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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

Disney characters and intellectual property appear in almost every shot, with no attempt to cover or cut them out of the frame. In fact, some of the classic Mickey characters appear on props and set decoration used in the sequences shot outside of the park in fully crafted sets on a studio lot. The only thing the filmmaker chose to censor is one mention of "Disney" by one of the main characters. It's not clear why, since the word "Disney" appears in text multiple times in shots from around the park.

Intellectual property and copyrights aside, many people appear in this film who never signed a release. Real families and children are seen in the background of almost every shot. None of them gave permission or knew they were being filmed. Neither did the cast members in the parks, many of whom appear in the film, and not just in costumed form. In one scene early on, the family poses in front of Cinderella's Castle for a photo taken by a Disney cast member with a camera. Close-ups of real cast members waving with Mickey hands are featured as the family exits the park in another sequence. In other words, there are legal reasons why this film may never be publicly available outside of the few screenings at Sundance.

While Moore embraces the Disney World location to a possibly extreme legal fault, paradoxically he did decide to replace the iconic (copyright-protected) music in It's A Small World and the Enchanted Tiki Room, and he also replaced the film projected in Soarin' with generic stock footage of flyover shots. How strange is it that the filmmakers thought it would be OK to have actresses playing hookers dressed up as Disney princesses in the park and to feature actual Disney art prominently on screen, but they drew the line at the Sherman Brothers' songs?

Escape From Tomorrow isn't the first movie to be shot in Disneyland without permission of the Mouse. Banksy's documentary Exit Through the Gift Shop features a very memorable sequence in which Banksy plays a prank inside the park and Mr. Brainwash (who shot footage of the prank) was questioned in Disney's backstage jail. He escaped with the footage, and they appeared in the film without any fallout. Of course, Exit is a documentary, so that footage probably falls under fair use. Exit also avoids showing any Disney intellectual property in close-up.

And last year a viral short was made titled Missing in the Mansion, which was shot inside Disneyland and inside the famous Haunted Mansion attraction. The found-footage horror film was posted online for free, and Disney has made no apparent attempts to get it taken down. But Escape is the first fictional feature film production that I know of to shoot a significant portion of the film in the Disney Parks without approval from the Mouse.

Peter Sciretta is editor of the blog /Film (slashfilm.com), where a version of this story first appeared.

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