Sundance film seems certain to ignite Disney ire
The most written-about film so far at this year's Sundance Film Festival likely isn't a star-studded or competition film. It's "Escape from Tomorrow," a black-and-white, nightmarish tale of one man's spiral into absurdity at Disney World, a feature in the festival's non-competition "Next" category.
After the first screening Jan. 18, The New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Indiewire, Hitfix and other media wrote about its guerilla filmmaking. The reason for all the attention is a question that will certainly occur to viewers: What will Disney executives think about "Escape from Tomorrow"?
Answer: They won't like it. The film is a dark, funny tale of a bizarre trip framed by the underlying weirdness of the Happiest Place on Earth. And corporate Disney is probably going to take a look at the movie's swipes against Disney icons and try to ban it from public view.
"Right now we're just waiting to see what comes next," director Randy Moore said Jan. 20 after a Salt Lake City screening.
The film revolves around Jim (Roy Abramsohn), who learns he has been laid off but hides the fact from his wife and two kids during their last day at Disney World. By way of distraction, Jim becomes obsessed with two French teenagers and begins stalking them from ride to ride. He also descends into brief moments of madness on various rides (fans of "It's a Small World" who see this film may never view that ride the same way again.) The movie portrays Disney park princesses as highly-paid escorts for Asian businessmen, while a Disney witch from "Snow White" is a bombshell who kidnaps children.
Moore said it took him three years to make "Escape from Tomorrow," which involved intense planning with actors and crew in their hotel rooms in order to shoot at Disneyland in Anaheim and Disney World in Florida without getting thrown out of the parks. They never were, but that isn't the real challenge: Fireworks may ignite if Moore ever gets distribution for his movie.
As film critic Drew McWeeny wrote in his review for Hitfix.com, "All I know is Walt Disney's lawyers are probably climbing onto helicopters and planning a raid on Park City right now."
The movie is filled with Disney iconography and logos that are surely trademarked, from Mickey's ears to shots of the EPCOT dome and Disney park characters. Even the opening credits are partially written in Disneyesque fonts. Moore didn't seek permission from Disney to put them in his movie, and may very well not need them. But that's all up in the air until a Disney executive sees the movie.
"I'll just say that it didn't start out that way," Moore said about making such a risky movie. "I didn't envision it the way it is now. I thought of it more as a small project, something I was just going to do with my friends, and it grew and grew from there.
"I'm not a lawyer, and I said to myself that if I start to go into the legality of what's going on here if I think about it then it's going to affect my creative decisions," he added. "I made it a point not to let that enter my head until now."
Moore said he still doesn't want to worry about it.
"I don't want a helicopter of lawyers coming down on me," he said. "But right now there isn't much I can do but just try to meet people at the festival and enjoy [it]."
'Escape from Tomorrow'
The Sundance film "Escape from Tomorrow" screens at the following times and locations:
Thursday, Jan. 24 • 5:30 p.m., Library Center Theatre, Park City
Saturday, Jan. 26 • 3 p.m., Broadway Centre Cinema 6, Salt Lake City