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Welcome to the Paleofuture blog, where we explore past visions of the future. From flying cars and jetpacks to utopias and dystopias.

Disney Calls Future a Thing of the Past (1997)

As I've argued before 1997 can be seen as the year that postmodern paleo-futurism went mainstream. Disney's self-aware redesign of Tomorrowland meant that mainstream American culture was out of ideas for the future.

It was as though the people at Disney were throwing up their hands and saying, "The year 2000 is just around the corner! Without flying cars we've got nothing! Check your parent's attic, there must be something cool up there!"

The most sincere and sentimental company in America had decided to simply co-opt past visions of the future.

The excerpt below is taken from a February 23, 1997 New York Times article that sums up the Tomorrowland redesign and what it meant for futurism.

''The new Tomorrowland begins with Jules Verne and ends with Buck Rogers,'' said Beth Dunlop, a Florida architecture critic who recently released a company-approved book on Disney architecture.

Tomorrowland is hardly alone. The future is growing old all over Disney's magic kingdom. From the film lot to the Epcot theme park to the real-life town that the company calls Celebration, Disney has largely given up on imagining a new future. When a story line or ride design calls for a touch of times to come, it is usually, as posters for the new Tomorrowland boast, ''the future that never was.''

The shift is profound for a company whose founder was one of postwar America's great popularizers of technology. And it is a reflection of the ennui that many Americans, at century's end, feel about the chips and bits in which they are immersed.

''We went to the Moon and all we got out of it was Teflon pans,'' said Karal Ann Marling, a professor of art history and American studies at the University of Minnesota, expressing an increasingly common attitude.

''Our goals as a people are not these pie-in-the-sky objectives that people grew up with in the 50's,'' said Professor Marling, who is the curator for a Montreal exhibit in June on Disney theme park architecture. ''They settle now for a house in the suburbs and to hell with the Moon. What's the point of building monorails if we can hardly get the car to work?''

See also:
Postmodern Paleo-Future
Article for MungBeing

Just Imagine (1930)

Man and the Moon filmstrip (1970s)