Initially the idea was to adapt Joyce's wildly detailed book into a live-action feature. Joyce drafted multiple screenplays. Various directors and Disney executives got close to green-lighting it in the '90s -- including director Peter Jackson, for a day -- but they never flipped the switch.

For the movie industry, [Joyce] was creating conceptual characters for Toy Story and A Bug's Life . He also was fine-tuning the characters and world of Robots , a project he oversaw from start to finish as production designer and producer.

Joyce said the movie has remained faithful to his book and his ideas about the future. Working with the Disney creative team, which was led by director Stephen Anderson, has been rewarding.

People who see the movie and walk through the exhibit at artspace will learn about the movie's strong design influences, like 1939 New York World's Fair and the Futurism movement in industrial design from the 1930s and 1940s.

"There is so much about this that was about that wonder of technology that people had in the 1920s and '30s," Joyce said.