The last day of a family’s vacation at Walt Disney World goes from horrible to worse. Things get off to a bad start when the father gets a call from his boss that he has been fired. He keeps the news to himself not wanting to spoil their trip. But while on the rides he begins seeing the animatronic faces frowning at him. Then his son gets sick after he takes him on Space Mountain. This leads to a fight with his wife. His only relief from his misery are the sight of two pretty young French girls that he trails throughout the park.
At the very least, Escape from Tomorrow is a triumph of guerrilla filmmaking. Since The Walt Disney Company is fiercely protective of their “intellectual property” director Randy Moore shot the movie on the sly, clandestine style. That means his crew did not obtain permits or permission to film. He shot with hand-held cameras commonly used by visitors and tiny digital audio recorders to capture sound. Given the restrictive environment, the production is an absolute marvel of inventiveness. Many scenes are clearly shot at the complex in full view with real patrons in the background. Perhaps to get around copyright laws, no official Disney music from the park is used. This actually strengthens the sinister atmosphere. Weird, alternate music is substituted that give the attractions an ominous quality. At times the director uses green screens with venue locations for the backdrop of extended takes. The effect gives the picture an almost surreal, hyperrealistic quality. Black and white cinematography also adds to the simulation.
Escape from Tomorrow sounds like an interesting curiosity and it is. Unfortunately the back-story of how the picture was created is more fascinating than the film itself. The problem is this fantasy really doesn’t go anywhere interesting. The downward spiral of the tale is sort of a hallucinogenic head trip – but it’s incoherent. There’s a buried subtle critique that even Disney World’s sunny happy facade can’t mask true depression. But this has more to do with negativity in this family’s life than a comment on the actual merits of the park itself. For most of the drama I was intrigued where the chronicle would go. Then the movie takes a particularly nasty turn 10 min from the end that dares the audience to keep watching. It devolves into a scatological creepshow. Shame because with some judicious editing and more intellectual mindset, this could’ve been a perceptive commentary on the artificiality of the happiest place on earth. After screening at the Sundance Film Festival, there was some speculation that future audiences would never see Escape from Tomorrow because of legal difficulties. The work most likely falls under the fair-use doctrine as parody and therefore not subject to copyright law. Whatever the reason, Disney has decided to ignore the production so as not to bring more attention to it. You should probably do the same.