Every American has fond memories of Walt Disney World, moments in time that bond us to family like no other vacation really could. There’s magic in the air, and whether it’s manufactured or not, millions flock to the mouse Mecca every summer.
Well, first-time director Randy Moore is here to ruin all of that. To be fair, Escape From Tomorrow is not an assault on the corporate icon nor is it really offering deft social commentary about consumer culture. It’s just a weird, horror sci-fi hybrid that just so happens to be illegally shot on the grounds of Disneyland and Disney World. Moore came out of hiding from an undisclosed location to talk to Dread Central about the film and the surprising response it’s been getting since premiering at the Sundance Film Festival.
DC: So, I saw the film this morning …
RM: It’s a great morning movie.
DC: I was going to say, it was actually good that I was still a little sleepy because it felt a bit more surreal. I was just at Fantastic Fest and missed it there, unfortunately.
RM: That was fun this year. I’d never been to Fantastic Fest before but had a great time there.
DC: It’s a pretty wild time. Did you consume and imbibe a lot, I imagine?
RM: (laughs) I did partake a little. I talked to Harry Knowles for a second and he was like, ‘If you do one thing, promise me you’ll get really really fucked up one night.’ So, I had to follow his advice.
DC: I was wondering if there was ever a version of this told from the kid’s perspective and not the father’s. So much weird shit happened that I wonder what the kids will and won’t remember when they grow up.
RM: I think that’s the genesis of the story for me. I guess I remember bits and pieces of going there with my father when I was a kid, and I think I just filled in the blanks with the rest. And then, between having kids of my own and going back there and seeing it from an adult perspective, that’s where this came from.
DC: I remember going as a kid to Disneyland and got all the characters in the park to sign a white T-shirt of mine and autograph the shirt I was wearing. Captain Hook wasn’t signing my T-shirt and I thought he was an asshole. I was afraid of Captain Hook from that point on and then years later I realized that he was probably left-handed. Then, going later in high school, I went on an acid trip with friends. We all took acid went to the theme park. I can kind of relate to some of the more surreal moments in the film. Following the French teen girls as characters, did you want to offer a different perspective on how the experience changes with age?
RM: I needed a carrot to draw him around the park because, for me, he was sort of a rat in a maze. So I thought, let’s do what you’re definitely not supposed to do in a family friendly place where sex is repressed. Every father’s nightmare would be to have some creepy guy following his daughter around Disney. That’s where that sort of originated from.
DC: It gives new meaning to the term “people watching,” I guess. It must have been one hell of a rush for you guys to film this and be so under the radar. I don’t think filmmakers really think they can get away with that, so I’m glad this film is going to the Holy Grail of the place where you’re not supposed to shoot and you guys got away with it.
RM: There was a lot of adrenaline. It was tough. I wouldn’t say it was like a rush because that makes it sound like we enjoyed it. Everyday was waking up with so much dread underneath everything. I didn’t know if we were going to get through every single day and the more we shot, I think some people started to relax a little bit but for me I started to think that our luck was running out. I felt really responsible for everyone and I just wanted to finish the film more than anything. So, the closer we got to the finish line, the more paranoid and nervous I got. Eventually, I just started losing all this weight: I went from 215 to 168 over the course of the shoot. Why did I do it then? I was just obsessed and I felt that I was obligated to tell this story.
DC: That is a serious stress diet. Off the top of my head, though, the only film to shoot without permission on Disney property is Exit Through The Gift Shop and that’s good company to be in. The fact that that’s a documentary it really showed the fear of getting caught. I know the Disney police aren’t that frightening but how close did you guys come to actually being busted?
RM: Towards the very end of shooting in Anaheim, which we shot at right after Orlando, security came over when we were shooting the scene that’s done in the final film where the actors are entering the park through the turnstiles and we had them do it a few times. If we had scheduled that scene towards the beginning of the shoot, there would be no movie right now because I think everyone would have been too freaked out to continue. Security pulled them aside and asked them why they kept leaving and coming back so many times in like seven times. They also noticed our camera department was following them and they thought that they were paparazzi because, at this time, our two camera guys had grown their beards back. I made them shave and dress respectably in the beginning to sort of blend in a little more. At this point, they had gotten a little bit cocky, so they were back into total L.A. film crew sloppy mode. They asked them if they were a famous family and they denied it but they still thought that something was strange. They took them aside to the Fire Department area and said wait here we’re going to check something and to wait here. They were all staying in character as this family, and they went to the bathroom. When they got back, there was this parade on Main street which happens every fifteen minutes in Disney World, so they were separated from security by the parade. They made their way out towards the exit and got out and we had our production van right at the entrance. As we were driving away, we noticed there was a plain-clothes security guy who looked just like a tourist writing down our plates. It was just blind luck that we scheduled that at the very end. Maybe that’s why there’s not too many movies filmed there because people start filming right at the turnstiles and get caught right away.
Escape From Tomorrow is in limited theatrical release now and also available on VOD.
The most provocative film from the 2013 Sundance Film Festival, ESCAPE FROM TOMORROW should not exist, and yet it does. Like nothing you’ve ever seen, Randy Moore’s directorial debut is a bold and ingenious trip into the happiest place on earth.
An epic battle begins when a middle-aged American husband and father of two learns that he has lost his job. Keeping the news from his nagging wife and wound-up children, he packs up the family and embarks on a full day of park hopping amid enchanted castles and fairytale princesses. Soon, the manufactured mirth of the fantasy land around him begins to haunt his subconscious. An idyllic family vacation quickly unravels into a surrealist nightmare of paranoid visions, bizarre encounters, and an obsessive pursuit of a pair of sexy teenage Parisians. Chillingly shot in black and white, ESCAPE FROM TOMORROW dissects the mythology of artificial perfection while subversively attacking our culture’s obsession with mass entertainment.
For more of the strange and macabre visit the Escape From Tomorrow website.
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