After a buzzy showing at Sundance this year, it was widely assumed that Escape From Tomorrow, the debut feature from writer/director Randy Moore, would never see the light of day outside the festival circuit, but not for the same reasons that most critically admired indies suffer the same fate. For one, there was the whole shooting-scenes-of-sexual-deviance-and-demonic-possession-illegally-on-Disney-property thing. And for two ... I mean, I don't really feel like there's a need for me to list a two. (Here's the part where I remind you that Grantland and ESPN are, yes, owned by Disney.)
As far as copyright and concerns of that ilk, festivals are generally considered a legal neutral territory, mostly because no money is officially coming to the producers and filmmakers; it's all free screenings (after your plane ticket, chalet rental, and lift pass, of course) and free speech. Of course, the whole point of getting your film into a festival like Sundance is the hope of getting distribution, and ideally untold millions, which seemed to be the logical point at which Escape From Tomorrow's story would end. What distributor with any kind of self-interest, particularly one at the pay grade of a micro-indie like Tomorrow, would take on such blatant litigation bait for a multi-billion-dollar corporation, for a film that would probably run at about 100 art house theaters for a couple weeks and maybe pick up some VOD cash before becoming a Wikipedia footnote? Moore shot his movie on the cheap, made a little noise, fueled the film blogs for a few days, and then took his newly boosted reputation back home to start writing his next film, right? Nope!
In a move some might call "ballsy" or "fucking suicidal," Producers Distribution Agency, who also released last year's critically adored doc Brooklyn Castle and the 2010 "Banksy documentary" Exit Through the Gift Shop, picked up the U.S. rights to Escape From Tomorrowland (distrubutors FilmBuff picked up the video and VOD rights). It's perhaps not coincidental that Gift Shop also involved some hilarious, completely unsanctioned Disneyland high jinks, of which the entire premise of Tomorrowland is undoubtedly reminiscent to anyone who has seen it, not to mention that that film's title was also a bit of a Disney snark itself. PDA may be carving out a niche for itself as America's foremost purveyors of PDA (Public Disney Antagonization). I mean, look at this poster:
Add to that today's release of the deliriously sleazy, trippy trailer above, and Tomorrow has completed its fairy tale transformation from trickster sprite to chest-beating psychopath, kindly requesting that the Walt Disney Company (and theatergoers, on October 11 in its initial release) come at it, bro. Meanwhile, the Happiest Company on Earth (shout-out to our corporate overlords!) remains ominously silent, which either means they've decided they're above such small, if feisty, beans; or they're just stockpiling their artillery for one big, terrifying, example-setting blow.