Every year, millions of people flock to Disney World to celebrate birthdays, take a family trip or just escape to the “where magic happens.” The stories that come from these vacations to Mickey and Minnie’s hometown are generally positive, being the stuff of family photo album gold. Director Randy Moore has decided to upend that fairytale fantasy and shot a horror film, Escape from Tomorrow, in the park WITHOUT Disney’s consent.
The film has developed quite the buzz since it debuted at Sundance earlier this year, where it was praised for its clever subversion of America’s favourite theme park. Jim White (Roy Abramsohn) is woken up on the last day of his family vacation at Disney World by a call from his boss informing him he’s been laid off. Not wanting to spoil the trip, Jim keeps the news to himself, but throughout the day at the park he’s plagued by visions that become increasingly sinister.
It’s a clever idea, but the real risk was actually shooting the film, as Disney has all but banned filming on their park grounds. (Adorable videos get a pass, as the park’s positive image is maintained.) Shooting covertly without Disney’s approval, the preparation took weeks and the entire movie was filmed on digital cameras. Reviewers at Sundance were concerned Escape from Tomorrow would get squashed immediately by Disney’s legal team, citing the film’s use of the animation studio’s iconography as basis for an intellectual property suit. But as of yet, Disney has yet to take any action and the film is set for release in the US this October.
As for why Moore has such a chip on his shoulder about the theme park? In an interview with Filmmaker, he talked about his childhood following his parents’ divorce: “I would fly [to Orlando] once or twice a year as a kid, and we’d go to Disney World. It was a special, physical place, and it became an emotional space. Obviously, I have a lot of father issues that I can’t separate from that place.” Enough said.