Disney Junior’s ‘Miles from Tomorrowland’ a Sci-Fi Mashup of Galactic Proportions

February 2, 2015 | By Brent Almond | POP CULTURE

DISNEY JUNIOR - MILES FROM TOMORROWLAND

If you’ve got a preschooler in your house, you probably already know there’s a new show premiering on Disney Junior on Friday, February 6 called Miles from Tomorrowland. But what you may NOT know is which video game (subconsciously) inspired one of the characters; or what aspect of the show was the brainchild of a pair of 3-year-olds; or which two iconic sci-fi actors may face off in an upcoming episode…

I had the opportunity to chat with Sascha Paladino, creator and executive producer of Miles from Tomorrowland — to pick his brain about creating this spacey new show and to geek out over our shared love of science fiction. In addition to Miles from Tomorrowland, Paladino has worked on a whole slew of kids’ shows, including Henry Hugglemonster, Ni Hao, Kai-lan, Doc McStuffins, Wonder Pets, and many others. Sascha is a New Yorker, living in LA with his wife and twin boys.

We start off chatting about both our sons recently turning 5, and Sascha ends up getting in the first question…

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Sascha Paladino: So what shows does your son like?
Designer Daddy: Um… (a little embarrassed) lately he watches A LOT of Power Rangers. But he’ll still sit and watch Caillou or Doc McStuffins, something nice and calm…
…that won’t get him revved up?
Yes, and that allows me to enjoy his childhood a little longer. And he definitely loved Miles from Tomorrowland
Oh good!

DD: …And I did, too! Even in the first scene, I saw hints of Tron, Star Wars and Joust. Loved the ostrich.
SP: (Laughs) That’s a great reference! I hadn’t even thought about it, but Joust was a big part of my childhood, so I think you just figured out where the ostrich came from.

I think of the show as a mash-up of all these different space shows, games and books that got jumbled around in my brain and came out as Miles.

Disney Junior - Miles From Tomorrowland

Miles & Merc (Mechanical Emotionally-Responsive Creature). @DISNEY JUNIOR.

DD: Were there any other movies or shows that influenced you?
SP: You know what I really loved — which I feel like is underrated — is The Last Starfighter. I liked the aspect of wish fulfillment — the kid in the small town playing video games gets selected to be this starfighter, and saves a whole race of aliens.

And the way I see Miles is that he imagines himself an action hero, and every day is a different adventure. It’s that idea of the biggest dream you’ve ever had coming true, which in Miles’ case is living and working in outer space. And the best part for him is he gets to do it with his family.

Disney Junior - Miles from Tomorrowland

The Callisto family: Leo, Phoebe, Loretta, Miles & Merc. @DISNEY JUNIOR.

DD: Right, and I liked that they give him responsibilities.
SP: Yeah, I didn’t want it to be that the parents were the ones on the mission and the kids were just along for the ride. It was really important that the kids had a specialty. So Loretta, the sister — she’s the tech genius. We call her an alien anthropologist. Miles is more of an explorer and a collector, and helps run the ship. They each have a very specific role; dad is the engineer and inventor, and mom is the captain.

DD: I love that mom is the captain. That was awesome.
SP: That reflects how I see moms — they’re kind of the captains of their families.

DD: Have your boys ever inspired any ideas for the show?
SP: My sons were really into police cars and rescue vehicles when they were about three, as the show was in development, and they asked if there could be a police car or fire truck in space. I thought it was perfect! So because of that, we ended up creating a police force in outer space, and it’s become a major element of the show.

DD: Is this show going to tie into the Tomorrowland movie?
SP: No, it’s separate. But the thing that connects them is Walt Disney’s original concept of Tomorrowland, which is a focus on progress and technological advancement, and how that makes the world better.

DD: What kinds of things can we look forward to on upcoming episodes, in terms of locales?
SP: It’s similar to the overall theme of the show — mixing sci-fi with real science. For example, we have an episode on Mars coming up, where we’re true to the science of Mars and what it would be like to be on the planet. Then we have episodes that take place on planets that we create ourselves.

We try to have one science fact per episode; sometimes it’s not about the location but about a phenomenon in outer space. You get a great sense of discovery and exploration because almost every episode in this first season we go somewhere new.

