LOS ANGELES — As a kid, Randy Moore was haunted by Disney World, where he made an annual trip during summers with his dad. So as an adult, and a filmmaker, Moore wanted to capture and question the allure of such manufactured-fantasy.
The result is “Escape From Tomorrow,” which was shot guerrilla-style at Disneyland and Disney World without permission from the famously proprietary Walt Disney Co., and which has actually made it to the screen.
“I was pretty confident that Disney wasn’t about to go out of their way and give me permission,” Moore said, “so I didn’t ask them for it.”
The writer-director insists there was no other way to tell his story of a frustrated family man who begins losing his grip on reality during a trip to Disney World. So Moore and his crew bought season passes to Disneyland in Anaheim, Calif., and Disney World in Orlando, Fla., and used hand-held digital cameras to shoot scenes and tiny digital audio recorders to capture sound.
They repeatedly rode It’s a Small World and other trademark Disney attractions to film from various perspectives — just like any other theatrical feature.
“Escape From Tomorrow,” available on video-on-demand and in select theaters, first premiered at the Sundance Film Festival earlier this year.
The black-and-white indie film quickly built a buzz based on its surreptitious shooting style and dark take on Disney, including the movie’s poster with what looks to be Mickey Mouse’s oversized hand covered in blood. The film also picked up its share of skepticism that it would ever be released.
Representatives from Disney, which has a history of aggressively protecting its image, brands and intellectual property, did not respond to requests for comment for this story. The company also hasn’t spoken to Moore or the film’s distributor.
“We’ve had no contact with Disney at all whatsoever,” Moore said. But if anyone from the Mouse House, as it is known in the industry, did contact him, he wouldn’t be afraid.
“I would ask them if they liked it or what they thought about it,” he said.
The director was afraid, however, during the crew’s secret filming outings at Disneyland and Disney World, but not because they were filming illegally.
“What I was worried about was letting down my cast and crew, who had come on this ride with me,” he said. “As a first-time director, I think the hardest thing is getting everyone to see your vision and believe in it and want to help you to achieve that.”
He never intended to make a guerrilla film, he said: “The style of the film came from the story, and ... there was no other way we could make it. I hope to God the next thing I do doesn’t require this same style. It’s traumatizing.”
Yet for Moore, again, it’s not about copyright violations and the wrath of Disney, but rather the time limits inherent in such shooting.
“We believe that the film fell under the fair-use doctrine as a parody of an idyllic day at Disney World. Branding is so much a part of our culture, and it’s everywhere. And (Disney) is everywhere. They’re so ubiquitous, you can’t get away from them even if you tried... To not be able to comment or critique or parody that (ubiquity), I just think it’s morally unacceptable.”