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Escape From Tomorrow

How Randy Moore and his film crew secretly made a movie on Walt Disney World property

Photo: Courtesy photo, License: N/A

Courtesy photo


Independent film is filled with dreamers who are too naive to believe in the impossible – filmmakers who don't concern themselves with the millions of reasons not to make a movie. Some of the best works of art are created from this naiveté.

Escape From Tomorrow, which recently screened at Sundance and set the film industry atwitter last week, takes place during a family vacation to Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando. Not only do the filmmakers make no attempt to hide or obscure the location, but the Disney theme park and costumed characters play a huge part in the story. Most of the movie was shot in the Magic Kingdom, Epcot and Disneyland without the knowledge or permission of Disney. This is a film that, from a conventional perspective, should never have been created, much less screened at the most prominent independent film festival in the United States.

Director Randy Moore, who did interviews with the Los Angeles Times and other major media outlets during Sundance, went into the park with his actors and a tiny crew and shot the entire film on a Canon 5D DSLR camera. The cinematographer and assistant director conducted intensive location scouting – every shot was exhaustively planned and blocked in advance; they even charted the position of the sun for each shot of the movie to make up for the fact that they wouldn't be able to bring lighting equipment with them. Sound was recorded without an on-set sound mixer – sometimes they used smart phones or digital recorders taped to the actors, which would record an entire day's worth of audio, which editors then had to sort through afterward.

Though the film was shot guerrilla-style, it doesn't feel like found footage or home video. The entire movie was shot in black and white, a practical decision that helped the filmmakers get a better feel for composition and lighting in the camera as they shot using available light in the parks. The result is a film with a classic feel, which adds to its cinematic aesthetic. The director argues that most people haven't seen the Disney theme parks (especially the Disney World parks) in black and white, and that it brings out details that normally go unnoticed. Disney fans will probably relate the footage to Walt Disney's early telecasts from Disneyland.

The movie takes place over the course of one day, following a family vacationing at Walt Disney World. The father receives a phone call early in the morning informing him that he no longer has a job. He tells no one – all he wants to do is have one last day of vacation in the park. His relationship with his wife is strained, and the day isn't the pleasurable escape from reality that he had hoped. He begins to fantasize and follows a couple of French-speaking teenage girls. He experiences delusions as he wanders around the park that may hint at a more sinister underbelly of Walt Disney World.

To make the film, the cast and crew bought season passes to enter the parks as "normal visitors." They filmed for 10 days in the Orlando parks and two weeks in Disneyland in Anaheim, Calif. Most viewers would never notice, but the Disney World presented in the film is an amalgamation of the Disney parks on both coasts. You'll see the family walking through Cinderella's castle in Magic Kingdom in one scene, then minutes later they'll be in line for Buzz Lightyear's Astro Blasters in Disneyland's Tomorrowland. (Star Tours can be seen in the background, a ride that doesn't even exist in the Magic Kingdom.)

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