There is this new roller coaster in a certain theme park that everyone is talking about. Naturally, I paid the place a visit to see what all the fuss was about. Roger Ebert, being the incredible man he is, purchased me a fast pass so I did not have to wait in line. Before hopping in a seat and pulling the large padded rail across my lap, I glanced at the ride operator in the platform booth. You know, the one with the guy that sticks his thumb in the air waiting for press-the-button signal from his colleagues. I was close enough to see his name tag. It read Randy Moore. Only there was something different about this guy. The teacup ride operator waited for all the doors to be locked on the oversized chinaware. But not this man. He did not lift his thumb in the air for approval nor did he wait for me to push that bar down until my gut prevented it from clicking anymore. With one of my feet inside of the car and the other on the platform, Moore smashed that button like he was on a gameshow. Gripping on for life, my knuckles were bleach white from the twists and turns on Escape From Tomorrow. The ride then slowed down to speed that inched forward. I finally get my whole body in the car. And here I am now, slowly moving back into the platform like a I am on a factory conveyor belt. To my left is a grid of cubbies is where I stashed my goofy souvenir that that the ride has now caused me to regret purchasing. But to my right you stand, waiting to hop aboard. In a normal situation, I would warn you of the pandemonium and go yell at Mr. Moore. Instead, I simply say, Welcome The Wonderful World of Randy.
Escape From Tomorrow has been on my radar since its January premiere at the famous Sundance Film Festival. Twitter, tumblr, and even Yahoo! all had posted links to articles describing an independent film that had been shot inside the Disney theme parks without the consent of the corporation. As I read on, Sundance filmgoers were quoted saying that the film was, “extremely odd” and “one hell of movie.” It then surfaced that the fate of EFT was unknown. As expected, the film’s guerilla-style method had pissed off Mickey Mouse. Every now and then I would do a web search hoping news of a legal action against distribution would not come up. Months went by and the lineup for Ebertfest was released. No way… Roger Ebert was my savior. In his final months, he was able to arrange a viewing and loved the movie. He got in contact with the films director, Randy Moore, and confirmed its addition to the lineup. “We would only do something like that for Roger,” Moore stated before showing his film this past Saturday. A much deserved applause followed the touching comment. Moore then exited and the The Virginia’s velvet curtains opened. Sunday was only seven hours away but it was time for 1500 audience member to escape from it.
The story begins with Jim (Roy Abramsohn) taking a phone call on his hotel balcony. His wife, Emily (Elena Schruber), and two kids remain asleep inside the room. Seconds later, it is learned that the person on the other end of the call is his boss and the message to Jim relayed his termination. Keeping the bad news to himself, Jim heads the family towards the Magic Kingdom. They all go on a few rides taking the audience with them. Soon enough, Jim starts to hallucinate in the well-known It’s A Small World. The sculptures, puppets, and props all grow devilish grimaces. Eerie noises fill Jim’s ears. He then looks back in the boat to see that each of his family members have transformed into evil versions of themselves. Confused and struggling, Jim makes it out and stops hallucinating; for the time being. What happens next is a large amount of strange occurrences. While Jim, son in hand, subtly stalks two underage french girls (Annet Mahendru and Danielle Safady), he delves deeper into a mystical and nightmarish pit of Moore’s definition of Disney.
After the show, Moore, Abramsohn, Schruber, Mahendru, and Soojin Chung (producer and editor) all came out to talk about the unique experience. “Before we began shooting, I weighed 215 pounds. Prior to post production, I was 165.” Director Randy Moore discusses his weight loss to sum up the amount of stress he was under during the principal photography. Moving the post-production to South Korea subsided the fear that Disney Executives were going to bust into Moore’s editing suite and seize footage. Although, the most talked about subject was not Moore’s initiative to shoot without permission but the inspiration behind such a unique story. Moore “could not have seen it written any other way.” As a child, he frequented the park with his father and attributes the bizarre movie to his viewing of Disney World as an adult. Abramsohn has stolen the term “genre-defying” from a review he read in order to properly define the movie. After seeing the picture myself, it is the most appropriate description for the 95-minute psychedelic trip through the wonderful world of Disney.
Aspiring artists need to take a lesson from Moore. He had a vision and he went for it. Although he does not advise on replicating his method, he did not wait around to go capture something that was his. Although there were a few close calls, one of which his crew used a Disney parade as a diversion, he made it work and gave the world an excellent film. And for all of you filmmakers/owners of professional scuba diving gear, I have written storyboards for short inspired by this film. It takes place entirely inside the orca tank at Sea World. Let me know if you want in.