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?
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.
"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.”