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The Oatmeal

Is Disney making a movie about Nikola Tesla?


Is Disney making a movie about Nikola Tesla?

Posted September 25, 2013

A few months ago I got an email from Disney asking me to come down to Burbank to consult with them on an upcoming film: TomorrowLand.


Directed by Brad Bird and starring George Clooney, I was thrilled. I'm a huge fan of Bird so meeting him would be like meeting Santa Claus, Neil Armstrong, and Wesley Snipes all at the same time.

So, I went to Burbank to attend this meeting with Disney and Santa SnipeStrong. Going into it, I had no idea what to expect; I'm not a filmmaker, screenwriter, and other than being awesome at Space Mountain, I'm not particularly knowledgable about Tomorrowland, either.

Right off the bat I got to meet Brad Bird. I tried not to do the fanboy-babbling thing and frighten the poor man, but I couldn't really help myself and I began talking at a thousand miles an hour about The Iron Giant and The Incredibles and so on. He was courteous and funny and appeared to be used to this type of fanboy-cartoonist-babble, so we chatted for a few minutes until someone steered the conversation toward the real reason I was there: TomorrowLand.

I signed an NDA which states that I'm not allowed to talk about the Tomorrowland film -- this includes specifics such as the plot, characters, or screenplay, BUT we never actually talked about the film and the NDA says nothing about what we discussed in the meeting. I read the NDA like ten times and I'm 92.4% sure I'm in the clear here, so, with the 7.6% chance of being sued, here's what happened:

As I said before, we didn't talk about the movie. Instead, they asked me a bunch of questions about Nikola Tesla. They asked what Tesla was doing in Colorado, and if he'd ever conducted experiments at Mineral King. They asked if Tesla belonged to an organization called "Plus Ultra", and if it was possible for him to have met Walt Disney. They also asked a variety of questions about the recently saved Wardenclyffe, particularly about the buried tunnels underneath the property that may potentially contain some of Tesla's old equipment. I know quite a bit about Tesla, but I'm by no means an expert historian. My insight into the man is mostly centered around his character -- that of an inspiring, geek underdog who changed the world and suffered bitterly for it. There are much better people than me whom Disney could be talking to. I told them I didn't have much insight, but I did my best and tried to separate the plausible from the implausible for them. I got the impression Disney was just covering their bases with some of these questions looking for confirmation of what they already believed.

The 1952 'Box' They also showed me the box which, according to Disney, was uncovered in Disney's archives after years of neglect. Inside was a bunch of memorabilia from the early days of Walt Disney. When looking in this box, they asked me to focus on a few items pertaining to Tesla, including a letter that described a supposed meeting that took place at the 1889 World's Fair between Tesla, Gustave Eiffel, Thomas Edison, and Jules Verne (which, as far as I know, never happened).

The contents of the box were later displayed at D23, and Slashfilm did a very thorough job of explaining what was inside.

Does anyone know what this is all about? Is Disney making a movie about Tesla which is directed by Brad Bird? (If so, holy crap!) What do they need me for? It seems odd to fly me down to California just to spend twenty minutes answering a bunch of (mostly) implausible questions and looking at a bunch of fake and/or real memorabilia. I've tried asking Disney directly but at this point they're pretty much incommunicado regarding the specifics of the film, the box, or our meeting.

-The Oatmeal

P.S. The President of Serbia visited Wardenclyffe this past Monday to unveil a monument dedicated to Nikola Tesla. I was in attendance and got to meet His Excellency, Tomislav Nikolic, and shake hands with the man. He knew all about The Oatmeal, The "Let's build a GD Tesla Museum" campaign, and was a super nice guy. I plan on writing all about it very soon, along with an update on what's happening with the Tesla Museum. The Guardian has a nice writeup of the event as well, with photos of the statue.

In the meantime, if you want more frequent updates about Wardenclyffe, follow the Tesla Science Center at Wardenclyffe.

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