SATURDAY SIX: 6 Movies Filmed INSIDE Disneyland and Walt Disney World

This week’s SATURDAY SIX takes a look at 6 Movies Filmed Inside Disneyland and Walt Disney World! Over the years we’ve covered many television shows that were shot at Walt Disney World including Full House, Boy Meets World, and Hulk Hogan’s Thunder in Paradise (a show so awful it makes Baywatch seem as well written as Game of Thrones by comparison.) Today we are going to look at movies that were filmed inside the Disney parks, both in Florida and out in California. The movies shot on Disney property are wide ranging; from big budget films starring George Clooney and Tom Hanks, to small independent guerrilla filmmakers who shot their scenes on the sly without Disney’s knowledge. Consider this a SPOILER WARNING, as we’ll be discussing plot points of each film. Now that that’s out of the way, let’s look at some of the more notable Silver Screen entries, starting with…

# 6 – Saving Mr. Banks

A film clearly designed to be “Oscar bait” yet surprisingly ended up with almost no Oscar nominations, Saving Mr. Banks is the story of how Walt Disney convinced author P.L. Travers to let him adapt her Mary Poppins book into a movie. Featuring a cast filled with Hollywood heavyweights including Tom Hanks, Emma Thompson, and Colin Farrell, Saving Mr. Banks is an interesting look at two creative people at loggerheads over what became a beloved film. At one point in the movie Walt Disney (played by Hanks) invites Travers (played by Thompson) to Disneyland. Here we get some nice moments, including Walt handing out pre-autographed cards to fans, and a thoughtful look to the window on Main St. dedicated to Elias Disney, the father of Walt Disney. Walt and PL walk through the castle and make their way onto King Arthur’s Carrousel, where we get another charming moment when Walt tells Travers he won a $20 bet by being able to get her on a ride. The two don’t spend much time in the park, and theme park fans will easily spot the differences between the Disneyland park of 2013 (when the movie was filmed) and the one in 1963, when the movie takes place.

Walt Disney welcomes PL Travers to Disneyland. (Saving Mr. Banks)
There is no truth to the rumor that to help alleviate the current parking situation out in Disneyland, guests will be able park on Main St. USA. (Saving Mr. Banks.)
This shot was put in the movie solely to curry favor with TouringPlans’ own Guy Selga. (Saving Mr. Banks)
Walt and PL walk down Main St. USA. (Saving Mr. Banks)

The entire movie is built around PL Travers coming to grips with her father’s death at a young age, so this moment in the film of Walt looking up at his father’s window was special. (Saving Mr. Banks)
Walt tells PL Travers that the spires of the castle were painted with 24k gold. Walt said that his brother Roy wouldn’t approved, so he waited until Roy was on a trip to paint them. (Saving Mr. Banks)
A look at King Arthur’s Carrousel. (Saving Mr. Banks)
Walt Disney leads PL Travers onto the Carrousel. They pass by a sign showing that it cost 10 cents to ride, proving for once and for all Walt was the Father of Micro-transactions. (Saving Mr. Banks)
Walt happily waves to guests while riding the Carrousel. (Saving Mr. Banks)

# 5 – Escape From Tomorrow

If there was a single movie that could define the term next level bonkers, Escape From Tomorrow would be it. Before its release, Escape From Tomorrow received a lot of buzz from the theme park community, as the majority of the movie was filmed at Disneyland and Walt Disney World without Disney’s permission. Many expected Disney to bring an immediate lawsuit once the film was actually released, but instead the film came and went without one peep from The Mouse. Unlike SeaWorld, who reached out to media before the movie Blackfish was released and ended up just causing more people to search out the film, Disney let Escape From Tomorrow come and go without any fanfare.

For theme park fans, there is something fun about Escape From Tomorrow in seeing the sheer amount of attractions and areas used in the film. Unfortunately, if you are a theme park fan who would like to see something like that, you are almost punished as the film uses scenes shot from Disneyland and Walt Disney World in the same sequences. It will drive you nuts. Speaking of nuts, the story of Escape From Tomorrow revolves around a man (Jim) on a Disney vacation with his wife and two kids. On the last day of the trip Jim is fired from his job via phone (a call which he takes while out on the balcony of his room at The Contemporary.) The family goes to the parks, and Jim soon becomes obsessed with a pair of French teenagers who ride with the family on the monorail. At the park, Jim begins having hallucinations, as well as creepily following the teenagers. We the viewers do get to see the family enjoy a lot of rides, including it’s a small world, Autopia, and even Snow White’s Scary Adventure, but the story itself may cause you to drink more than Jim does at Biergarten. The final act of the movie is pure insanity. It takes place “under” Spaceship Earth and has scientists informing Jim he has been part of a long-term experiment by the Siemens corporation. It all ends with the Jim dying and being replaced by a replica Jim, checking into The Contemporary with a new family. Of all the movies on the list, Escape From Tomorrow needs, nay, demands to be an episode of How Did This Get Made?

