SUNDANCE 2013

Sundance '13: 'Escape From Tomorrow' is Total Disney World Insanity

by
January 25, 2013

Escape From Tomorrow

This film should not exist. Yet, somehow, it does. The filmmakers wanted to take on this bold task, did what they needed to do at Disney World, made the film, and here it is. And it's totally insane. One of the most buzzed about films of the 2013 Sundance Film Festival is a small, extremely low budget feature film that was shot at and takes place entirely inside of Disney World. But it's no Disney movie (in fact, word is the powerful Disney legal team may go after this). It's a totally trippy, wacky, weird movie that is much better as an experience and concept than it is a film. However, I'm still extremely impressed that this was even made.

Escape From Tomorrow, directed by Randy Moore, is a B&W feature film about a family on vacation at Disney World. The day starts when the father, played by Roy Abramsohn, receives a call from his work firing him for no reason. Suddenly, the happiest place on Earth isn't the happiest place anymore, especially with his overbearing wife and two young children in tow. But alas, their day at Disney World begins and we watch as Jim goes through a trippy series of hallucinations on rides, follows young French girls around the park, and eventually loses his mind completely when he loses his daughter. It goes to some weird places, which is part of the problem with the film. The experience of the concept is better than the film in the end.

More than anything, I'm impressed that this was even made, that some crazy filmmakers dreamed up this idea of making a film at Disney World and actually made it, and it made it into Sundance. I'm sure many people have said "we should shoot an entire movie inside Disneyland" (since they, of course, allow cameras there) but no one has actually done that yet - until now. Finally, these filmmakers did, and the results aren't perfect but the experience is something to behold. This film is wacky and insane in every way, and its been getting comparisons to The Shining for good reason. Both in terms of the paranoia plot as well as its potential cult status (though it's not as good as The Shining), which I'm sure it will get after this festival.

There's also no question that this film is going to become a Sundance legend. Not necessarily because it's that good (it really isn't that great to be totally honest), but because the buzz is that this may never get released outside of the festival. The five or six screenings that took place here in Park City, UT over the last week are, supposedly, the only times it may ever be shown. If that's the case, the hype behind that alone is more than enough to earn it legendary status, but also because it's so damn cool they actually made this movie to begin with. The plot takes some very odd turns in the second half, but it's still amusing and is something almost everyone will want to see just to see it, even if they don't really enjoy it as a film.

Part of the problem with the film is that it devolves into sheer paranoia in odd ways. There are a few bad green screen shots, the story itself goes on way too long, especially once they visit Epcot at the end (does anyone even like that park?). While the score by Abel Korzeniowski (of A Single Man, W.E.) is another stand out element of it, the rest of the film feels like a college B-movie, which is pretty much what this is. It just happens to be a college student B-movie shot at Disney World, taking place at Disney, addressing the idea that even the happiest place on Earth can sometimes be miserable (for adults). It even addresses the chauvinistic nature of man in a totally kooky, but somewhat compelling and completely realistic way.

Whether or not the film, especially the second half, is coherent enough to be considered "good" is irrelevant to me when considering what this may inspire in future filmmakers. If they can shoot a movie at Disney World, without Disney even knowing, get it into Sundance and earn this kind of buzz, what will that inspire in other filmmakers? What will we see next? I love the reality of Escape From Tomorrow, that they're not worried about rights or brand control, or anything besides simply telling a story where it needs to be told. Will someone shoot a film entirely on a plane or in Apple's offices next? Who knows. At least this film exists and may inspire others, even if it never sees the light of day ever again. Thanks for the memories, Disney.

Alex's Sundance Rating: 7 out of 10

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  • http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M7YGEVuJ4mM Carpola
    Disneyland would be a good place to end yourself for sure. Banksy did already film some footage at Disneyland and the secret nazi security guards were quite unimpressed with the camera man.
  • David Banner
    Hmm, you say: "....it really isn't that great to be totally honest" but give it a 7/10? How much of that score is for the guerilla style filmmaking/once in a life time experience? And: "In 2011, the park(Epcot) hosted approximately 10.83 million guests, making it the third most visited theme park in the United States, and sixth most visited theme park in the world" Captain EO can only be seen at Epcot, right? I always wanted to see that one :)
    • Ricardo_PT
      I agree 100%. This review reads like someone just got a little lost in the hype train. By the comments, if no one was talking about it Alex would give it a 4 at best. No offense.
      • http://www.firstshowing.net/ Alex Billington
        I doubt that. My rating was for the concept and experience and filmmaking. Maybe it deserves to be closer to a 6 or 6.5, but it's not a 4.
    • http://www.firstshowing.net/ Alex Billington
      The Epcot part was a joke. I've never really been to that park because it never really appealed to me. No need to throw statistics at me. And also, my 7/10 is for the film and concept and everything. Just because it's not great doesn't mean it still can't get a 7. My rating scale is different than everyone else's and this is just my own opinion on it. I felt that was a fair rating.
  • ImaginaryVisionary
    I used to work for Disney in the parks at Disney World and I can tell you the fact that this ever got made, let alone shown is absolutely amazing and shocking to me. Disney watches for people "acting" in front of cameras. I remember learning about it during my week long brainwashing/orientation training. Whatever gets filmed or photographed at Disney is considered an advertisement for Disney, which is why they have designated spots for "photo ops" in front of certain landmarks. Obviously you can film anywhere, but they watch for behavior being filmed that doesn't fit the Disney brochure image, and while they won't kick you out they'll politely ask what you're filming or if you'd like the cast member to photograph things for you so you can be in the picture. I'd be shocked if the film makers were never caught and just ignored the warnings. Disney World is such a highly controlled environment I'm surprised they haven't learned to control the weather in the parks yet! And Epcot, yes its the most boring park when you're a tourist, but when you live and work there or spend a lot of time at Disney you realize Epcot is the relaxing park because its one of the few parks you can go to where the sensory stimulation isn't as heavy and upbeat. Its a slower park, which is why it feels boring compared to the rest, but it would be ideal for shooting a movie because its got a lot of different backdrops and settings, especially for a movie about someone losing their mind. (however if i was going to lose my mind at Disney I can guarantee it would happen in Fantasyland right in between Peter Pans flight and Small World. It's a gauntlet of stupid people in a confused state of artificial bliss)
    • http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M7YGEVuJ4mM Carpola
      That is all quite scary. I'm glad you survived it.
    • tra la la la la di da
      This is true. I was hired, went through the orientation, but never returned. They own you when you work there and if you can survive and live a care free under Disney mind control life, they take care of you but it is a prison. Still, I'd have to see the film, it is possible to get away with a lot anywhere. I've seen short films filmed in Disney and even was in one of my own. Just gotta keeping disappearing and go with it. Disney man, that place is messed up.
  • ?????
    Well if that film is as incoherent as this article then it really is in trouble. Sheesh.
  • Anonymous
    Just saw it today. It really is not that good. It's interesting from a technical standpoint, but beyond that, there just isn't much there to enjoy. It does indeed go on for far too long, the ending in particular is stretched out too much. It basically becomes a surrealist experiment gone wrong in the second half. It's also worth mentioning that it doesn't become the least bit engaging until well over an hour in. Definitely didn't live up to the hype. 7/10 is being very, very generous. It's more like a 5/10.

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