Disney Junior is gearing up for the premiere of their new show, Miles From Tomorrowland, an intergalactic animated series that follows the outer space voyages of young adventurer Miles Callisto and his family, as they help connect the universe on behalf of the Tomorrowland Transit Authority.
We spoke with with Emmy-nominated writer and producer Sascha Paladino (Henry Hugglemonster, Kai-Lan), the creator and executive producer of the show to talk about – well, mostly kids, space and science…
Nerdist: How did Miles From Tomorrowland come about?
Sascha Paladino: Miles From Tomorrowland really started when I found out I was going to become a parent! I learned I was having twins and I actually started to freak out. My wife and I have a really adventurous life. In addition to working in TV, I was a filmmaker and had traveled all over the world, and she was a writer – and my first thought when I found out we were having twins was ,”I’m never going to have another adventure again…” Of course, that quickly turned to joy, and I’m so happy to be a dad – but that first initial shock made me daydream – what’s the greatest adventure you could have WITH your family? I’m someone who loves outer space, and wanted to be an astronaut or a Stormtrooper when I was older. So to me, outer space is the ultimate place where a family could have the greatest adventure in the world.
N: That’s interesting because I’m a parent as well, and it seems to me that the core of this show essentially says, when you’re connected and safe with your family, you have the power to go places and explore the universe, and as a mom, I really appreciate that sentiment.
SP: That’s a great way to think about it and a great way to put it, and that’s even the case when it comes to Miles’ relationship with Merc, his robot ostrich. That’s his best friend, it’s his pet – so of course they’re best buddies, but since Merc is a robot who has these turbo boosters, wing shields, and is made out metal, he can protect Miles from the really dangerous things. So what that helps us do is protect Miles, he can get into some really exciting situations – but stay really safe. And his family can keep him safe. So you as the viewer feel safe watching him.
N: I think we all want that as parents, we all want our children to experience the world and do amazing things, but we also want them – frantically sometimes – to be really safe.
SP: Yes, it’s the idea that because your parents are there on a mission, it’s going to be okay. Kids can be empowered by their parents to take on challenges. In real life, they probably won’t be going into a space shuttle that’s about to crash into a moon of Jupiter – but they might in the future! Hopefully kids will map that adventure to their own lives and gain the confidence in themselves to try new things and challenge themselves, simply because other people believe in them.
N: Right. It begins at home.
SP: Exactly. And for Miles – home is outer space – so for him it begins out in the stars, which is such a great canvas to play on.
N: Obviously you’re using real planets and moons for some of your canvas, so where are they located? Are they on a shuttle that returns to Earth? Is there still an Earth?
SP: The mythology of the show is that Tomorrowland is a place on Earth, building off of Walt Disney’s ideas of progress and the future of innovation. And that’s the headquarters of the Tomorrowland Transit Authority, that’s where the missions are issued to the Callisto family. And Earth is a place where aliens and humans co-exist. The Callistos are stationed in outer space and their mission is to connect the universe. So their job is to both protect the universe both physically and metaphorically. Physically they create new transportation methods through outer space, and metaphorically by reaching out to new alien species and making connections and strengthening the Tomorrowland alliance.
SP: We’re not sure yet – we’re still trying to figure all of that out. We do see Earth from a distance. There’s a space station that orbits above Earth that’s sort of an intergalactic space port and is a hub of transportation in the galaxy. We want to be aware of Earth as a focal point and it keeps us grounded, and within our solar system we have real planets and moons – we’ll go to Mars and Neptune, but we also wanted to give ourselves permission to explore our imaginations. So there’s a lot of fantastical planets with aliens that are mixed in. We tried to find a balance between real places in space and more imaginative places.
N: So are the real planets where people like Dr. Randii Wessen come in? (Dr. Randii Wessen is the Lead Study Architect for the Jet Propulsion Laboratory’s Innovation Foundry’s A-Team, and the lead series consultant for Miles from Tomorrowland. Wessen specializes in advanced concepts for NASA’s future planetary and astrophysical missions.)
SP: Exactly – Randii is our consultant from NASA, and he’s amazing. He works in different ways… Like we might come up with a story and then he’ll check our science facts and tell us whether we’re right or wrong, and give us suggestions for what the science fact might be. But sometimes it works the other way where we’ll brainstorm with him and just ask things like, “What’s a crazy thing that you think could happen in outer space?” And one time he told us that he thought there could be a planet where the atmosphere was such that it rained diamonds. And I thought, “That is a FANTASTIC story.” So we created an episode where there’s an alien thief who tries to go to this planet and get all the diamonds, and the Callistos have to stop her. So, stuff we never could have dreamed of comes from the actual physics of outer space!
N: Were you interested in space as a kid?
SP: Oh yeah – I grew up in New York City and was walking distance from the Hayden Planetarium. When I was a kid I took an astronomy class there – I still have my certificate. I always loved going to the Air and Space museum in Washington D.C.. I think like many kids, I was always dreaming of the stars.
N: Assignment: Compare and contrast your show to The Jetsons.
SP: I love The Jetsons, and would be happy if someone compared us to them! I think they played a lot of the future stuff for laughs, where we’re kind of earnest about it. We wanted to immerse the viewer in the feeling of being a member of the team – you’re up there with Miles in space. We worked hard to make the gadgets and technology believable in our own way. Miles thinks of every day as an action movie with him as the star. And that’s how I felt when I was a kid, I always thought of myself as an action hero, and Miles gets to actually be that. So hopefully this will be some wish fulfillment for kids too.
For more on the science behind this show – check out this EXCLUSIVE video from Disney Junior:
Catch four back to back episodes of Miles from Tomorrowland on Friday February 6th on the Disney Channel at 9am ET