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Disney in the News, from 90th Birthday Bash to Controversial 'Escape from Tomorrow' and Oscar Contender 'Saving Mr. Banks' (VIDEO)

Thompson on Hollywood By Anne Thompson and Beth Hanna | Thompson on Hollywood October 14, 2013 at 4:10PM

Disney takes its 90th birthday celebration to Chicago, burnishes the animation mogul's legacy with "Mary Poppins" backstory and would-be Oscar contender "Saving Mr. Banks," and ignores controversial guerilla Disney filmmaker Randy Moore's "Escape from Tomorrow." Will they sue?
Walt Disney in LIFE Magazine photo
Walt Disney in LIFE Magazine photo

Disney is all over the news these days. The studio is taking its 90th birthday celebration to Chicago and is burnishing animation mogul Walt Disney's legacy with "Saving Mr. Banks," the "Mary Poppins" backstory and would-be Oscar contender (December 20). But the company is seemingly paying no heed to controversial "Escape from Tomorrow," shot guerilla-style at Disneyland. Will the studio sue filmmaker Randy Moore? 

Escape from Tomorrow

On October 16, Disney will be celebrating the studio's 90th anniversary in Chicago, the birthplace of founder Walt Disney, and will unveil an exhibit at Chicago's Museum of Science and Industry, showing off nearly 300 artifacts from the past nine decades of Disney history. Pieces on display at "The Treasures of Walt Disney" include hand-drawn artwork and sculpted models from classic animated films such as "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs," "Fantasia" and "Sleeping Beauty"; a partial recreation of Walt Disney's office in Burbank, including original furnishings and personal items; and props from live-action films like "20,000 Leagues Under the Sea" and "Mary Poppins."

"Saving Mr. Banks," starring Tom Hanks and Emma Thompson as the studio head and the stubborn children's book author P.L. Travers, is making its world premiere as the closer of the BFI London Film Festival, on October 20. (Trailer here.)

First-time director Moore's "Escape from Tomorrow," a scrappy Sundance indie horror film, hit theaters in 20 markets this past weekend as well as Video On Demand via FilmBuff (iTunes, Amazon Instant Video, Cable, Movies On Demand, YouTube, XBOX, Sony Playstation, Cinemanow and Vudu). It's high-profile enough to even land on the Today Show. Disney has remained quiet on the possibility of a lawsuit, likely as a shrewd strategy to keep splashy publicity away from the film.    

Saving Mr. Banks

"Escape From Tomorrow" is a weird piece of work.  Moore went undercover with a handheld Canon digital camera at Disneyland and Disney World to turn the idea of "the happiest place on earth" upside down, as a troubled father (Roy Abramsohn) freaks out all over the iconic Orlando landmark while on vacation with his wife and two young children. “I was surprised the ride operators weren’t a little more savvy,” he said at his Sundance Q & A.

Based on Moore's unhappy trips to Disneyworld with his heavy-drinking father as a child, the film is worth seeing for its laughs and shock value alone.  The media reports on the guerrilla making-of story are more entertaining than the movie itself. Here's the NYT:

 "Escape From Tomorrow” underscores the difficulties that Disney, a company intensely vigilant about its intellectual property, faces at controlling the imagery flowing from its parks at a time when people are shooting increasing amounts of video with their smartphones.

The LAT reports that Moore has never tried to reach Disney, which in turn had not contacted him by press time. The film's official website includes a countdown for when that lawsuit will arrive. Moore told the LAT:

“To me this is the future. Cameras in your hand. Cameras in your glasses. Anyone can be shooting at any time. And I think it will explode.” 

This article is related to: News, Disney , Walt Disney, Escape from Tomorrow, Saving Mr. Banks, Tom Hanks, Emma Thompson

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Born and raised in Manhattan, Anne Thompson grew up going to the Thalia and The New Yorker and wound up at grad Cinema Studies at NYU. She worked at United Artists and Film Comment before heading west as that magazine's west coast editor. She wrote for the LA Weekly, Sight and Sound, Empire, The New York Times and Entertainment Weekly before serving as West Coast Editor of Premiere. She wrote for The Washington Post, The London Observer, Wired, More, and Vanity Fair, and did staff stints at The Hollywood Reporter and Variety. She eventually took her blog Thompson on Hollywood to Indiewire. She taught film criticism at USC Critical Studies, and continues to host the fall semester of “Sneak Previews” for UCLA Extension.