The film opens with a disclaimer. (Escape From Tomorrow)
Big Thunder Mountain. (Escape From Tomorrow)
Spaceship Earth. (Escape From Tomorrow)
Jim’s view from The Contemporary. (Escape From Tomorrow)
This was MY VIEW from The Contemporary. I might have stayed in the room where they filmed Escape From Tomorrow.
The family prepares to board the monorail at The Contemporary. Gorgeous Mary Blair murals in the backgound. (Escape From Tomorrow)
Cinderella Castle. (Escape From Tomorrow)
Snow White’s Scary Adventure. (Escape From Tomorrow)
The infamous Leave A Legacy monoliths on the left and sculpture for Epcot’s Food & Wine Festival on the right. (Escape From Tomorrow)
Jim doing his best @DrunkAtDisney impersonation at Biergarten. (Escape From Tomorrow)
Soarin’ Over California. (Escape From Tomorrow)
UK Pavilion. (Escape From Tomorrow)

# 4 – 40 Pounds of Trouble

Made in 1962, 40 Pounds of Trouble is about a casino manager (played by Tony Curtis) taking care of a 7 year old child whose father has recently died. The kid wants to go to Disneyland, and for 20 minutes the film follows their adventures in the park. It is like a commercial for Disneyland, except this movie was made by Universal. Theme park fans are going to love this look at Disneyland, as there are absolutely gorgeous shots of the Matterhorn, Skyway, Storybook Land Canal Boats, Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride, and even Mine Train Through Nature’s Wonderland. The movie was the product of the 1960s, so this was a time when men were portrayed as devilishly handsome playful cads, while women were either their conquests or bitter shrews. As they say, it is what is, but at least you can enjoy one of the best looks at early 1960s Disneyland.

We probably won’t be seeing the Universal logo in front of any Disneyland focused films anytime in the near future. (40 Pounds of Trouble)
Tony Curtis arrived to Disneyland via helicopter, which you can see in the background. (40 Pounds of Trouble)
Overhead shot of the Matterhorn. (40 Pounds of Trouble)
Tony Curtis at the front of the monorail. (40 Pounds of Trouble)
The monorail zooms by as a submarine is going through a waterfall in a great shot. (40 Pounds of Trouble)
Tony glances back at the nightmare fuel that was the Mad Hatter character. (40 Pounds of Trouble)
Now you can see why Saving Mr. Banks was not historically accurate with how it showed the characters. (40 Pounds of Trouble)
The man on the left hand side is selling Disney hats, if this is how Disney sold merchandise back in the 1960s that is AMAZING. (40 Pounds of Trouble)
The Astro Orbiter. (40 Pounds of Trouble)
Another great shot showing the Skyway going through the Matterhorn. (40 Pounds of Trouble)
Now I finally understand why Disneyland is so safety obsessed these days. This “bridge” on Tom Sawyer’s Island is the most dangerous thing I’ve ever seen. (40 Pounds of Trouble)
Mine Train in Nature’s Wonderland. (40 Pounds of Trouble)

# 3 – Tomorrowland

A movie written by Lost‘s Damon Lindelof,  directed by The Incredibles’ Brad Bird, and starring George Clooney. A pedigree like that guarantees a hit, right? Wrong. Tomorrowland was a heavily anticipated film by the theme park community, but it never connected with the more casual film audience as the heavily promoted movie (which cost almost $200M to make) grossed less than $100M domestically. There is a lot to love in Tomorrowland, and when the movie starts off at the 1964 World’s Fair it is wonderful. Here we get to see Clooney’s character as a child experience it’s a small world. The scene was actually filmed in Disneyland. There was going to be another scene featuring Carousel of Progress, but it was cut from the film and can only be seen as part of the bonus features. Many theme park fans (including Captain Cruseline who has pictures of when Tomorrowland was filming at Magic Kingdom’s Carousel of Progress) wanted more of this part of the story. A Pixar animated short of Plus Ultra, the group of men and women that founded the city of Tomorrowland (a group which included none other than Walt Disney) was also cut (but can be seen HERE.) Many blamed the marketing for Tomorrowland’s lack of success, with the general feeling that the ads just didn’t get across what the movie was actually about. Sometimes the “mystery” of a plot can help a movie or TV show (with Lindelof’s own LOST being a great example) but oftentimes if an audience isn’t sure what they are about to get into, they don’t give it a chance.

