Much like the area of Disneyland from which “Tomorrowland” draws its inspiration and title, Brad Bird’s new sci-fi film looks both forward and backward. On the one hand, it’s a futuristic tale about a bright young teen (Britt Robertson) and a jaded inventor (George Clooney) traveling to a high-tech wonderland to save the world.
At the same time, “Tomorrowland” revels in the retro-space-age aesthetic dreamed up by Walt Disney and his Imagineers six decades ago — all rocket engines and ray guns, swooping lines and shiny chrome.
As “Tomorrowland” hits theaters and Disneyland celebrates its 60th anniversary, here’s a look at five more movies that sprang from the Happiest Place on Earth.
“40 Pounds of Trouble”
One of the first films ever shot at Disneyland, this 1962 romantic comedy stars Tony Curtis as a slick Lake Tahoe casino manager who finds himself chaperoning his boss’ niece (Suzanne Pleshette) and an abandoned girl (Claire Wilcox) on a trip to the Anaheim theme park — while also dodging private detectives sent by his greedy ex-wife.
Along the way, the movie spotlights such attractions as the Monorail, the Matterhorn and Main Street, USA.
“Pirates of the Caribbean”
Based on the Disney theme park ride of the same name, Gore Verbinski’s 2003 swashbuckler “Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl” spawned a blockbuster franchise whose four films have combined to gross $3.73 billion at the worldwide box office. The series’ success was largely powered by Johnny Depp’s off-kilter portrayal of the roguish pirate Jack Sparrow, famously inspired by Rolling Stones guitarist Keith Richards.
After a protracted development period, a fifth installment, “Dead Men Tell No Tales,” is currently in production and slated for release in 2017.
Disney’s other 2003 film inspired by a theme park attraction didn’t fare quite so well (nor did “Country Bears” the year before). Putting a comedic spin on the spooky ride, “Haunted Mansion” features Eddie Murphy as a workaholic real-estate agent who drags his family to a palatial but ghost-infested abode. It was shredded by critics and flopped in the U.S., though it performed decently overseas.
Genre specialist Guillermo del Toro is currently developing a new, creepier “Haunted Mansion” film, with his pal and fellow Disney aficionado Ryan Gosling in talks to star.
“Saving Mr. Banks”
Tom Hanks took on the role of Uncle Walt himself in this drama about Disney’s efforts to convince the cantankerous British author P.L. Travers (Emma Thompson) to allow her Mary Poppins children’s books to be made into a musical. With meticulous attention to 1960s-era costumes, sets and other details, director John Lee Hancock shot much of the movie on the Disney lot and at Disneyland.
As sharp as Hanks and the scenery look, it’s actually Thompson who steals the movie with her expertly tailored wardrobe and gleefully fierce performance.
“Escape From Tomorrow”
Arguably the most intriguing Disneyland movie of all is one that was never authorized by the Mouse House. Randy Moore, a struggling screenwriter living in Burbank, clandestinely shot this surrealistic black-and-white psychodrama over multiple visits to Disneyland and Disney World. The plot concerns a fortysomething father whose Disney day with his family becomes increasingly sinister and inscrutable.
Despite the potentially thorny legal issues surrounding the film, “Escape” bowed at the Sundance Film Festival in 2013 and was released commercially by Producers Distribution Agency (the same company that released “Exit Through the Gift Shop,” a Banksy documentary partially shot at Disneyland).
“Escape” barely made a blip on the box-office radar, and it divided critics as well. Still, most would agree that it shows a side of Disneyland not seen before or since.
Follow @ogettell for movie news