Disney’s Strategy Against a Controversial Indie Film: Ignore It

Why the studio won't be pursuing legal action against a horror film shot secretly (and without permission) at Disney World

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Mankurt Media

Following its premiere at the Sundance Film Festival last January, many assumed the horror flick Escape from Tomorrow would never unspool inside your local multiplex.

The controversial micro-budgeted indie was filmed surreptitiously inside Walt Disney World without Disney’s permission and uses Disney copyrighted images (see the bloody Mickey Mouse hand and the iconic Disney cursive in the poster) in its promotional materials. What’s more, the plot morphs Disney World’s “Happiest Place on Earth” mantra into a twisted tale of a father going mad inside a seedy version of the park: Disney princesses turn into prostitutes and kidnappers in the film. It’s exactly the kind of Magic Kingdom-bashing that would get Mouse lawyers scrambling to the nearest courthouse.

And yet Disney has decided to take no legal action, and Escape from Tomorrow will premiere (albeit in a very limited release in 32 cities) on Friday, Oct. 11. The media giant has decided that giving attention to the low-budge flick would only create a David vs. Goliath-like narrative that would help the horror movie at the box office, according to the Hollywood Reporter.

It’s probably the right strategy. Though the horror film has garnered a decent amount of attention online (thanks, in part, to its very creepy trailer which premiered in mid-September), the film would have received more press had it  incurred the official wrath of Disney.

Though John Sloss—sales agent, legal counsel and manager for Producers Distribution Agency, who is distributing the film—told the Los Angeles Times that he never wanted Disney to sue, he admitted, “Ok, maybe a small reaction would have been nice. We could have some fun with that.”

Producers Distribution Agency also released the similarly controversial Exit Through the Gift Shop, a film about graffiti artist Banksy that earned an Oscar nomination. But that film only earned $3.3 million at the box office, and with less critical hype, Escape from Tomorrow is likely to rake in even less.

Well played, Disney.