What’s illegal at Disneyland? Dogs, drugs, alcohol, pamphlets, flags and large coolers. Not listed? Secretly shooting a feature-length movie.
But Disneyland couldn’t have imagined director Randy Moore would have the courage to film Escape From Tomorrow on location -- and that it would be so horny. In the black-and-white theme park noir, a father of two (Roy Abramsohn) lusts after two underage French teenagers, cheats on his wife (Elena Schuber) and discovers that the Disney princesses are high-priced prostitutes. And that’s before he suffers a psychotic breakdown triggered when Walt’s animatronics start shooting him him dirty looks.
To shoot Escape From Tomorrow, which opens this Friday, Moore bought his cast and crew season passes to Disneyland and Disney World and even charted the sun in advance to figure out how to get away without lighting equipment. The actors stored their scripts on their iPhones, the cameramen dressed like tourists, and Moore prayed that security wouldn’t notice that the same group of people in the same clothes had ridden It’s a Small World 12 times. Not only did Moore get away with it, he got the movie into Sundance. (And so far, he hasn’t even gotten sued -- it appears the Mouse has decided against giving him the free publicity.)
Even if Moore and the gang weren’t technically tourists, they still had to look, eat and sleep like them for the nearly three-week shoot, plus soak up the atmosphere for creative inspiration. Which makes Moore something of a renegade expert in all things Mickey.
”In California, the crowd is totally different than the Florida crowd,” says Moore. “If you go to Disneyland, there’s more hipsters, regular Californian people. There’s more strangeness in Orlando.”
Oddly, instead of getting weary of the lines and cheerful music (none of which he could use in the film), Moore found himself loving the park every day. “Making this film actually brought me closer to Disneyland,” he adds. “Every single night, we had to shoot the fireworks to get all of our shots, and there were moments during that were I sort of got caught up in the whole magic again.”
Of course, he may not sound so blissful about the park if Disney cannily waits to unleash their lawyers until Escape From Tomorrow is out of theaters. So before the afterglow wears off, here are Moore’s 10 tips for what to eat, ride, see and do in the Magic Kingdom -- without getting sued.
EAT: “The best place to eat in Disneyland is by far in the French Quarter. I wish I knew the name of it [the Royal Street Veranda], but they have bread bowls with either clam chowder or gumbo. It’s the best place to have lunch, it’s fantastic. We went there as often as we could.”
SNACK: “The emu leg! I was told that by a Disney employee, and I wrote the script really believing it. Afterward, I thought I should have done a little more research because there is debate on the internet as to whether or not it’s true. I’m still not 100 percent sure if it’s emu or turkey.”
RIDE: “I think Soarin’ is a fantastic ride. It’s pretty magical. But there’s a long line. And that’s really not Disneyland -- it’s California Adventure.”
GET ROMANTIC: “The Blue Bayou at Pirates of the Caribbean is a nice place. It’s dark in there, they’ve got pretty good food, and you get to look at the boats lazing down.”
Up next: Occupy the kids, and flaunt Disney trivia
OCCUPY THE KIDS: “You have to take them to the Princess Fair, unfortunately, and get the autographs of all the princesses. Small World is always a crowd-pleaser for kids, and Alice in Wonderland. Or you’re basically going to be stuck in Toontown, which is my least favorite part of the park. I can’t wait till they raze that whole section and build something new. Toontown is just awful -- awful! -- I hate it.”
SLEEP: “We slept at the Sheraton, which has shuttles to the park every day. I think it’s one of the original hotels besides the Disneyland hotels that got there early and set up shop. And they have big rooms. I’d recommend the Sheraton.”
BUY: “I like those giant, chemical lollipops that they sell because when I was a kid, I wasn’t allowed to have them. So I just dreamed about them. And then when I went back with my kid for the first time, I was like, ‘I’m going to give you what I never had.’ I felt like the circle had been completed.”
PEOPLE WATCH: “I like the goth kids who get all Nightmare Before Christmas dressed up wearing giant platform Doc Martins. Just seeing them walking around always cracks me up.”
FLAUNT DISNEY TRIVIA: “The People Mover in Orlando used to be in Disneyland, too, and you can see remnants of it in Tomorrowland -- you can see where people used to board. I feel like there was an accident or something that made them shut it down. It hasn’t been working since I was in high school at Disneyland, but it was great because you could take a tour of the whole park like you were on the train. It was supposed to be the transportation of the future -- that’s how we were going to go from work to home. And there was never, ever a line for it. That’s probably another reason why it was shut down.”
BREAK THE LAW: ”I’d never do anything illegal there! I always follow the rules.”@theamynicholson
If you like this story, consider signing up for our email newsletters.
SHOW ME HOW
You have successfully signed up for your selected newsletter(s) - please keep an eye on your mailbox, we're movin' in!
Subscribe to the Voice Film Club podcast