A review of two very different movies shot on Disney Grounds

I recently had the privilege of watching both Saving Mr. Banks
Disney Pictures tale of Walt Disney and author P.L. Travers’
disagreements on Mary Poppins — and the guerilla-filmed Escape from
Tomorrow
in a 24-hour span. I went into this mini Disney-marathon with
high expectations for the first and thirsty curiosity for the later.

If you’re not aware of the two movies, you must not be a Disneyland
nerd like myself (and congratulations.) My family and I spend a fair
amount of time and money in the “park that Walt built” and have for
three generations. Disneyland, to me, will always be bigger than the
Disney brand, but to each his own.

I was pretty sure what I was going to get from Mr. Banks and Disney
hit that bulls-eye with this movie. The story follows the making of
the 1964 Disney Classic Mary Poppins and gives a somewhat
fictionalized version of how Disney and Travers eventually made a
motion picture they both approved of. Tom Hanks is wonderful as Walt
Disney, but it’s hard to think of Mr. Hanks as anyone but Mr. Hanks.
Hanks nails many of the famous Disney’s nuances — even gets busted
with a cigarette — and is believable as Disney. I knew next to
nothing about P.L. Travers prior to watching Mr. Banks, but that
didn’t matter (at least if you don’t care about facts.) Thompson
brought the character to life and I enjoyed her portrayal of British
fish-out-of-water in 1960’s southern California.

The real reason I watched this movie was to see how they captured
Disneyland on film. In the past, Disneyland has only been used as a
backdrop in a major motion picture two times (40 Pounds of trouble in
1962 and That Thing you Do in 1996) and Walt Disney wasn’t portrayed
in either. The footage shot in the park in Mr. Banks takes us in a
limo ride through the main gates and up to the Mickey Mouse planter at
the foot of the Main Street Rail Road stop. From there, Walt and P.L.
travel up Main Street and through to Fantasyland were the two ride
King Arthur’s Carousel together — Emma Thompson aboard Jingles (and
if you know who Jingles is and haven’t seen the movie,
congratulations, your are a Disneyland-nerd too.) The exterior shots
of the Walt Disney Studios in Burbank were a pleasant bonus and I have
no doubts I will add this title to my DVD collection.

Though the movie left me wanting to see more of the two main players
in Disneyland, what was used was colorful and fun. The movie turned
Disneyland into a character instead of just a setting. Combine that
with the music, the comedy and side players (the Sherman Brothers
nearly steal this film and Paul Giamatti is always a rock star) and
what you have is a great movie even if you don’t care about or
particularly like Disney.

Going from the colorful and Disney created Mr. Banks to the black and
white, independently filmed, Escape from Tomorrow, at first, felt
like someone had started the Clockwork Orange’s Ludovico Technique on
me. The tone and feel of this movie, obviously, is way darker than Mr.
Banks. It was like switching from water to Red Bull.

I knew all of the backstory surrounding Escape and how the Disney
Corporation felt the best way to deal with the film — which itself
portrays the Disney parks as a type of poison — was to simply ignore
it. That tactic has, so far, seemed to work as the movie has not
earned back the money it cost to make it. That could all change when
Escape from Tomorrow goes to DVD in April of this year and after
watching it myself, I think the title could have the legs into the
future and possibly become a cult-classic. (even a Disneyland
classic.)

Though the movie is shot in both Disneyland and Disney World in
Florida, I enjoyed all the of the cinematography in this film, not
just the stuff from my favorite place. Since the movie is a satire, it
is easy to understand why both parks were complied into one as the
story and the film makers go from the Contemporary Hotel in Florida to
the base of the Matterhorn in California as if it where a two-minute
hike.

The story follows a family of four who have spent their fare share of
time vacationing at the Disney property and are obviously suffering
burnout. I wont go into the movies plot too much because the story is
strong — often uncomfortable and always depraved — but be forewarned
that this is a movie that shouldn’t be viewed on Family Night (pop in
the original Mary Poppins again and relive that gem if that is your
intent.) For something this dark and depraved, the movie used
Disneyland — and World — as an intriguing character that has
swallowed it visitors and is slowly digesting them. As much as I like
Disneyland, and almost always enjoy my time there, I have also spent
enough time there to feel like I was also in the belly of the beast.

Besides the plot, which is both humorous and horror-filled, I enjoyed
looking at the Disney parks and all of the unsuspecting extras in the
film(i.e the park visitors who had no idea a movie was being filmed.).
I’ve only seen Escape once, but so far I can’t claim that me or anyone
I know is in the movie, but I do look forward to watching it again to
people watch.

Though this movie can at times become absurd, it is a fun flick and
worthy of your time if you have ever been to a Disney park and either
loved it, hated it or fell somewhere in between.

— 30 —

 

P.S. here’s my new resume for 2014, forward it to anyone you would like.

Mark Hebert_Resume_2014

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