A History Of Tomorrow is a silver, 9-inch phonovision disc, an experimental form of Plus Ultra video storage technology that is a predecessor to the Laserdisc and DVD. Stored on the disc is a 3 minute, animated short entitled “A History of Tomorrow”. The disc was discovered as part of the 1952 Box and dates back to November of 1963.
When Plus Ultra was getting ready to reveal the existence of, what would later be known as, Tomorrowland, it was Orson Welles who asked fellow member Walt Disney to make a short cartoon for 1939 New York World's Fair, that covered Plus Ultra's history and achievements. However, Plus Ultra shelved the reveal, primarily due to the destruction of the Grid.
In November of 1963, the animation was remade for VIP members visiting the 1964 New York World's Fair. It included a new script written by Carlos Moreau, a new Orson Welles narration, and crisp, refined animation by Walt Disney and Ward Kimball.
The disc is roughly the size of a 45 rpm phonograph record. Like a record, it is made of a translucent, silver-colored vinyl. Also like a record, information is stored on grooves on the disc. However, unlike a traditional phonograph record, this phonovision record stores both audio and video. The vinyl, and it's grooves, are heavily scratched. The top of disc's label bears the Plus Ultra logo, with the colors inverted. Below that, the option "Play Inside Out" is circled in red, felt-tip pen. The middle of the label lists the disc's operating speed, it's name, the date, and sequence numbers. The bottom of the reads "Orthacoustic Transcription", the cursive font suggesting the disc was manufactured by the RCA corporation.
The disc's sleeve is made of manila paper, the same material used in envelopes. At the top of the sleeve, written in black crayon, are the words "OK Walt". At the bottom is a white label, which lists the description, the file code, the date, and the development team. To the right of the label is a message in Morse code, written in felt tip pen. There is also a "+U" stamp on the label.
After the discovery of the disc in 2008, the task of restoring the disc, and the information on it, was given to film producer Tom Peitzman. Peitzman was provided the task of of figuring out how the data could be extracted from the disc. His team came back with a startling result: the disc was imprinted with a piece of Disney animation from the early 60s. They also reported a complication: Due to damage done to the disc, the content had been adversely affected.
Then Pixar Animation Studios was enlisted to handle the sensitive project of restoring the animation into viewable shape. Animators who worked on the short included Teddy Newton, Dan Jeup, Andrew Jiminez, Lou Romano, Ryan Woodward, and Paul Abadilla. Voice actor, and Welles impressionist, Maurice LaMarche, dubbed over Orson Welles' lines. The work was ongoing: of the seven minutes of content believed to be on the disc, the restoration team has only been able to yield three minutes of high quality footage.
The restored "A History of Tomorrow" film was meant to be featured in Brad Bird's Tomorrowland film project itself, with intercut commentary from the live-action characters, but this scene ended up being deleted and the short was subsequently re-purposed for online marketing.
The footage starts with humanity at the dawn of history, smashing together two rocks to make a fire and creative cave drawings, before jumping forward to ancient Greece and other cities. “There is no such thing as fate,” proclaims Orson Welles. Welles tells a moralistic fable about the pursuit of progress and the benefits, and folly, that can come from it.
Fast-forward to the World’s Fair in Paris in 1989. Images of Nikola Tesla, Thomas Edison, Jules Verne and Gustave Eiffel flit by, and form the secret society "Plus Ultra." We also see pictures of various technological advancements including radios, cars, battleships, tanks, planes, electricity, the nuclear bomb, and the burning streets that followed the bomb. The implication is that technology is a double-edged sword: it has great potential for danger, but it also represents optimism for the future.
The animation ends with Plus Ultra workers designing and planning a new, futuristic city. Welles then asks the viewer if they would like to see it too.
"Since the dawn of recorded history, Mankind has boldly pursued it's destiny, bolstered by an unwavering belief in progress. Yet, progress has a dark cost.
With every advance, comes the great temptation to misuse new knowledge for domination. Innovation, if left ungoverned by conscience, can lead to destruction. Yet, there is no such thing as fate. We can, and always must, make our own future.
Paris, 1889. A World's Fair just like this one. Four of the worlds' most brilliant minds: Edison, Eiffel, Verne, Tesla; come together to form Plus Ultra, a group dedicated to cultivation of Mankind's greatest resource: imagination. And upon that foundation, they would build their dream: a place where nothing was impossible.
But no dream can be achieved without struggle. The collective minds of our brilliant membership, gave birth to the greatest technological advances of the new century. Each step forward brought new dreams, and new nightmares, pushing us ever higher, and ever closer, to the abyss.
In the hands of corporate interests, bent on profit; governments locked in perpetual war; the possibility of mutually assured destruction, became inevitable.
And so, working in secret, free of the corruptions of money, politics, and power; the world's greatest minds have collaborated on another path for humanity. A world we need not fear, but one we can aspire to.
And that fellow traveler, is why you have been invited here. At long last, we are building that tomorrow. You are about to enter a word of miracles and wonders. A shining beacon of hope for humankind. And in just 20 short years, we will share this extraordinary place with the entire world.
So, would you like to see it?"