Looking at the loading area of it’s a small world. (Tomorrowland)
A boat from it’s a small world. (Tomorrowland)
Entering the show building of it’s a small world. (Tomorrowland)
Inside it’s a small world. (Tomorrowland)
it’s a small world. (Tomorrowland)
it’s a small world. (Tomorrowland)
Deleted scene in Tomorrowland of Walt Disney’s Carousel of Progress.
Deleted scene in Tomorrowland showing Walt Disney’s Carousel of Progress. In the extras, writer Damon Lindelof explained that much of what the movie shot for the 1964 World’s Fair scene had to be cut because it slowed the film down.
While not filmed in the parks, it was nice to see a reference to Space Mountain in the movie. (Tomorrowland)

# 2 – The Florida Project

One of the surprise critical hits of 2017 was The Florida Project, a movie which takes an unflinching look at a class of people living right outside Disney’s doorstep. The film explores the daily lives of Halley and her 6-year old daughter Moonee, who live in The Magic Castle, a motel near Walt Disney World. Both funny and heartbreaking, it would have been interesting and gutsy choice for The Florida Project to have Moonee’s mom be a Disney Cast Member, as many CMs have very similar lives. Outside of a couple scenes involving MagicBands, the film doesn’t involve Disney much until the controversial ending. About to be separated from her mom by Child Protective Services, Moonee runs to a friend’s apartment. Moonee and her friend then “escape” by running all the way to Disney’s Magic Kingdom. The last two minutes of the film are a stark contrast to everything that came before it, and the Disney scenes were all filmed on an iPhone compared to a traditional camera. The ending is left for the audience to decide what is real and what is not.

Moonee and her friend run to Walt Disney World. (The Florida Project)
The girls enter the Ticket and Transportation Center. (The Florida Project)
The girls go under the train station leading to Main Street USA. (The Florida Project)
The girls enter Main Street USA. (The Florida Project)
The girls run to Cinderella Castle. (The Florida Project)
Shortly after this moment, the film abruptly ends. (The Florida Project)

# 1 – The Further Adventures of Walt’s Frozen Head

The Further Adventures of Walt’s Frozen Head is an independent film that is set to be released later this year, but thanks to some Bothan spies, we were able to get a copy of it. Funded by the Disney fan community via Kickstarter, the movie is about a theme park employee who bumps into Walt Disney’s cryogenically frozen head during his annual “de-thawing.” Walt’s Frozen Head – played by Ron Scheinder of Dreamfinder fame – convinces the employee to “kidnap” him and the both of them go to Magic Kingdom for the day to fulfill Walt’s final dream. A labor of love that comes across on the screen, The Further Adventures of Walt’s Frozen Head is filled with humor and heart, just like the best theme park dark rides. Made by theme park fans, for theme park fans, this is one film to check out when you get a chance.

Be sure to follow WaltsFrozenHead on the Twitter machine for more updates on the film (along with quality theme park zaniness.) As of this writing the account actually has more followers than Your Humble Author, which makes even less sense than the plot of Escape From Tomorrow.

Disclaimer. (The Further Adventures of Walt’s Frozen Head)
Entering the Magic Kingdom. (The Further Adventures of Walt’s Frozen Head)
Storybook Circus. (The Further Adventures of Walt’s Frozen Head)
Walt Disney World Railroad. (The Further Adventures of Walt’s Frozen Head)
Dumbo. (The Further Adventures of Walt’s Frozen Head)
The Peoplemover. (The Further Adventures of Walt’s Frozen Head)

Honorable Mention: Ernest Saves Christmas

Fun Fact: Ernest Saves Christmas is one of the rare Hollywood studio movies to be filmed almost entirely in Orlando, Florida. Urban explorer Adam the Woo has a great video looking at some of the Orlando locations used during the shoot, but a large part of the 1988 film was also shot at the then-unfinished Disney MGM Studios. While most of the scenes were filmed in the production sound stages, there is a moment in which Ernest arrives at a house that was featured on the Studio Backlot Tour.

