Every year at Sundance, one movie bursts out of obscurity to become the hottest ticket of the festival. Last year, that was ‘Beasts of the Southern Wild‘. A year before that, it was ‘Catfish’. This year’s must-see movie was ‘Escape from Tomorrow’, which was filmed in Disneyland and Disney World without Disney knowing a thing about it.
The story behind the clandestine filmmaking drew people in droves to the screenings. ‘Escape from Tomorrow’ sold out every show. Press members were turned away because the house was full. Once word of mouth got out about how the movie was filmed, people had to see it for themselves. Another reason for its popularity was the fear that ‘Escape from Tomorrow’ would never see the light of day outside a film festival environment. Rumors began circulating that there’s no way Disney would allow anyone to acquire this film due to copyright issues.
The movie is about a family on vacation at Disney World. Like many families, they stay a few days too many, and now the father is starting to hallucinate. Jim (Roy Abramsohn) has had far too much entertainment. The family hops on the Small World ride, but instead of a sickly sweet ride through the varied cultures around the globe, Jim is greeted with hallucinogenic nightmares of demonic dolls peering at him with devil-like, jet black eyes. He just can’t take it anymore.
Director Randy Moore has created a unique viewing experience. He shot the movie in black and white, added a ’50s-esque original soundtrack created by Golden Globe-nominated composer Abel Korzeniowski, and ended up creating a work that mirrors the live-action Disney movies of yesteryear. He also had practical reasons for choosing black and white. It was easier to incorporate the limited visual effects used in the movie.
The film takes a strange turn when Jim becomes creepily obsessed with a couple of young French girls running around the park. When I say young, I mean young. Thirteen, maybe fourteen. It’s like he’s slowly giving up on his family and descending into a trance.
During my last day up at the festival, I actually met actress Elena Schuber, who plays the mother. We were standing next to each other on the bus and started talking about the movie. She informed me that it took 45 days to shoot it. They had to act like tourists the entire time, even though they had scripted scenes to act out. Some of the more intense scenes called for the actors to perform their lines in front of a green screen.
I think I admire ‘Escape from Tomorrow’ more than I actually like it. The way the movie was shot and the immense amount of planning that went into avoiding getting caught by Disney’s strict security is far more interesting than the actual story on display.
I have a hard time thinking that the movie will ever get a wide release outside of Sundance. The fear is that Disney will use as much intimidation as possible to squash the film from existence. Still, there’s a reason it was so popular at Sundance. It’s truly remarkable what the crew went through to get it filmed. Trust me, you’ve never seen Disneyland in such a creepy light.