to Tomorrowland instead of just showing it is a very easy mistake to make. Also a very dangerous one, as Casey discovers by banging into real objects. Or falling down staircases. Over and over again until it runs out of power. While she's waist-deep in a lake.
  • Translation: "Yes": One of the robot mooks in Paris shouts something at the group in French. Athena translates this to "about what you'd expect."
  • Turn Out Like His Father: Young Frank tells his dad he's never giving up. By the present day, he's given up and is treating Casey the same way.
  • Uncanny Valley: Invoked by some of the audio animatronic villains.
  • Unexplained Recovery: The Monitor predicted inevitable doom for the Earth in as little as 56 days but, after it is destroyed and governor Nix dies, absolutely nothing happens at all. While it is reasonable that, without its influence, nuclear war could be averted - and it's implied the foreseen environmental collapse is a result of humanity's death throes (see Life After People) - if the planet was in such a catastrophic nosedive that The End of the World as We Know It was less than two months away, you'd think there would be more consequences, even if they're not world-ending, but when the new recruiter AAs embark to hand out new pins, they find a world stumbling along as usual. Frank goes so far as to completely handwave it by saying "We shouldn't even be here, but we are".
  • Unspecified Apocalypse: The Monitor predicts a Class 2 through a combination of nuclear war, societal unrest and environmental damage. It's implied to get much worse.
  • Utopia: What Tomorrowland was at one point. They are harmoniously multicultural, have achieved a post-scarcity society, and have technology that's borderline magical including interstellar flight that's commonplace.
  • Villain Has a Point: Governor Nix's plan wasn't actually evil. At first he believed showing humanity a possible apocalyptic future would scare them into trying to prevent it. However, he lost faith when instead of trying to prevent the apocalypse, humanity embraced the idea of it. How do you save someone who doesn't want to be saved? Even better, why would you want to interact with them in any way, shape or form? This is why the killer robots attempted to assassinate Casey, Frank and Athena; after it became blatantly clear that Earth didn't want to be saved, it was simply a manner of survival - if the nihilistic masters and masses could get to Tomorrowland, they'd almost certainly destroy it too. Secrecy was its shield. The robots were simply operating on orders received decades earlier.
  • We Will Have Perfect Health in the Future: Governor Nix appears exactly the same after fifty years, thanks to a morning shake which keeps him in perfect health.
  • What Measure Is a Non-Human?: The violence is toned down for this PG film by making most of the villains robots, so their deaths don't really count... except for Athena, whom our heroes recognize as a living, sapient being by the end. So all those robots they've been killing were also people.
  • You Can't Fight Fate: Nix believes that the future shown by the Monitor is inevitable.
  • Zeerust: Tomorrowland, especially in the 1960s.

The prequel novel Before Tomorrowland contains examples of:

  • Expy: Werner Rotwang is one to the Metropolis character of the same name, though In-Universe, he was the one that Fritz Lang named the character after.
  • Great Offscreen War: Rotwang earned his initial prominent place in Plus Ultra when he helped in stopping a Robot Uprising enacted by the earliest predecessors to the animatronics with EMP technology.
  • I Love Nuclear Power: Henry's robot body runs on a plutonium power source.
  • Mind Uploading: Henry didn't take to this very well.
  • Robot Buddy: The Faustus robots.
  • Stupid Jetpack Hitler: Much of the book's conflict involves an effort to prevent this, with Plus Ultra agents that defected to the Nazis trying to seize some of that technology.
  • The Tunguska Event: It was a Plus Ultra experiment conducted by Nikola Tesla to open a portal into the other dimension via a super-powered atomic bomb. The devastating results led to them seeking out alternate, less harmful, means of crossing over and the Manhattan Project was just an effort to tone down the original design into something that wouldn't punch holes in the fabric of reality.

"Find the ones who haven't given up. They're the future."