Something peculiar lurks in the shadows behind the critically acclaimed 2013 Sundance release Escape from Tomorrow. You can even make out the shape of two giant ears and a large white gloved hand forming one of the shadows. The story behind the film is a story surprisingly underreported by the mainstream press, and when it has found coverage since the film’s festival release it typically centers around expressions of shock and surprise at a filmmaker who would dare to cast Disney–yes, Disney–in anything other than a sugar-coated, happy-go-lucky light. This week was no different with the news that Escape from Tomorrow has found a distributor and is on its way to theaters across America. Shock and awe again. “No one really believes it will actually get released” and similar sentiments abound.
The response seems so much like the family and “friends” of Billy Mumy’s character Anthony in the classic episode of The Twilight Zone, “It’s a Good Life.” If you haven’t seen the episode, drop everything and get thee to a Netflix. Little, sweet boy Anthony has the power to destroy anyone around him and everyone treats him with love and care not because they want to but because they have to. Disney’s power is like that of Anthony, the Mob, the Crown, the Pope, the Company… all rolled into one. American families happily hand over their children to Disney as they would their church or pastor. After all Disney is all about “families,” isn’t it? They really do know best, don’t they? We’re safe leaving our kids in the care of Disney videos, right? Disney is synonymous with love.
And Disney World–and Disneyland–is the ideal place to take families on vacation. It’s only the happiest place on Earth, after all. Everyone is carefree, no one ever pushes or butts ahead in (hour long) lines for Space Mountain, right? The original National Lampoon’s Vacation was all about a family–the Griswolds–trying to pursue that perfect dream vacation to the theme park Wally World (Wally a play on Walt Disney). And plans all fell apart. But that was a comedy. We can all just laugh at that because no one seriously threatened the Disney Empire, can’t we? We wouldn’t dare laugh at a serious film about a bad day at Disney World. Then again…
One of the most talked about films at Sundance, Escape from Tomorrow is the work of writer/director Randy Moore. It’s about a bad last day at Disney World, and the most shocking element for some is the fact that Moore covertly filmed it in and around Disney World and Disneyland. “How dare he?” they say. “It’s like Michael Moore lambasting Charlton Heston about the NRA in his own home in Bowling for Columbine.” And everyone is so sure it won’t make wide release. But they forget about the fair use doctrine in copyright law and other flexibility that should allow Randy Moore to tell his fantasy-horror story.
Of course critics or Disney backers have a right to feel confident about Disney’s ability to gag someone like Moore. After all, as my intellectual property law professor stated on day one of class, “The first rule of IP law is The Mouse Always Wins.” In other words, there are so many cases involving Disney, and Disney always prevails–even if the facts of the case would normally require a jury or judge to declare the other guy in the right. It’s like the big corporation has some sort of influence over everyone. Magic fairy dust perhaps? Remember how the politicos in Miracle on 34th Street could not allow Santa Clause to be committed? Not Santa! Only here: Not Disney! Say it ain’t so! (Don’t worry: Hug your Ariel doll, the bad man will stop writing soon).
You might not think Disney deserves the critical treatment. I once performed in a musical group at Disney World. Upon entry my friend in the group was told he couldn’t come in the gates–unless he shaved his beard. Yep. Disney’s actions deserve all the criticism that can be piled on.
Escape from Tomorrow has prompted critics to compare Moore to David Lynch and Roman Polanski, and it was one of Roger Ebert’s last thumbs up selections.
Check out for yourself this creepy and cool trailer for Randy Moore’s Escape from Tomorrow:
How cool is that? If there was a Kickstarter project to make sure Moore’s new monochrome, neo-noir film gets to theaters, I’d be among the first to throw something into the till. After all, something this controversial must be good. And the funny thing is, the advertising has a style similar to the typical Disney fare that there no doubt will be moviegoers thinking this is another Disney film.
Escape from Tomorrow–barring untoward circumstances that prohibit its release–hits theaters for a limited release in October 11, 2013.
P.S. Oddly enough Escape from Tomorrow was a featured trailer at IMDB–but only for a few hours–unlike most trailers that stay posted for at least a day or more. And many linked videos on YouTube featuring the trailer have gone to static. Insert The Twilight Zone theme here.