This post is probably a bit dated for the readers that are on the cutting edge of developments in the film industry. But since that may only be a small subset of our readers, I thought this information was worth sharing.
Apparently, a brazen independent film director managed to surreptitiously shoot nearly an entire film on-site at Disney World without the permission or knowledge of Disney. The film–Escape From Tomorrow–is described as an “American fantasy-horror film” where, according to IMDB, ”[i]n a world of fake castles and anthropomorphic rodents, an epic battle begins when an unemployed father’s sanity is challenged by a chance encounter with two underage girls on holiday.” Sounds juuussst a bit creepy.
A quick google search reveals that the film has generated quite a bit of buzz following its premiere at Sundance. However, the buzz appears less driven by the film itself, and more driven by the speculation about what Disney’s likely reaction will be given the film’s unflattering portrayal of Disney’s particular brand of happiness. Disney is generally regarded as being aggressive in the protection of its image and its intellectual property. Take for example Disney’s intense efforts to continually extend the terms for U.S. copyright protection to maintain its rights in Mickey Mouse. Given this perception of Disney, I think many viewed Escape From Tomorrow as the proverbial “poking the bull.”
However, as Tim Wu from the New Yorker discusses, the prospects of success by Disney here would be pretty bleak. Fair use is often a difficult threshold for an alleged infringer to clear, but it seems like this is pretty rock solid fair use case. Further, if you are Disney, it would probably be counterproductive to try to stop the film. While there is plainly some buzz about the film at this point in time, filing a lawsuit would likely increase the buzz exponentially. While I personally am intrigued by the movie (as I expect many of you are), the interest from the general public–and particularly Disney’s target demographic–is likely minimal. But if Disney files suit and loses, people will all of the sudden have the opportunity to see “the Disney movie that’s so troubling Disney itself didn’t want you to see it!!!!!” I think that would be a much worse outcome. If I’m Disney, I zip my cryogenically frozen lip and let this pass.