A few years ago, Randy Moore embarked on a family holiday to Disney World in Orlando. Moore had visited the theme park as a child and had warm memories of the place. Moore’s nurse wife, however, had never been to a Disney theme park before and found the experience an unsettling one. “She couldn’t take it,” recalls Moore. “We were at some princess fair and it was a really muggy day and all the kids were screaming and demanding their parents buy them ridiculously expensive plastic wands. It was bonkers. At one point, my wife looked at me and she said, ‘This is worse than working on the psych floor at the hospital.’”
The vacation, and the reaction of Moore’s wife, inspired him to make the theme park-set, Sundance-screened horror film Escape From Tomorrow, which will be released in theatres on October 11 (it will also be available to view on iTunes and VOD). Filmed secretly at both Disney World and Disneyland, the director’s debut stars Roy Abramsohn as a husband and father of two whose own family vacation goes horribly awry as he is haunted by fanged devil-dolls on the It’s A Small World Ride and is informed that the Disney princesses moonlight as prostitutes. Then? The really bad stuff starts happening!
Below, Moore talks about shooting the movie, why he thinks Disney hasn’t sued, and the unlikelihood of him returning to the Happiest Place on Earth any time soon.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Did no one at the Disney theme parks realize you were making a movie?
RANDY MOORE: As far as I can tell, they did not. There was one moment at the very end of our schedule when we were shooting in Anaheim that they pulled our actors over and asked them if they were famous. They thought our camera guys were paparazzi following them around. That’s the closest we came.
What did the cast members say?
They said, “No.” They kept talking to them for a little while. The camera guys by this time were already gone. I think they actually went on a ride. [Laughs]. The Matterhorn, I think. The family stayed in character. Because these kids, you know, they’re not really brother and sister, they’re not with their real parents. And they stayed in character and pretended they had no idea what was going on. Then I think the little girl said that she needed to go to the bathroom. Right as this happened a parade came by and separated them as they were going over to the bathroom from the security personnel. They made their way out and we had a van waiting near the entrance and that was it. Luckily, that was at the end of our shoot inside the parks. I think if that had happened on the first day we probably would have all been basically too nervous to continue.
Given you shot so much in theme parks, the two child actors in the movie must have thought they had the best job in the world.
I think in the beginning they did. But those poor kids would wait in line for hours doing a shot of them waiting in line, and then we’d get to the front and they just wanted to ride the ride, and a lot of the time we had to take them out of the line and then go back to the end of the line to shoot again. We just didn’t have time to make a movie and ride all of the rides.
You’re like the anti-Mickey Mouse! The anti-Santa Claus!
[Laughs] Oh, that’s horrible. Don’t say that.
Could you talk about the legal landscape and why you thought it would be possible to release the film? When it was screened at Sundance, a lot of people assumed the Disney lawyers would be all over you like a pack of dogs.
Right. I never envisioned it really being released when I made it. I never expected it to get into Sundance, to be honest with you. We weren’t expecting to make money or anything off of it. It started small, it was kind of a Field of Dreams project for me, I guess. I thought maybe, maybe it would play some minor underground film festivals. I knew that if I went really deep into the legal side of things that I would start making different creative decisions. [But] I thought morally it should be acceptable to go in there and do this. First of all, they invite people in with their cameras and we weren’t using any special fancy camera or anything. They have special places in the park set up just for people to come and take photos and video. And to me, Disney has transcended just being a theme park. It’s an an American landmark.
Have you had any contact at all with Disney?
Are you surprised the company has not hit you with some kind of legal action?
We vetted the film after Sundance. Obviously, anyone can sue anyone for anything. But we really believe this film is protected under the fair use doctrine as a parody. I imagine if they wanted to they could tie us down legally for a long, long time. But if they came after us and lost, they would have a lot to lose also.
Will you ever again vacation in Disneyland or Disney World?
I don’t know. I don’t have any plans right now to do so. I’ve spent a great deal of time there. [Laughs]. I would rather see the world first. The real world.
They don’t have your photograph up at the ticket booths?
You never know. It sure is possible.
You can read more about Escape from Tomorrow in the current issue of Entertainment Weekly. And you can watch the film’s trailer below.