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," shot guerrilla-style at Disneyland and Disney World without permission from the famously proprietary Walt Disney Co., 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 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, premiered at this year's Sundance Film Festival.
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. Skeptics doubted it would ever be released.
Representatives from Disney, famed for aggressively protecting its image, brands and intellectual property, did not answer requests for comment for this story. The company 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."
"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. … To not be able to comment or critique or parody that (ubiquity), I just think it's morally unacceptable."