At the Sundance Film Festival 2013, a debut film from director Randy Moore premiered called Escape from Tomorrow. Seth Abramovitch from The Hollywood Reporter called the film a “micro-budgeted horror pic” and caused HitFix reporter Drew McWeeney to wonder, "How does this [film] exist?” The film takes place inside two Disney theme parks, and a majority of the film was actually shot there on location. But the most incredible part -- Disney had absolutely no idea that it was made.
Many people, including Emily Asher-Perrin from Tor.com, have called it “the ultimate guerilla film”. The film was shot using solely Canon 5D DSLR cameras. These cameras are small, normal cameras that tourists bring into the parks. They can take photos and shoot high quality video, so they were the perfect guerilla film cameras. The shooting locations were picked months in advance and scenes were extensively rehearsed outside of the parks so the film crew would shoot as few takes as possible. Sound was recorded either with digital recorders taped to each actor (which rolled all day) or on iPhones. Even though Escape from Tomorrow was actually in black and white, film times were extensively scouted to ensure that lighting would be suitable for each shot. The film was completed in about three weeks - 10 days in Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida, and two weeks in Disneyland in Anaheim, California.
The film follows a father who was just told he was fired on his last day of a family vacation in Disney World, causing him to fall into a deep depression. Throughout the day, the father develops an unsuitable attraction to two teenage girls, hallucinates on rides, and becomes absorbed in his own imagination. The film is psychologically horrifying, messing with the minds of those who have visited the parks.
Perhaps the most shocking part of Escape from Tomorrow is that it was not discovered. The cast members at the parks rarely had a problem with the filmmakers, who only ran into security issues a few times, none of which seemed notable. The DSLR cameras and lack of normal film equipment made the film crew seem just like average tourists. Yet despite this, Moore edited the footage in South Korea hoping that Disney would not catch wind of it. He even refused to tell his closest friends what the project was about. The filmmakers refused to acknowledge which theme park was the setting for the film in advertisements for Sundance, and once it premiered, critics encouraged people to get to the screenings as quickly as possible before Disney’s legal team would shut down the project.
However, surprisingly, the film was not shut down – in fact, Disney’s legal team hasn’t said anything much about it. The trademarked music of “It’s a Small World” and a video from the “Soarin’” attraction were both removed from the film in advance to avoid Disney detection, but there are still hosts of opportunities for Disney to press charges that they are not taking. The Disney administration ingeniously understood that it was better to give no attention to the film at all, causing the film’s buzz to die down quickly. Escape from Tomorrow actually seemed to hoping that there would be a legal battle, which would cause a spike in popularity, so it will be interesting to see how the film does financially now that it has been released to the public.
As Drew McWeeny said in his HitFix article, “I would urge you to see [this film] now while you can. Who knows if it will ever be allowed to escape again?”
Image: Producers Distribution Agency
- Natalie Hamil is a Writing, Literature and Publishing major at Emerson College. She is on the pursuit of happiness. Her passions include reading, writing, crocheting and wearing interesting/colorful pants. Follow her on Twitter.