Escape From Tomorrow, 2013 (Film Review)

What do you do when you want to make a film in a Disney Theme Park, but don’t want Disney to know about it? Today we take a spoiler-free look at Escape From Tomorrow!

What?

If you haven’t heard of Escape From Tomorrow (written and directed by Randy Moore) then you’re in for a treat! It’s the story of a repressed father on a family holiday to a theme park, as he experiences hallucinations and strange occurrences within the park properties.

It may not sound like much, until you learn that this film was shot entirely (99% at least) between Disney World and Disney Land properties, without either park being aware!

The cast and crew adopted guerilla-style filmmaking techniques and shot the film on two Canon EOS 5D Mark II and one Canon EOS 1D Mark IV cameras. To avoid arousing suspicion they entered the parks in small groups, dressed as tourists and used iPhones to access the scripts.

The film even begins with a disclaimer, clearly stating that the film is not endoresed by, or had the permission from anyone at disney.

The Film

Outside of the premise of how the film was shot, its hard to know what to expect from the opening. It takes a while to warm up, as we are shown black and white shots from someones holiday videos, but i guess it’s all setting the scene.

Pacing-wise it doesn’t take long to descend into a David Lynch-esque nightmare, dipping in and out of reality with waves of LSD-inspired surrealism.

Being presented in black and white adds to the surrealism somewhat as does the music, which had 2 nominations and a win from the IFMCA Awards and is fantastically and theatrically engaging while remaining stylistically in-theme.

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Disney mad, Bro?

The film was edited in secret in South Korea, for fear of Disney finding out. It debuted at the Sundance Film Festival and the understanding was that after that initial screening it would be shut down by Disney and silenced forever.

This was not the case. Disney confirmed to CNN that it was aware of the film but declined to comment on it or answer reporters questions on the subject. The story goes that the House Of Mouse reportedly feared that by tackling the film, it would cause something of a Streisand effect and make the situation worse, so despite the blow to their ego they just …….. ignored it.

Despite their apparent disregard, I have no doubt in my mind that Disney knows the whereabouts of everyone involved in this movie at all times since its release. I’m also fairly sure if any of those people ever set foot on a Disney property again they’ll be ejected with speed.

Copyright Infringement?

It has also been noted that there may not even be any recourse for Disney to pursue here. Outside of the crew misusing their park passes (in the form of trespass) at least. Randy Moore was very careful not include any material, audio or visual, that may include copyrighted works.

Trademark law alone would not be enough to mount an adequate legal case as Disney would have to demonstrate a misdirection or subversion of the brand was achieved.

In this case the use of the park imagery would be considered as “transformative”, in the same area of the law that allow Youtubers to make reviews and reaction videos using footage from films or other Youtubers.

If anything, Escape From Tomorrow is a fascinating probe into the legal issues surrounding copyright infringement and perception of those laws today.

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Conclusions

For fans of the park you can almost taste the interplay of humidity and air conditioning, the salty Turkey (Emu) legs, the screaming children and the sweet smell of delicious capitalism. Outside of that familiarity i’m not sure if Escape From Tomorrow works, but then i can’t comment….

There are portions of the film that are deeply uncomfortable to watch but objectively it’s not a bad film, just very, very strange.

The fact that they were able to pull this off is absolutely astounding. That concept alone is fascinating. It’s not the first to pull this off (attempted on a smaller scale by 2010’s The Big Sleaze) but it’s a very stylish entry into the cinema history books.

It reminds me of the soap opera Ikea Heights, which was filmed without permission and entirely within an Ikea store. You can find it here : IKEA HEIGHTS YOUTUBE CHANNEL.

Escape From Tomorrow is worth a go for fans and haters alike but it’s not a light watch.

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