A Theme Park Built for One

The New Urbanism vs. Disney Design in The Truman Show

in Critical Survey
Douglas A. Cunningham US Air Force Academy dcunningham@westminstercollege.edu

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In the summer of 1996, director Peter Weir and his location managers visited a small town on Florida's Gulf Coast to scout locations for their new film, The Truman Show, the tale of a young man, Truman Burbank, who literally (and unwittingly) lives inside a television program. Everything Truman knows or has known in his entire life - friends, family, even the town in which he lives or the sky he sees at night - has been fabricated solely to perpetuate Truman's ignorance about the fact that billions worldwide view his existence daily. The screenwriter, Andrew Niccol (whose eye for visionary architecture had inspired him to shoot much of his own film, Gattaca, in Frank Lloyd Wright's Marin County Community Center the previous year), had planned to use Manhattan as the setting for this new film. Weir, however, felt, the story might benefit from a more unknown, 'idealized' location, and the crew finally settled on Seaside, an experiment in 'neotraditionalist' community design. The result of this decision provided the world with its first 'big-screen' exposure to a New Urbanist community.

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