Ernest pulls up to Verne’s house. (Ernest Saves Christmas)
“Verne’s house” as seen on the Hollywood Backlot Tour at Disney MGM Stuiods (photo via the Disney Parks Blog)

 

So there you have it: Six Movies Filmed in Disneyland and Walt Disney World! See you next weekend for the latest installment of the SATURDAY SIX, where we’ll look at something fun from the world of Disney and Universal. If you enjoyed yourself, be sure to check out The Magic, The Memories, and Merch! articles, or, for your listening pleasure, check out the E-Ticket Report podcast. You can also follow Your Humble Author on Twitter (@derekburgan).

That’s one heckuva poster.

If you enjoyed this article, you will surely like the following:

Movies and TV Shows Filmed at the Universal Orlando Resort

6 Times Our Favorite Shows Went to Walt Disney World (part 1: Boy Meets World, Step By Step, Sabrina the Teenage Witch)

6 Times Our Favorite Shows Went to Walt Disney World (part 2: Family Matters, Roseanne, Full House)

Walt Disney World Locations Used in Hulk Hogan’s THUNDER IN PARADISE

SATURDAY SIX Investigative Report: Disney PET PEEVES

The SATURDAY SIX Uses Disney Villains To Explain Theme Park Blogging

6 Times Our Favorite TV Shows Went To Walt Disney World

Special Thanks to crack staff photographer Brandon GloverTim Grassey co-host of the brand new Marty Called podcast (be sure to check that one out!),  and blogger to the stars Megan Stump for their invaluable assistance with this article. Be sure to also check out Brandon on The Park Blogger podcast with goofballs co-hosts Aengus Mackenzie and LitemAndHyde , while fellow Potterheads may enjoy Meg’s work on the Central Florida Slug Club.

FINAL PLUG! Did you know The 2018 Unofficial Guide to Universal Orlando has a special edition of the SATURDAY SIX in it? Finally, someone came up with an actual reason to read a book. ORDER this baby now!

9 thoughts on “SATURDAY SIX: 6 Movies Filmed INSIDE Disneyland and Walt Disney World

  • February 10, 2018 at 9:30 am
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    If you want to learn more about Escape from Tomorrow without actually watching it, look for the three part review of it on YouTube, by Tong Galdmark aka Some Jerk with a Camera.

    • February 10, 2018 at 10:13 am
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      Because of the hype, of all the films on this list I was looking forward to watching Escape From Tomorrow the most. It certainly had a high degree of difficulty in terms of being able to film everything they did without Disney noticing (especially with child actors involved) but in my opinion the script could have used a few more passes.

      • February 10, 2018 at 5:38 pm
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        Killer article, Derek, and I completely agree about Escape From Tomorrow — the idea of one man’s descent into madness on a Disney vacation had so much potential, but the film just falls apart towards the end. I wonder if they could edit some more and reshoot a couple of scenes . . .

    • February 10, 2018 at 10:09 am
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      MouseDaddy, the second line of the article literally includes a direct link to the SATURDAY SIX on Thunder in Paradise.

      • February 10, 2018 at 10:23 am
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        I apologize – I read the list without reading the intro.

        I will add that while most of the scenes take place on the Grand Florridean beach or Bay Lake (standing in for the ocean), Thunder in Paradise does have some great scenes in the parks:
        1. Morocco stands in for a generic Middle Wastern country, mixed in with Hulkster actually performing the Indiana Jones Stunt Spectacular.
        2. Hogan climbs down the waterfall, blows up the door, and steals a dictator out of O’Canada.
        3. Hogan wrestles Sting in the tube at Seabase Alpha.

  • February 10, 2018 at 10:31 am
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    Watched Saving Mr. Banks thinking it would be a fun little movie about Mary Poppins. Hooo Boy! I was a puddle. Do not watch this movie without Kleenex.

  • February 11, 2018 at 1:40 am
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    A few more films for the list that are not from documentaries or shorts…
    Marvin’s Room (1996)
    Dream Girl (1977). Film from India. Go to about 85 minutes into the film to see the Magic Kingdom from the late 70’s.
    The Big Sleaze (2010). A visit to Disneyland about 83 minutes into the “film”.

  • February 12, 2018 at 1:02 am
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    There’s a neat short film on youtube called Missing in the Mansion that was partly filmed in the parks. They also have a bts that shows how they put the whole thing together. Acting is a little shaky (as it is in a lot of these fanmade projects), but it’s a fun watch.

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