"Escape From Tomorrow" is a film shot at Disney World, without Disney's cooperation or permission.
But it doesn't look like it. The 90-minute film, which debuts in theaters today, used dozens of locales at Magic Kingdom, Epcot and elsewhere on Disney property. Most scenes have multiple angles, even difficult to achieve ones on the balcony of a room at the Contemporary Resort.
It's no home movie, except for the scenery. "Escape From Tomorrow" could almost double as a travelogue with action taking place on Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, Space Mountain, Tomorrowland Terrace, the Frontierland Shootin' Arcade, Cinderella Castle, the monorail, several Epcot pavilions, to name a few.
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While it will be fun for locals to spot familiar places, there's a side game of finding scenes actually shot elsewhere -- at Disneyland. Some are blatant: Disney World's Wild Tea Party (aka the Teacups) has a roof and the "it's a small world" here has no outdoor portion. Disneyland's teacups are open air and its "small world" runs partially outdoors.
But let's call that poetic license.
The film opens today in 32 cities, although none in Central Florida. The closest theaters to Orlando showing "Escape From Tomorrow" are in Miami and Miami Beach. It was simultaneously released on iTunes and some video-on-demand services.
The black-and-white film, written and directed by Full Sail graduate Randy Moore, was shot in theme parks without permission of Walt Disney Co. Actors and crew attempted a low-profile shooting schedule, keeping scripts on iPhones and sometimes completing scenes in one take.
It premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in January. It garnered fairly positive reviews and significant buzz for its "guerilla" filming tactics.
Notably not adding to the buzz is Disney itself, which has barely acknowledged the film's existence, despite its setting and the promotional use of a drawing of what appears to be a bloody glove of Mickey Mouse. The poster presents the film's title in a swirly font frequently associated with Disney.
The plot revolves around a nuclear family on vacation in Orlando. Jim, the husband, is fired via cell phone on the last day of the trip. He opts not to spoil the vacation by sharing this news, but the final day gets progressively stranger. Jim gets a bit delusional about two young French women he encounters repeatedly at the parks. And the kids start looking a bit, well, sinister.
The film captures some familiar sights beyond locations: Quibbling families, complaints about humidity, long queues and turkey legs (and a woman who claims they're really made of emu, of course).
"Escape from Tomorrow" is dark but not without light moments. As Jim sees Epcot's big round Spaceship Earth for the first time he says "Wow, it's a great big testicle."
So it's not a kiddie show. There's a bare-breasted woman incorporated into Soarin'. And there's adult language (when the Buzz Lightyear ride goes down) and sexual situations ("I think you found my Hidden Mickey.")
And the last section is out there, with a sci-fi-ish scene beneath Spaceship Earth, a missing child, a princess gone wrong and, remarkably, cat flu. You've been warned.
In the end, the lesson learned had already been seen on the movie's poster: "Bad things happen everywhere."