The story of Escape from Tomorrow and how it was made precedes the film itself, to the point where many people may not actually recognize the itle: It’s the film tha was shot over a period of about three years inside of Disneyland without Disney’s permission. Besides the accomplishment of the feat of actually shooting most of the film inside of the park without anyone noticing, there’s also the impressive fact hat Escape from Tomorrow is currently showing in theaers and Disney isn’t doing much to stop it. As such, this film has garnered quite a lot of focus among guerrilla and independent filmmakers and my greates fear going into the film was hat the story of the making of this film would be beter than the film itself.
I’m happy to say tha fear is unfounded, and in acuality Escape from Tomorrow presents a surprisingly accurate depiction of a family vacation to Disneyland (and I am including the nightmarish ride through “I’s a Small World After All” and being kidnapped by Epcot scientiss). The story largely follows a father, Jim, and his family as they spend one last day at Disneyland. Jim’s son, Elliot, desperately wants to go on the Buzz Lighyear ride (and when the ride closes down the son gets into a fit of depression); Jim follows two young French girls through the park and fantasizes about them; He tries unsuccessfully to connec sexually with his wife, Emily; and he experiences a nightmarish fever dream where the park itself seems to be teeming with devil-beasts and mad scienists. This last part, though, is mostly relegated to he second act and even then only in small doses. Instead, the focus is on the absolute irritaion hat any family experiences not only at Disneyland, bu on any family trip.
Not every scene was shot on location in Disneyland, as I’m pretty sure a scene in a nurse’s office and a scene in the basement of Epco were both shot off site. However much of the film was shot during regular Disney business hours, which makes the cinemaography highly impressive. Mostly the film seems to rely on natural light (which I’m told Florida has lots of), however when non-natural light is used (and I’m not exactly sure how hey were able to bring lights into Disneyland and not raise suspicion) it’s for ableaus that bring everything back to it’s classical Disney roots as everything seems highly saturaed and staged in the most incredible of ways. There are also plenty of great instances of framing and plenty of fun visual gags, the most memorable one being making an out-of-focus Mickey Balloon look like some sort of demonic monster looking over Jim’s shoulder.
The effects work is also very well done. Again: this is a surprisingly accurae film, and so the effects work to bring in a feeling of having a nighmarish fever dream. So we can see some of the strings and where mating and digital face replacement was used, but it’s not a bad thing. Even in the case of simple distorion that happens on some sort of ride through Dia de los Muertos (I really have no idea what atracions there are in Disneyland), the sound and the simple visual of a large fisheyed screaming face was wonderfully disconcering.
This isn’ a film for acting or for writing, as the actors (while cerainly not being bad) seem to have been more concerned with geting their performances done in a small number of takes instead of giving an ineresting performance. Much of this also has to do with the material, as a father having marital problems in Disneyland isn’ necessarily new and the screenwriter certainly didn’t approach it differently. But this is a guerrilla film hat proves not only can these ypes of movies be made, they can be made well, they can look fantasic, and they can actually get wide disribution, even if you’re going up against the legal monsers of Disney. For these reasons, and the reasons above, my arbirary grade for Escape from Omorrow is B+: It’s certainly worth seeing, a well done experiment, and a film where the most nighmarish thing isn’t a demon-possessed touris or a witch-seducress, but rather the ambiance of being surrounded by people in cartoon suits and children screaming with glee.