In the annals of Walt Disney’s cinematic legacy, there are a handful of infamous films that have been banished from public sight for various social and legal reasons. Song of the South, which has been unavailable to American audiences for a generation due to perceived racial insensitivity, is perhaps the best known. The Sweatbox, a fascinatingly unflattering warts-and-all documentary about the troubled creation of The Emperor’s New Groove, is a more modern example that Mickey buried out of embarrassment.
To that ignoble club, the latest member you can likely add is Escape From Tomorrow, the darling of this week’s Sundance Film Festival. Writer/director Randy Moore‘s debut independent feature is a David Lynch-inspired black & white surreal horror flick featuring Roy Abramsohn as a father trapped in a nightmarish theme park vacation.
The catch is that the entire film was shot inside the theme parks of Walt Disney World and Disneyland — including inside attractions like it’s a small world and Haunted Mansion — without the knowledge or permission the the Disney Corporation. There are even extended sequences set in the Buzz Lightyear queue and aboard the monorail. Everything, including lengthy scenes and complex camera moves, was captured during regular operating hours, with unaware park guests acting as unpaid extras.
Reaction from the handful of audience who have seen the film at the Park City festival have so far been very positive, with write-ups appearing in the New York Times and LA Times. Thus far, Disney has made no official comment, but seeing as how a major scene involves the destruction of Epcot’s Spaceship Earth, the company can’t be too pleased.
To quote Drew McWeeny, look for Disney lawyers “climbing onto helicopters and planning a raid on Park City right now,” and don’t expect the film to show up in your local cineplex. Unless you are in Utah to catch this week’s two remaining screenings, this clip is probably the closest you’ll get to seeing this curiosity. (Bonus points to the first person to identify which resort’s pool this was filmed at.)
And here is an interview with the film’s star: