Did you know there was a secret apartment on top of the Eiffel Tower where genius French engineer Gustave Eiffel entertained some notable luminaries of his time, such as American inventor Thomas Edison? Eiffel also used the apartment to conduct meteorological observations and performed various scientific experiments inside the apartment. Now imagine, one autumn evening, in 1889, Eiffel quietly gathered together three of his illustrious peers -- the aforementioned Edison, Frenchman Jules Verne and Serbian Nikola Tesla -- in the apartment to discuss the future? To our knowledge, this meeting never happened, but is part of the intricate backstory imagined for Disney's Tomorrowland. Before you think all of Tomorrowland is fictional, that futuristic city you may have seen in the posters and movie trailers -- that exists too, at least partly.
Continue reading for more about the real-life city of Tomorrowland in Valencia, Spain.
Thomas Edison (left) and Gustave Eiffel (right) mannequins in the Eiffel Tower Apartment. Image by Serge Melki, Wikimedia creative commons
Brad Bird, director of Disney's Tomorrowland, has a penchant for physical locations over virtual sets, and the question early on in the making of his film was whether or not the whole of Tomorrowland would have to be built from scratch, an expensive and time-consuming proposition. A city built by visionaries such as Eiffel, Edison, Verne and Tesla with advanced technologies had to look like one, and finding such a place was not an easy task. But then, in a series of wonderful coincidences, Tom Peitzman, the special effects producer and the film's co-producer, stumbled upon a car commercial early on in production. The location looked so futuristic, and turned out to be the City of Arts and Sciences in Valencia, Spain, designed by Santiago Calatrava, who was already serving as an inspiration for the film's production designer Scott Chambliss (Star Trek, Star Trek Into Darkness, Cowboys & Aliens).
Príncipe Felipe Science Museum, City of Arts and Sciences, Valencia, Spain, image by Diego Delso, Wikimedia creative commons
The City of Arts and Sciences is a museum complex in the city of Valencia on the Mediterranean coast of Spain dedicated to science, technology, nature, and art. A scouting party was sent and Valencia, Spain became the bones of Tomorrowland -- almost literally. "Calatrava's architecture is just phenomenal and inventive and exciting," says producer Jeffrey Chernov. "It's very skeletal, like you're looking at the vertebrae of a dinosaur or prehistoric fish. You walk into that place and you never want to leave. That's the vibe we wanted for Tomorrowland."
City of Arts and Sciences, Valencia, Spain, image by Braddoskas, Wikimedia creative commons
Ágora, City of Arts and Sciences, Valencia, Spain, image by Diego Delso, Wikimedia creative commons
On shooting at the City of Arts and Sciences, George Clooney comments, "Valencia is not a city I'd been to before -- and I'd been all around Spain, which is an incredibly beautiful country -- but it was really fun to go there and work and spend time. The architect's imagination represents that great optimistic version of life where you just go, 'I want to build that' and somebody builds it. It's pretty amazing."
City of Arts and Sciences, Valencia, Spain, image by Embre, Wikimedia creative commons
Of course, not all of Tomorrowland could be worked into the City of Arts and Sciences, in particular the monorail, the huge energy sphere and the massive monitor, were built on a massive soundstage collectively referred to as the Bridgeway Plaza set in Vancouver.
Disney's Tomorrowland Copyright Disney 2015
Disney's Tomorrowland opens Friday, May 22, 2015, and when George Clooney asks, "do you want to go?" -- you can not only go to the theater, but visit the futuristic complex of the City of Arts and Sciences in Valencia, Spain.