Has The Walt Disney Studios uncovered a lost treasure?
Disney Fans, Twitter followers, and the media have been speculating on the contents of a perplexing box labeled “1952,” since Pixar Animation Studios writer/director Brad Bird and screenwriter/producer David Lindelof posted photos of this curious container on their personal Twitter accounts on January 23. Last week, The Walt Disney Studios announced the film, which will release on December 19, 2014, is now titled Tomorrowland (it was previously known as 1952). Bird is in the director’s seat and is writing the script with Lindelof. Read More on Tomorrowland Announcement ► But what do the box’s contents reveal?
D23: The Official Disney Fan Club turned to the Walt Disney Archives Director Becky Cline—no stranger to archival sleuthing—to help us unravel some of the riddles wrapped inside this mysterious and enigmatic photograph. Here’s what she shared with us:
- From the age, type, and conditions of the items I can see, I feel that the materials in the box were gathered together for a project from the past. Perhaps as research for a science-fiction-themed film, television, or park attraction, or even a futurism project like Walt’s vision of EPCOT.
- It looks like someone reused an old banker’s box from another Disney production. We don’t use this style of boxes anymore at the studio. There is another sticker on the cover of the box, but the text on the picture is obscured.
- Someone put tape over the original production label and hand wrote “1952” in pen—the brevity of the title and the fact that it’s handwritten sounds to me like it’s probably a working title. Both the studio and WED often used working titles before they came up with a final title of the project. “The Concert Feature” was what they called Fantasia before they decided upon a final name for example.
- On the top there are some old photos. The three that I can see are of Walt with visitors, probably taken here at the studio. The one on top is in our photo collection and I was able to identify the man with him as Major Woodlief of the U.S. Army Reserve General Fund. It was taken in September 1943. The Disney Studio worked closely with the United States government and military soon after the bombing of Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, and U.S. Army, Navy and Air Force elements were stationed at the Lot for the duration of the war. I can’t identify the people in the other photos, but we have the negatives for the photos in our collection. They were taken in 1950.
- There is a large manila envelope sealed with a loose sticker. It appears to have material in it, but we can only guess its contents. From the size and shape of the envelope, I would guess it might contain maps, brochures, or some other kind of folded documents.
- The magazine that appears along with this curious collection of documents and objects provides more clues. It is a copy of the science fiction magazine Amazing Stories from August 1928. I got a closer look at the cover by looking it up online. It shows a man in flight wearing some sort of jet pack, powered by a hand-controlled device of some sort. After doing a little more research, I discovered that the cover story of that particular issue is the serialized novel The Skylark of Space, written by Elmer Edward “Doc” Smith and Lee Hawkins Garby. Walt was always interested in futurism and flight especially in the 1950s and early ’60s; in fact, for Disneyland’s Tencennial Celebration in 1965, he actually had a man fly down Main Street, U.S.A. with a jet pack. The man also did flight demonstrations in Tomorrowland in the Flight Circle.
- There are two slide boxes in the box, one features the Technicolor logo; the writing on the other white slide box is indecipherable.
- There is a 45 rpm record that appears to be a master disc. It is probably from the ’40s or early ’50s (these type of records pre-date magnetic tape recording). It’s definitely not the kind of record that is pressed and sold to the public. Unfortunately, its handwritten label is too blurry to decipher.
- There is a blue paperback book in the box. The title appears to be Moral Research. The spine has other writing that I can’t read—the author’s name could possibly be at the top, but I can’t make it out. There is another name that looks to me like “Roland”—probably the name of a fictive publisher.
- There is a small white box on the right side that looks like the boxes we use to store individual reels of 8mm film. There is no print that I can see for further ID.
- There is a U.S. mail letter on the right side. I can see two purple postage stamps, but the denomination is not clear enough to read.
- Under the photos, record, magazine, and the letter is what looks to me like one of the old peg-and-screw albums we used to use here at the Studio for scrapbooks. It appears to have more photos and perhaps art in it (artboard anyway). Under that are the old string accordion files that we used to use for clippings, documents, loose art, etc. And there are a couple of manila mailing envelopes, too.