As my family and I entered Tomorrowland at Disney World, the sign at the entrance caught my attention: "Tomorrowland, The Future That Never Was Is Finally Here."
In 1955, when Walt Disney launched his first theme park, Tomorrowland was intended to be a temple to Walt's optimism. He said, "Tomorrowland is a vista into a world of wondrous ideas, signifying man's achievements…a step into the future, with predictions of constructive things to come…and the hope for a peaceful and united world."
Walt's vision was not unusual for his day. A New York Times editorial on January 1, 1901 said, "The 20th century will meet and overcome all perils and prove to be the best this steadily improving planet has ever seen." This utopian optimism fueled American imagination and culture through the mid-20th century. But today optimism is dead. People no longer believe in the promises of technology, and the term "future progress" has gone from 20th-century mantra to 21st-century oxymoron.
Fifty years after Tomorrowland opened it appears Walt's vision of the future would have better described Fantasyland. The promise of a more peaceful, prosperous, and united humanity through the power of science and technology has failed to materialize. As one Disney historian notes, "The sad reality was that technology was not a savior and that much of the advancement anticipated during the 1950s and 1960s had pushed people farther apart instead of bringing them together."
Disney, as a flagship of American culture, has been forced to respond to these changes in society. (They were forced also by the cost of continually updating the rides. Staying ahead of technology is expensive.)
By looking more carefully at the "new" Tomorrowland, the church may learn ...