DD: I remember when Sofia the First came out, there was a lot of press about her being the first Latina Disney princess, but then it was never mentioned on the show. Is there some aspect of Miles’ ethnicity that’s a minority representation?
SP: Miles is half Chinese, but it’s not something we make a big deal of in the show. His mom’s side of the family is Chinese and his dad’s side is Caucasian.

DD: That’s one of those things — the balance of not wanting to make a big deal about it, but it is a big deal to the kids it represents.
SP: Right. And it’s an important aspect of his character – that he’s mixed race. The idea that in outer space he’s encountering different cultures — that’s integral to the show.

DD: As a gay dad, someday it would be great to have a kids’ show where a character has two dads or two moms.
SP: That would be amazing. I think that would be great — that reflects real life. Yeah, I hope I can do that one day.
Good! I’ll follow up on that.
Yes, please do!
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Jon also had a few questions he wanted to ask…

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Jon: Is Merc a Cyborg ostrich?

That’s a great question! He’s actually a robot — there’s no part of him that’s real. But in the future the robots are so advanced that he does have real emotions, like an animal or a person would.

Jon: Is Miles in kindergarten?
SP: We haven’t explored Miles’ schooling yet, but he does go to school with other aliens. And he’s 7, so he’s probably in the 2nd grade.
DD: So I guess there’s still homework?
There is still homework in the future, but it’s all holograms.

Jon: Will there be any bad guys or monsters? (There weren’t any in the two episodes we screened.)
SP: Yes to both – bad guys and alien monsters. We even have an alien dinosaur! Some of them are friendly; some of them are not so friendly. But Miles’ family finds a way to deal with them all.

We definitely wanted to honor the sci-fi tradition of bad guys in outer space, and up the excitement that way. One exciting villain is named Gadfly, who’s always trying to steal the latest high-tech gear — he’s voiced by Mark Hamill. That was an exciting way to connect back to Star Wars. We were all geeking out. (I am, too! –DD)

Disney Junior - Miles from Tomorrowland

Gadfly, as voiced by Mark Hamill. @DISNEY JUNIOR.

DD: Any other well-known voice actors to note?
SP: Olivia Munn (News Room) plays the mom; Tom Kinney (voice of SpongeBob) plays the dad; Adrian Grenier (Entourage) plays Miles’ uncle. And we’ve been really lucky — in addition to Mark Hamill, we’ve had some other sci-fi folks like George Takei and Wil Wheaton; and Bill Nye the Science Guy plays an alien professor. It’s kind of amazing. I can’t believe how many cool people we have doing voices on the show.

DD: (Geeking out more) Wouldn’t it be awesome to have a Star Trek and a Star Wars voice in the same scene? It might create a black hole or something…
SP: Haha! We’re working on an episode where all the villains come together – both Mark Hamill and Wil Wheaton play villains. That would be a true mash-up.
You could have a Luke/Wesley whine-off!
That’s great!
Don’t tell them I said that.
I won’t.

DD: Getting to hear all this makes me more excited to watch, but my son is excited either way.
SP: The main thing is that we’re trying to balance these action-packed stories with the family element. That’s the heart of the show. And if it works, kids will feel both the excitement of living in outer space and that warmth of family and being together.
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Miles from Tomorrowland premieres on Disney Channel, Friday, February 6 at 9AM ET/PT (8 CT) with four back-to-back episodes! Check out video clips, science facts, crafts, activities and more on Disney Junior’s Miles from Tomorrowland page!

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3 responses to “Disney Junior’s ‘Miles from Tomorrowland’ a Sci-Fi Mashup of Galactic Proportions”

  1. Loved this interview! Great questions, intriguing answers. Has my interest in the show building, so I think I’ll see if I can find online episodes soon for my kids to watch (and maybe me, as well).

    J.

    • Brent Almond says:

      Thanks J! It was definitely a nice change from talking animals and princesses, and all of the little inspirations from the sci-fi world were fun to look for. My favorite thing (which I failed to mention) is Miles’ tool (?) that looks like a cross between a light saber and a boomerang! 🙂

      Thanks much,
      B

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