Selling Happiness? A Disney Insiders Thoughts on “Escape From Tomorrow”
by Todd Tipton
While I was working at Epcot in the summer of 2008 I came across a family setting up for a picture across the World Showcase Lagoon with the Big Golf Ball .. er .. Spaceship Earth .. majestically in the background. Being a good cast member I stopped and asked the family if they would like me to take the photo. They agreed and I, a veteran Disney photographer by this time, asked them the question I asked before all photos at W.D.W. to get smiles.
“What does Mickey Mouse like?!?”
The family looked back at me in their Goofy hats and shouted “CHE-E-E-ESE!!!”
Well, all except for one little boy who instead shouted “MONEY-Y-Y-Y!!!!!!!!!”
I was laughing so hard I had to retake the photo.
This year, a film that is essentially a feature version of the story above called Escape From Tomorrow caused a bit of a stir at the Cannes film festival. Said stir emulsified in response to film maker Randy Moore, not just because he bothered to make a dystopian, David Lynchesque film about the happiest place on earth, but because, *gasp!*, he did so by gorilla filming in the parks themselves. No, I do not mean magical Disney gorilla’s filmed him, although I would definitely see that film. Instead I mean that he shot scenes in the theme parks without getting permission. Oh no you didn’t Randy Moore!!!!!!
As you can imagine from the fact that he did not get permission, the point of the film isn’t particularly complimentary to Disney. The plot centers on an unemployed father losing his grip on reality during a trip to Walt Disney World leading to surreal hi-jinx around the parks like getting into fights with characters, implying that some of the princess characters are actually hookers for Japanese businessmen, and calling Spaceship Earth a “testicle” all in an attempt to justify a line at the end of the film that is apparently the profound statement it was made to deliver: “You can’t be happy all of the time. It’s just not possible”.
Well, that and to tell us that Mickey likes money.
I have not seen Escape FromTomorrow. I mean, I would watch it but I highly doubt I or any of you good readers will ever get the opportunity to do so because Moore violated a whole clown car full of intellectual property rights in filming this on WDW property without permission and would likely get his chip ‘n’ dales handed to him in a colorful gift bag by Disney snipers/lawyers if it ever approaches a watchable medium. So, it may seem funny that I’m going to do a review of a film I haven’t seen. However, I don’t need to watch the film to weigh in on the moral of it which has been clearly stated by the film maker. A few years ago I came to Walt Disney World as a non-Disneyphile and managed to get myself into a spot working 6 months in a position that was the ultimate insider’s view of the entire operation: 4 theme parks, 2 water parks, golf courses, arenas, shopping areas, 20+ resorts, and 60,000 + cast members. I had unparalleled views into the nuts and bolts of the operation of the parks throughout entire seasons, interacted with cast members across the spectrum of company hierarchy, and had complete access to the inner workings of the minds of the Disney guest s from all over the world. I have ideal experience to comment on the things asserted for our consideration in this film.
So, did I come away jaded with the Mouse ? Is Walt Disney World truly the happiest place on earth? Is it what this film says it is? Is Disney a soulless, insidious corporation only looking after its bottom line? Does it peddle happiness like a cheap commodity? Does it attempt to control the very definition of happiness and force it on others by marketing into the subconscious of children through colorful characters? Does Walt’s cryogenic head lie under the bowels of Spaceship Earth awaiting mourners like Stalin’s body?
And what of the faith I profess? Can you love Christ and still approve of Disney?
Step out of your car and into the cabin of a written monorail headed towards the answers of these questions and more in this three part series: Selling Happiness? A Disney Insiders Thoughts on “Escape From Tomorrow”.
Por favor mantenganse alejado de las puertas …