Since it opened in 1955, Disneyland has welcomed generations of families through its gates. As of 2012, all four Walt Disney World theme parks have been in the Top 5 most visited theme parks in America (Disneyland Park actually takes second place after the Magic Kingdom). Millions upon millions of guests flock to the parks every year with cameras in hand to capture the memories. In 2010, filmmaker Randy Moore (who graduated from Full Sail University in Winter Park, minutes away from Walt Disney World Resort) along with actors and crew in hand, took to Disneyland and Walt Disney World to film a movie without Disney’s permission. After secretly editing the movie in South Korea, the end result became Escape From Tomorrow, which premiered at the 2013 Sundance Film Festival.
Since Escape From Tomorrow was announced, there has been a fair amount of controversy surrounding the filming method and even the prospect of legal action from either The Walt Disney Company or Siemens. The potential threat from Disney comes not only from the use of their parks as unauthorized filming locations, but their intellectual property, including characters and attractions, used extensively throughout the film. Siemens is also used heavily in the film, both as the factual sponsor of Spaceship Earth as well as the fictitious residents of Epcot. On The DIS Unplugged podcast, we spoke with lawyer and DIS Blog correspondent Jack Burgin on the possibilities of legal action and some of the technicalities of relevant copyright laws. The filmakers take a tongue-in-cheek approach to the legal threat, and even include a countdown on their website displaying the “number of hours since release that we [the filmmakers] haven’t been sued.”
Meet Jim (Roy Abramsohn), a husband and father on vacation with his family at Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida. On the last day of their vacation, Jim receives a call from his boss informing him that he’s been let go. Determined to make the most out of the rest of their vacation, Jim and the family hop on the Monorail at the Contemporary Resort where they are staying and head to the Magic Kingdom. While on the Monorail, Jim notices two French teenagers and becomes increasingly interested in them to the point that he starts to follow them throughout the parks.
Jim starts to fantasize and daydream, everything from seeing the dolls’ faces in “it’s a small world” transform to the most bizarre ride imaginable on Soarin’. Things get beyond strange as cat flu spreads around the resort, Disney Princesses double as call girls for Asian businessmen, and Siemens is doing more than sponsoring Spaceship Earth.
All photos © 2013. Producers Distribution Agency
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
After Escape From Tomorrow premiered at the 2013 Sundance Film Festival, many critics were calling it “the film Disney doesn’t want you to see.” I watch a lot of crazy movies and this is definitely high up on my list as one of the strangest. Does it have a negative impact on Disney or is it so bizarre that it can only be seen as a parody of Disney? In my opinion, Escape From Tomorrow is all parody. Not every Disney fan is going to love this film. In fact, a lot of people will hate it and under no circumstance is this movie intended for children. Disney Parks are a family-friendly environment and this movie portrays the opposite at times.
The film itself is shot beautifully for the most part. It was photographed using Canon DSLR cameras with a monochromatic black and white filter not only to set the mood for the story, but also to combat lighting issues when filming on location inside the parks without any extra lighting. Randy Moore, the director, never received permission to film at any of the parks, so this movie was completely done in a guerrilla style. Also, many scenes could not be filmed in the parks, so landscape shots were filmed and the actors were green-screened into the settings and it shows.
I don’t think the acting is horrible, especially from the children, but this is not your big budget/movie star Hollywood movie. In its essence, Escape From Tomorrow is a B-Movie with sub-par acting, unnecessary nudity, random cursing and some downright stupid scenarios, but it was all done so well considering what it took to make the film. It has everything that is going to make it a cult classic for years to come. I can appreciate a bad movie for what makes it good. The ridiculous plot and familiar Disney locations make this movie for me and I can only imagine how much fun it would be to watch this with a group of friends and just laugh about it.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
The first word that comes to mind after watching this film is ‘bizarre.’ To be honest, between the crazy plot and the unique filming style, bizarre is the only real way to describe it. Like Craig mentioned, in no way is this movie family-friendly. In fact I would even go so far as to say that most die-hard Disney fans won’t find this film enjoyable. It’s going to appeal mostly to that cross section of Disney fans that can appreciate those unique, sometimes inappropriate independent movies that usually don’t find mainstream popularity. Since I somewhat fit this mold, I did find the movie fascinating, even if the plot was unbelievably strange.
If you’re feeling up to the task, I would recommend Disney fans watch Escape From Tomorrow for the filming locations alone. Even though the film is meant to take place at Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando, FL, Disneyland in California is featured quite heavily as well. As far as Walt Disney World, you’ll see areas all over Magic Kingdom and Epcot used in the movie, as well as several parts of the Contemporary Resort and a quick shot of the Polynesian Resort. Quite a few of Disneyland’s Fantasyland attractions and areas are used in the movie as well, and there are a few scenes in Adventureland too. Knowing that the filming was all done undercover, it’s enjoyable to recognize the locations and try to figure out how exactly the filming was handled.
In the end, the goal of Escape From Tomorrow was to take the seemingly perfect world that many associate and connect with Disney Parks and the Disney culture as a whole, and juxtapose it with a series of unfortunate events – some more realistic than others. This is perfectly demonstrated in the film’s tagline – “Bad things happen everywhere.” In a scene toward the end of the film, pseudo-Cast Members are shown turning a horrific scene in a hotel bathroom into a pristine, clean, ‘show-ready’ bathroom – as if to raise the Disney curtain and make everything okay. Escape From Tomorrow does a fairly good job of playing those two concepts against each other, I just wish the end result would have been a little more polished.