Why Disney is Giving ‘Escape From Tomorrow’ a Pass

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The film Escape From Tomorrow delights in waving its junk right in Disney’s face, and the Mouse House, in an unusual move, seems willing to let that happen.

There’s been a lot of talk about the film since its Sundance premiere, and especially since the first official trailer premiered not long ago. The film was shot “illegally” (read: without corporate knowledge or approval) in Disney theme parks, and makes liberal use of registered Disney trademarks in a manner that isn’t at all consistent with Disney’s own use. There’s a Disney Princess prostitute, for example.

The marketing materials for the film (as seen above) also trade heavily in Disney iconography, to the point where a non-discriminating viewer could potentially mistake Escape From Tomorrow as a Disney product. OK, a very non-discriminating viewer.

So what’s up? Why hasn’t Disney slammed the hammer down on the movie? The answer is rooted in common sense and the Streisand Effect, but now there’s some unofficial talk backing up Disney’s strategy.

In short, the reason Disney is letting the film pass unmolested is that to do anything else would be to invite far more publicity than the movie is going to receive on its own. There will be a good amount of press when Escape From Tomorrow hits theaters in October, but it’s a small movie, meant for a niche audience, and a great many people will never know it exists.

Disney has rarely been shy about deploying legal muscle to stop infringement. Yet if Disney were to slap a lawsuit on the producers and/or distributor, or try to otherwise block the marketing or release, that would invite far more attention than Escape From Tomorrow is likely to receive on its own.

THR has a piece on the thinking over at Disney, and says,

A spokesperson did not respond to a request for comment, but a studio source says the strategy is to avoid giving Tomorrowattention that could lead to bigger box office. After all, The Weinstein Co. this year parlayed Warner Bros.’ objections to using the title The Butler, which Warners owns, into a mountain of media that put its film on the public’s radar.

All of which is exactly what people have guessed might happen over the course of the past nine months. But having a semi-official clarification of the Disney position is useful. Will this invite more people to try the same thing? Probably not. There can only be one Escape From Tomorrow, and now that it exists, the trick is used up. There’s not much value in being the second movie to film in Disney parks without permission.

You can read Peter’s account of the film from Sundance; I share most of his feelings, but I think I liked the movie a bit more overall than he did. A new, shorter cut is playing Fantastic Fest soon, and I’ll report on that when I get a chance to check it out. (The Sundance cut was a bit meandering; I’d expect the new cut to reign in that aspect, without trimming much of the weird Disney imagery that makes it an unusual experience.

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