Saturday, January 19, 2013

The indie tweaks Disney

I was amused and intrigued to hear about an independent film maker's sort-of covert filming of his movie inside Disney World (in Orlando, FL) and Disneyland (Anaheim, CA). Randy Moore's movie Escape from Tomorrow uses the theme parks not merely as coloful backdrops, but apparently as integral elements of his underlying message, if you believe the excerpted line from's review: "A daring attempt to literally assail Disney World from the inside out."

You might think that somebody making a real movie, as opposed to a home movie, would have stood out to park employees. Apparently Moore was able to camouflage his intentions.

The end credits cite the involvement of over 200 cast and crew members, although only small groups entered the Disney parks at one time to avoid drawing attention.

Still, there were moments during filming that Disney clearly knew something was up, Mr. Moore said. “I think they probably just thought we were crazy fans making a YouTube video, which is something that happens a fair amount,” he said.

With all the video-making devices in the hands of ordinary consumers today, this sounds plausible. If his movie makes a big splash, I wonder if Disney will feel obliged to take countermeasures to discourage the next indie director who wants to do guerrilla filming in its parks? And I wonder what steps the company could possibly take that wouldn't have visible, negative effects on its millions of customers looking to make nothing more than their own private record of their trip?

As for that underlying message, Moore said:

“Look, I have amazing memories as a kid from going to the parks. I think Walt Disney was a genius. I just wish his vision hadn’t grown into something quite so corporate.”
I don't quite know what Moore has in mind by the word "corporate", but if he means "coercing conformity", that was Walt Disney's schtick from day one. Disney the man achieved fame and fortune not only by having a clearer vision of what animation could accomplish than any of his competitors (at first), but also by being ruthlessly dedicated to achieving his vision. During his lifetime, he would brook no disagreement on artistic matters. (Steve Jobs in that sense was very much Disney's spiritual heir.) The Disney theme parks represent — or at least in Walt's lifetime represented — his idealized vision of the world, shorn of rough edges and devoid of the untamed. To my mind, there is nothing more corporate than that, and it's at the very heart of the company's DNA. What else could Moore expect?

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