If you learn only two things about the upcoming horror flick Escape From Tomorrow, let them be these: It will ruin your childhood, and you shouldn't count on it being released widely.
These are not common attributes for a Disney film, but Escape isn't one, even though it was set and filmed entirely (and secretly) on Disney property, both in Orlando and California. Instead, it's the twisted brainchild of filmmaker Randy Moore, whose script begins like an Orlando tourism commercial and ends akin to The Shining. Average guy plans a trip to Disney. Average guy gets laid off the day before but goes to the Magic Kingdom anyway. Average guy begins hallucinating possessed children in It's a Small World, eyes flashing black. It only gets weirder — and creepier — from there. Moore's film depicts the slow unraveling of both the park and the main character's sanity, and the fact that the film is in black and white makes you wonder if either was very normal to begin with.
But the most fascinating thing about Escape isn't what was written, but how it was filmed, with a tactic some have called "guerrilla." Moore and his actors purchased annual passes to Disney World and Disneyland, staying on the properties and sneaking into the Magic Kingdom in small groups to avoid detection. Scripts were hidden on iPhones, and the footage was shot using cameras that looked like the Canons and Kodaks of the average tourist. Even though the group came in the same clothes every day, and apparently once rode It's a Small World 12 times in a row, the park apparently noticed nothing amiss. According to Moore, the group was only eyed suspiciously once, on the last day of filming, when they were suspected of being paparazzi harassing a celebrity visitor.
It's a little surprising that Disney's legal team has not tried to put a halt to the trailer (go to YouTube). The movie, which can be preordered on iTunes and on some on-demand television outlets, comes out Friday. It is being released in select markets, the closest to Tampa Bay being two theaters in Miami.
The film showed at Sundance, where viewers reportedly encouraged friends to grab tickets while they could. For now, Disney appears to be ignoring the film perhaps so as not to draw attention to it (and its release poster of Mickey Mouse's hand dripping blood). But until Friday, I'll be sitting on the edge of my seat. And, most likely, staying far away from Orlando.
Kate Fueyo is a tb-two* television and media critic.
Behind the making of 'Escape From Tomorrow'
The movie was inspired by director Randy Moore's frequent trips to Disney as a child after his parents' divorce, when he visited his father in Orlando before they became estranged.
Because Moore couldn't use lighting in his shoots, he had to track extensively the position of the sun several weeks in advance.
Roger Ebert handpicked the movie for his film festival only a few weeks before his death.
When the movie premiered at Sundance, the exact setting wasn't revealed, described only as a theme park; once the Disney location got out among festivalgoers, the remaining showings sold out within minutes.
Moore edited the film in South Korea, for fear of Disney's legal team tracking him down, and told almost no one about the project.
Sources: latimes.com; filmmakermagazine.com; slashfilm.com; escapefromtomorrow.com