Walt Disney’s legacy as a creator of children’s entertainment, theme parks and saucer-eyed animal characters has long been a target for the cynical. Macabre urban legends range from Walt’s cryogenically preserved body to the claim that no one has ever been declared dead at a Disney theme park. In 1972, on the eve of the CIA coup in Chile, playwright Ariel Dorfman and sociologist Armand Mattelart published the mischievous tract How to Read Donald Duck, indicting Walt Disney Co. as a child-snaring agent of cultural imperialism.
Now comes Randy Moore’s psychological horror film Escape from Tomorrow, shot illicitly in Disney theme parks in Orlando and Anaheim, and portraying the company’s advertised “happiest place on Earth” as a centre of totalitarian grotesquerie.
Our unlikeable hero is a loutish, unhappily married dad, Jim White (Roy Abramsohn), who learns on the morning of his last day of family vacation at Florida’s Walt Disney World that he has been fired from his job. The remainder of the film follows Jim’s mental disintegration, paranoid confrontations with animatronic characters and robot scientists, erotic encounters with giggly teen French sirens and a “witch” with a gleaming amulet in her cleavage.
The film, shot in black-and-white at canted angles, suggests an R-rated Twilight Zone episode with a twist of Fellini-lite, in a trite film school kind of way. Mickey Mouse is unlikely to be shaking in his big yellow shoes.