#YVRSHOOTS – Hugh Laurie’s TOMORROWLAND Mayor at 1964 New York World’s Fair Sets

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In the third year of this series, expect me to write about and photograph the current film and TV productions —Tomorrowland, Once Upon a Time, Arrow, Supernatural, Bates Motel, Almost Human, Once Upon a Time in Wonderland and our own Arctic Air and Motive — which showcase our city and sometimes put a celebrity actor or two in the frame. Find out more on my daily blog yvrshoots.com.

What is Tomorrowland? A boy-genius inventor (Thomas Robinson) finds it at the 1964 New York World’s Fair. He steps off a Greyhound $3.00 Grand Sightseeing Tour bus and stares in wonder at the spectacle down the promenade (University of British Columbia’s Main Mall) to the Unisphere, a 12-storie-high stainless-steel Earth. At the Fair, he meets a young robot girl  (Raffey Cassidy) who sneaks him into Tomorrowland at the Hall of Invention (H.R. MacMillan Space Centre/Museum of Vancouver) where the Tomorrowland Mayor (Hugh Laurie) tells the youngster to come back when he is older and his inventions work. Years later, the now jaded and disillusioned former boy-genius inventor (George Clooney) teams up with a teenage science prodigy (Britt Robertson) to find Tomorrowland again.

Director Brad Bird returned to Vancouver, where he shot much of the Tom Cruise blockbuster Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol, for this new live-action film. Co-written by Bird, Jeff Jensen and Damon Lindelof (Lost & Star Trek reboot), this Disney movie was shrouded in secrecy until it began filming here in the second week of August at its World’s Fair set at UBC, with young Thomas Robinson, the Greyhound bus and hundreds of period costumed extras on set.

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Last week Tomorrowland shot more World’s Fair sequences at the H.R. MacMillan Space Centre/Museum of Vancouver with Hugh Laurie on set and the same extras. But rain storms and grey weather made it difficult to match the light from the sun-drenched UBC shoot, so a key scene of the Tomorrowland Mayor and the little robot girl walking into the Fair’s It’s a Small World attraction had to be pushed back until late Friday afternoon when the sun returned.

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Hugh Laurie outed his own arrival last week when the accomplished musician played a few sets from his second album, Didn’t it Rain, at the Cellar Jazz club on Broadway. Word spread on social media and went mainstream after the Vancouver Sun photographed Laurie as he was picked up by his driver at Tomorrowland’s Hall of Invention set.

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While I’d predicted Hugh Laurie would be here for the Hall of Invention scenes, he wasn’t out in the open until production moved from behind blue screens on the driveway and into the parking lot on Wednesday evening. A group of us watched from the opposite sidewalk as Laurie chatted amiably with various crew members as they set up cameras at their It’s a Small World set in the west end of the lot. We expected Laurie to be in the rehearsal with the Fair-goer extras but he left unexpectedly so determined fan and music teacher Julie Holden had to return the next day in the rain to get her Didn’t It Rain CD signed — Julie: Didn’t it rain on you too. Best, Hugh Laurie.

Would the sun ever come back? A dance party kept the 300 Fair-goer extras entertained on Friday afternoon. Or as director Brad Bird tweeted: “Spontaneous dance party broke out with huge number of period costumed extras. Even waiting for the sun it’s a good day to be in Tomorrowland.” You could hear disco songs like Michael Jackson’s Billie Jean blasting from behind the  blue screens and catch glimpses of backgrounders in a congo line or doing the Macarena.

Eventually  the “most expensive dance party you’re ever going to go to” wound up and the costumed extras moved to the parking lot as the sun dropped below the clouds.“Picture’s up, once the sun comes back,” the director announced, as everyone laughed. After a few rehearsals without cast, Hugh Laurie quietly joined the backgrounders at the north end and the cameras rolled.

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Tomorrowland wrapped at the planetarium with sun to spare. You can see the beginnings of Disneyland in the two Disney characters below. Walt Disney used It’s a Small World and three other attractions at the 1964 World’s Fair as test runs for what would become the world-famous theme parks.

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The 1964 New York World’s Fair took place in the Space Age, a time of great optimism in America’s history when everything seemed possible.

New York (USA). World’s Fair 1964-65. View of the Unisphere with world flags.
New York (USA). World’s Fair 1964-65. View of the Unisphere with world flags.

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You can see the giant blue screens down UBC’s Main Mall where the computer-generated image of the Unisphere will be.

Tomorrowland isn’t done with the World’s Fair, filming more scenes yesterday of the 1960s costumed backgrounders on the private Main Street (old Watchmen) set in south Burnaby and at a small blue screen on the Kent Hangar gravel field nearby. So far, nothing matches the eye candy of the UBC and H.R. MacMillan Space Centre shoots.

But stay tuned — George Clooney is coming to town.