Copyrights, Intellectual Property, and “Escape from Tomorrow”

14 Sep

Within the last week, Randy Moore’s film Escape from Tomorrow generated quite the buzz as the Sundance selection is slated for release in October. The film chronicles a day in the life of a father’s family vacation to Walt Disney World after finding out he was fired from his job. Sounds normal enough, right? The subplot is where it gets creepy. The family keeps bumping into these two teenage girls, causing the father to have some not-Disney-approved fantasies while on vacation. Eww. That’s enough to get me to pass on the film entirely.

But (as if I needed any more reason not to see this movie) it was secretly filmed on Disney property, both WDW and Disneyland. The company knew nothing. The actors, lighting, and film crews extensively prepared before entering the parks; they performed each scene in one take and quickly moved to the next scene as to not look suspicious. Moore even went so far as to edit the film in South Korea. Kudos for being able to pull that off.

Parents disgruntled paying $3.75 for Mickey premium bars, frustrated with higher ticket prices, and exhausted by long wait times probably rejoice over the concept of this movie. One review on IMDb begins with “FINALLY! [sic] A film that depicts Disney World the way that I see it!” Hipsters everywhere will probably rejoice over the Sundance selection. The neo-noir film gives an overall unsettling tone, and the small budget, “artistic” jump-cuts, and relatively unknown actors are live bait to indie-film lovers. Some critics have even likened the film to the work of Roman Polanski (okay, let’s not get crazy here, people…).

But I wonder how anyone who has any knowledge or respect for copyrights or intellectual property could sit through this movie and honestly enjoy it.

The nature of filming shows absolutely no respect for the Walt Disney Company.

“But it’s a multi-billion dollar corporation! It doesn’t need our respect,” you cry.

Just think back to when the company started for just one second. Before Iger, before Eisner, before The Lion King, Little Mermaid, or even Snow White. Disney only had Oswald the Lucky Rabbit, an adorable little critter he dreamed up while at Universal. Disney then left Universal to start his own company with his older brother, Roy. However, a copyright snafu caused Disney to relinquish Oswald and most of Disney’s animators back to Universal. Disney vowed to never make the same mistake again.

Fast-forward to present day. When a Cast Member asks you to turn off all video-recording devices, cameras, and cell phones, it’s not just to make a show more enjoyable. It’s also due to copyright protection. When Guests come to the Halloween parties dressed as Disney characters, they cannot pose for pictures with other Guests or sign autographs. Again, copyright protection.

And while you might not think the corporation needs your respect, think about the thousands of Cast Members who worked to create everything you see at Walt Disney World, Disneyland, or any Disney movie.  At least have some respect for them.

Copyrights are frustrating at times, I completely understand. Last semester, I visited the David Bowie exhibit at the Victoria and Albert. Camera ready, I prepared to take in every last detail of the exhibit. However, posted in large signage near the entrance, I was instructed absolutely NO photography or video of any kind due to the exhibit being a display of Bowie’s intellectual property. Instead of trying to sneak a couple of pictures once I got in, I had enough respect for him, his music, his costumes, and him being a major cultural icon to put away my camera and simply enjoy the exhibit.

Disney is no different in this situation. With the grand scope of the Disney empire, it’s easy to forget it all started with one man’s dream.

So, enjoy your cheaply won successes while you can, “Escape from Tomorrow” cast and crew. Bask in the glory of a Sundance selection, limited theater openings, and hipsters flocking to see the film. It won’t last.

I hope you make enough money to pay off a fraction of what you’ll have to give when Disney’s legal team gets done.

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