Disney’s ‘Miles From Tomorrowland’ Merges Fact, Fiction for Preschool Audiences – Variety
The series, which follows the exploits of young adventurer Miles Callisto and his family of space explorers, aims to include science facts in each of its entertaining science fiction stories. And it does that with the help of a cadre of experts from such celebrated places as the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, NASA and the Space Tourism Society as well as key voice talent with strong ties to science and science fiction (â€œStar Warsâ€ and â€œStar Trek,â€ anyone?).
â€œIâ€™ve always been interested in science, but I was never that great at it. My mind always went toward the arts,â€ says creator Sascha Paladino. â€œWhen I pitched this show about outer space, I wanted to make sure the science was good, that we were mixing science fiction and science fact in an intelligent way. Luckily, when Disney bought the show, they were on board with that.â€
Paladino and crew work most closely with JPLâ€™s Dr. Randii Wessen, who oversees the science in each episode from concept through production. â€œThe difficult part for me is to decide when do I say â€˜Hey, you canâ€™t do thatâ€™ versus letting it slide,â€ says Wessen. â€œA classic example, and the biggest one, is that right now we canâ€™t travel faster than the speed of light. Thatâ€™s a known physics law. This show is about interstellar travel across the galaxy. You have to go faster than light speed,â€ he explains. â€œThereâ€™d be no show if I said, â€˜Hey, you canâ€™t do this.â€™ I had to leave that one alone.â€
â€œWe donâ€™t always agree on how much science to put into an episode, but I think thatâ€™s a good thing because weâ€™re always trying to find the balance,â€ says Paladino of their work with Wessen. â€œWe donâ€™t want â€˜Milesâ€™ to feel like a didactic show where the learning is clear. We want to tell really exciting and entertaining stories and have science woven in organically.â€
Another example of that creative tension between science and art took place over breakfast â€” sort of. â€œWe try to put a spacey spin on everything, so we thought they should have floating pancakes for breakfast,â€ says Paladino. â€œRandii is not a fan of the floating pancakes.â€
Wessen picks up the tale: â€œIâ€™m trying to get the gravity field right on Mars so that it will look right, and the writers are putting anti-gravity powder in pancakes? So when Miles eats them, does he float?â€
â€œRandii just doesnâ€™t think thatâ€™s possible. And a lot of things are not possible, but we just liked the entertainment value of it. He couldnâ€™t get his scientific brain around it,â€ explains Paladino. â€œBut floating pancakes are just funny.â€ They reached a truce. â€œHeâ€™ll give us floating pancakes, if we put in some real facts about Jupiter when we go inside of it,â€ says Paladino. â€œBut itâ€™s become kind of a running joke that heâ€™ll never get on board with the floating pancakes.â€
Though many of the showâ€™s viewers havenâ€™t even started school yet, the experts say its never too early to introduce the to science. â€œItâ€™s important to inspire young people across the board to have an interest in science, technology, mathematics and the environment, to be aware that they can play a role in helping to create a more peaceful world,â€ says consultant John Spencer, a space architect who has come up with designs for such things as orbital space yacht for extremely high-end tourists. Spencer provides the artists with a different kind of science inspiration. â€œItâ€™s a very different thing than from Randii, who is more hard science,â€ explains Paladino. â€œJohn is more of a dreamer in a way. He dreams up these great concepts.â€
â€œWe had lots of discussions about what a star ship might actually be,â€ says Spencer of his work with the â€œMiles From Tomorrowlandâ€ team. â€œWe wanted to make it friendly â€¦ just make it a home.â€
And home is where the family is. From NASAâ€™s Dr. Yvonne Cagle, the artists learned about the importance of companionship in space. â€œThereâ€™s no way youâ€™re going to be able to explore and ultimately colonize a planetâ€ without companionship, Cagle explains. â€œThe crew becomes your extended family.â€
Cagle sees the â€œMiles From Tomorrowlandâ€ audience as the next generation of real-life space explorers. â€œThe young people weâ€™re inspiring now, the next generation, they are the Martians,â€ she says, referring to last yearâ€™s film starring Matt Damon. â€œThe truly are going to be the next lifeforms on Mars, so itâ€™s important to engage and excite them. And this is a great way to do that learning. I like to tell our next generation of young people that their spacecraft is their own dreams and they can travel as far as their imagination can carry them.â€
â€œMiles From Tomorrowlandâ€ has also gleaned sci-fi cred from two of the most beloved franchises in the genre â€” â€œStar Warsâ€ and â€œStar Trekâ€ â€” via the voice talents of George Takei of the original â€œStar Trekâ€ series and films, Wil Wheaton from â€œStar Trek: The Next Generationâ€ and Luke Skywalker himself, Mark Hamill from â€œStar Wars.â€
â€œAs we were talking about who might play certain roles, we said â€˜Whoâ€™d be the absolute best?â€™ and weâ€™ll go from there,â€ says Paladino. â€œMy first choice was Mark Hamill to be on the show in some way. We had this character, an alien villain (Gadfly Garnett), and we knew heâ€™d played the Joker in the animated â€˜Batmanâ€™ series. We said â€˜It probably wonâ€™t happen. No oneâ€™s heard of the show. It hasnâ€™t been on yet. But he said yes!â€
Paladino said it snowballed from there. Takei played an alien that can only see in the infrared spectrum and Wheaton played the villainous Commander Sâ€™Leet in guest roles. â€œIt was great having conversations with Mark and Wil about the effects that their respective â€˜Star Warsâ€™ and â€˜Star Trekâ€™ franchises have had on people who wanted to pursue careers in science after seeing them. To think that our show has a little bit of that DNA, it feels right,â€ says Paladino. â€œI feel very lucky the agreed to be on our show.â€
The series will conclude its first season Friday at 10 a.m. on the Disney Channel with an episode called â€œGalatech: Secrets of the Black Hole.â€ As the show embarks on its second season this summer, space is proving to be an ever evolving frontier. There is a lot of real world science for â€œMiles From Tomorrowlandâ€ to explore, including real planets and imaginary ones that have a basis in fact.
â€œWeâ€™ll get in room with Randii and heâ€™ll tell us about weird science facts,â€ explains Paladino. â€œFor instance, he told us there could be atmospheric conditions that could result in a planet made from diamonds. Immediately, all the writers in the rooms weâ€™re like, â€˜Oh, Iâ€™ve got it! Thereâ€™s totally a story coming together.â€™ But Randiiâ€™s like, â€˜Whatâ€™s so great about that? Itâ€™s just a science fact.â€™ But to us, itâ€™s like story gold.â€
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