Movies are designed to astonish and amaze, and they usually do so by way of powerful performances, iconic characters, otherworldly settings, spectacular visual effects, and/or fascinating stories. However, every once in awhile a film comes along that amazes viewers by the sheer level of audacity needed for its creation. One such film is Escape from Tomorrow, billed as the ultimate guerilla film, as it was shot almost entirely on location in Disneyland and Disney World without the knowledge or permission of the Walt Disney Company. It shouldn’t have been possible, and yet somehow this film got made, and the result is a fascinating mix of story and logistics.
Escape from Tomorrow tells the story of a family’s last day of vacation at the Disney World Resort, a day that starts with the father, Jim, getting a phone call informing him that he’s lost his job. Not wanting to upset his family, Jim keeps this information to himself, and embarks on a day in the parks that quickly descends into a hellish and hallucinatory look at the darker side of the Disney sheen.
It’s an interesting take on the theme park’s standard outward image of being the happiest place on earth, and while the premise is interesting, the story never finds its focus, and disappointingly, the film doesn’t quite live up to the lofty ambition of its concept. It’s almost as if Writer/Director Randy Moore was so preoccupied with the obstacles presented when shooting the movie that he forgot to do a script polish.
What’s so fascinating about Escape From Tomorrow is that Moore’s preoccupation with the logistics of the shoot is completely justified, because it simply boggles the mind contemplating what it took to get this film made. Firstly, since the filmmakers could not bring lighting equipment into the parks, shots had to be planned out months in advance to accord for the position of the sun. Secondly,the actors and crew had to enter the Disney parks without notice, film their scenes without attracting attention, and keep their scripts on iPhones so as not to arouse the suspicion of the Disney parks’ all seeing security team.
Add to that the fact that entire scripted scenes happen on popular rides, and characters have long conversations in some of the busiest parts of the parks, all while going undetected. It’s an incredible feat of this aforementioned guerilla filmmaking, and the whole production required incredible stealth on behalf of the cast and crew, even when the cameras weren’t rolling.
Unfortunately, the scenes in the parks suffer as a result, because half the time the actors look terrified that they’re about to get caught. Only when the action moves to locations that are clearly sets do they get a chance to relax and settle into their characters, but these moments are few and far between.
At its core, Escape from Tomorrow is an incredibly daring piece of work, and should be celebrated as such. Filmmaking should be exciting, and as an audience member for this film, the excitement was palpable. In the end, however, Escape from Tomorrow is ultimately a film that is more interesting to read about than to watch, and while Moore may have pulled off the ultimate coup against one of the biggest entertainment companies in the world, if he had just put as much planning into the script as he did into the shoot, his film could have been a much bigger and more lasting success.
Authored by guestblogger Laura Moore.