Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow is a 2004 American science fiction action adventure film written and directed by Kerry Conran in his directorial debut. The film is set in an alternative 1939 and follows the adventures of Polly Perkins (Gwyneth Paltrow), a newspaper reporter, and Joseph "Joe" Sullivan (Jude Law), alias "Sky Captain", as they track down the mysterious Dr. Totenkopf (Laurence Olivier), who is seeking to build the "World of Tomorrow". The film is an example of the "dieselpunk" genre.
Conran spent four years making a black and white teaser trailer with a bluescreen set up in his living room and using a Macintosh IIci personal computer. He was able to show it to producer Jon Avnet, who was so impressed that he spent two years working with the aspiring filmmaker on his screenplay. No major studio was interested in financing such an unusual film with a first-time director. Avnet convinced Aurelio De Laurentiis to finance Sky Captain without a distribution deal.
Almost 100 digital artists, modelers, animators and compositors created the multi-layered 2D and 3D backgrounds for the live-action footage while the entire movie was sketched out via hand-drawn storyboards and then re-created as computer-generated 3D animatics. Ten months before Conran made the movie with his cast, he shot it entirely with stand-ins in Los Angeles and then created it in animatics so the actors had an idea of what the film would look like. Sky Captain is notable as one of the first major films (along with the earlier spring releases of 2004's Casshern and Immortal, and 2005's Sin City) to be shot entirely on a "digital backlot", blending live actors with computer-generated surroundings.
In a technologically advanced 1939, the zeppelin Hindenburg III arrives in New York City, mooring atop the Empire State Building. Aboard the airship is Dr. Jorge Vargas (Julian Curry), a scientist who arranges for a package containing two vials to be delivered to Dr. Walter Jennings (Trevor Baxter). Moments later, as the courier looks back while leaving with the vials, Dr. Vargas is nowhere to be seen.