When filmmaker Randy Moore and his crew entered Disney World in Florida equipped with several handheld cameras, the park staff probably thought they were just a group of regular guys making silly YouTube videos about their Mickey Mouse adventures.
As it turns out, they weren’t. Moore was making a $1 million movie, and they spent about three weeks inside both the California resort and the Florida resort. He filmed scenes guerrilla-style, with no authorization from the Walt Disney Company. “Escape From Tomorrow” premiered last week at the Sundance Film Festival.
The black-and-white narrative chronicles a father’s descent into madness while his family enjoys a vacation at “The Happiest Place on Earth.” The movie is being billed as a surrealist nightmare, filled with grotesque vomiting scenes, robots coming to life and the father pretending to kill himself. One reviewer calls it one of the most unsettling things he’s seen in a theater. “Escape from Tomorrow” is a harsh critique of Disney, a cookie-cutter and iconic American company.
Sounds like an interesting flick, but how did Moore do it? His film is littered with copyrighted material — costumed characters like Mickey Mouse and Pluto appear throughout. Entire scenes take place on rides, like the Haunted Mansion and the Teacups. How did Moore film an entire movie without anyone catching on? And, most important, will Disney sue over copyright infringement?
Many legal experts agree: Disney probably has no legal ground to sue. The film’s use of copyrighted images and logos most likely falls under the Fair Use clause of copyright law, which pardons users if the work is transforming the material to make a commentary on the subject. Which, it seems, Moore’s movie does in a dark way.
What does this film say about American culture? And what does it mean for the Disney corporation as it decides whether to take action? Tune in to “The War Room” Friday night — Harvard professor and political activist Lawrence Lessig joins Jennifer Granholm to discuss this issue and others.