Disney's aborted 1950s UFO acclimation movie headed for the big screen?
Earlier this year, Silver Screen Saucers asked: “Could it be that Disney is producing a dramatization of the flying saucer fever that swept America in 1952?” That question was prompted by the enigmatic title 1952 – a “top secret” Disney production quietly announced by the House of Mouse back in June of 2011. We were told that a script was being penned by Damon Lindelof (Prometheus, Cowboys and Aliens), and nothing more. We subsequently learned that Brad Bird (The Iron Giant, The Incredibles) had signed on to co-write and direct.
But yesterday (Oct. 17) saw some intriguing (and confusing) developments when Vulture reported the following:
Despite its title, 1952 is largely set in the present day.
Its plot will focus on aliens visiting Earth for the first time.
The film will also reportedly follow a man in his late 40s through this alien ordeal.
Lindelof and Bird are aiming to re-create the magic of Close Encounters of the Third Kind.
1952 co-writer Damon Lindelof
Vulture also reported on the movie’s mysterious back-story, which goes like this: last spring, Disney’s head of production, Sean Bailey, arranged for screenwriter Lindelof to be given access to “one of the studio’s odder curiosities: a banker’s box of files and documents that had been left moldering in Walt Disney’s personal development lab, WED Enterprises, which later became the studio’s vaunted Imagineering department.”
According to Vulture’s “spies”, the box was originally labelled with the title of Disney’s 1965 comedy That Darn Cat!, which had been crossed out and in its place was written “1952.” Apparently, inside the box was a “collection of documents and primary source materials that, when looked at all together, indicated that someone had been working on a project (movie? Theme park ride?) about alien contact."
The identity of this “someone” from Disney’s bygone era working on a project about alien contact has not been specified. As it turns out, though, we may already know... the name “Ward Kimball” springs to mind.
While at a MUFON symposium in 1979, Oscar-winning Disney animator and Imagineer Ward Kimball (the man behind Jiminy Cricket, The Mad Hatter and Pinocchio) claimed that the United States Air Force (USAF) had approached Walt Disney himself during the 1950s to request his cooperation on a documentary about UFOs that would help acclimate the American public to the reality of extraterrestrials. According to Kimball, in exchange for Disney’s cooperation, the USAF offered to furnish the production with genuine UFO footage. Kimball claimed that Disney accepted the deal and – ever faithful to Uncle Sam – began work immediately on the USAF project. It wasn’t long, however, before the USAF reneged on its offer of UFO footage. When Kimball challenged the USAF Colonel overseeing the project he was told that "there was indeed plenty of UFO footage, but that neither Kimball, nor anyone else was going to get access to it." The project was then abandoned and eventually forgotten by all but the few who had worked on it.
Walt Disney's most trusted animators - his "nine old men" - included Ward Kimball
(pictured far left, front).
So, could Disney’s mysterious 1952 be a 21 Century revival of its aborted 1950s UFO acclimation project? Based on the information thus far presented, there would certainly appear to be a connection... but hold on there, because here’s where it gets confusing...
Within hours of publishing his inside scoop on 1952, Vulture’s Claude Brodesser-Akner posted the following correction to his report:
“Apparently I misunderstood my source for this story, who contacted me after it was posted to clarify that while it is true that 1952 is very much in the spirit of Close Encounters (and centers around a Roy Neary-like protagonist), it is not in fact about an alien encounter. My apologies for the erroneous plot description.”
Roy Neary (Richard Dreyfuss) making first contact in
Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977)
Hmmm. So when the unnamed source told Vulture: “It will be set largely in the present day and it is about aliens making contact here on Earth,” and that the aborted Disney project that inspired it was “about alien contact,” apparently this was just a miscommunication. And yet it is just like Close Encounters of the Third Kind. Hmmm. Could it be that Vulture’s source (almost certainly an official viral ‘leaker’ for Disney) spilled one too many beans in his revelation of the movie’s alien aspect, has been reprimanded by the studio and has subsequently issued a rather implausible “correction”?
It’s hard to say for sure, but given the past UFO-themed credits of screenwriter Damon Lindelof, and in light of Disney’s longstanding fascination with the UFO enigma – not to mention the strong UFO-related connotations of the 1952 title – my money is still firmly on this movie being about aliens.
In terms of the movie’s marketing, Vulture also reported the following:
“The collaborators are planning an elaborate, very J.J. Abrams–like advanced marketing campaign that will start before filming even begins. The idea is to stage a treasure hunt for intrigued moviegoers that will gradually reveal clues about and build intrigue for the film right up until its release, and which may or may not be related to the contents of the box.”
Perhaps, then, the “box” is just a viral marketing device vaguely inspired by Kimball’s story? Or perhaps it is, as the source originally stated, a real box with real photos and documentation that have directly inspired a new and highly secretive Disney project? Perhaps the box is a remnant of the aborted Disney UFO documentary?
Indulging the latter assumption for a moment – that this new movie will feature real photos and/or footage of UFOs and perhaps even their occupants – what would be the point? If presented in a fictional context (as apparently it would be), said material would immediately be fictionalized by way of its presentation in a “science-fiction” movie. Also, in today’s world of photorealistic CGI and Performance Capture technologies, debates surrounding “real” and “faked” footage would be very difficult to resolve. We could be looking at genuine alien landing footage from any time during the modern UFO era and automatically assume it to be CGI.
So again I’ll say, “hmmm.” Intriguing stuff, for sure, but until Disney hits us with more info on 1952, I’ll quit with the speculation. Watch this space...
1952 is scheduled for release in 2013.