[THE DARK SIDE OF DISNEY is now available on DVD and VOD.]
Review by Bob Ignizio
The average person who visits a Disney theme park is perfectly happy to enjoy the rides and attractions just as they were intended to be. But there are those whose relationship with the parks are a little more… intense. Perhaps “obsessive” wouldn’t be too strong a word. Some form clubs or, as the always sensationalistic media terms them, Disney “gangs” to share their devotion with other equally passionate souls. Some want to look behind the curtain, boldly venturing into employees-only areas of the park or exploring closed attractions. Some want to experience the park with a little chemical enhancement. And some want to ensure that they are a part of their favorite park for eternity.
Inspired by Leonard Kinsey’s “utterly unauthorized” travel guide of the same name, filmmaker (and Ohio native) Philip Swift’s equally unauthorized documentary THE DARK SIDE OF DISNEY allows those of us who aren’t quite as adventurous to experience this sort of alternative Disney vacation vicariously.
A third generation fan of Disney World and Epcot Center, Swift began his journey into the dark side in 2005 when he surreptitiously scattered his grandmother’s ashes in the moat around Cinderella’s castle. With advice from Kinsey (who says he can’t condone the filmmaker’s efforts, but looks forward to seeing the results), Swift sets out to see just how much he can get away with himself. Along the way, he also introduces us to some of those Disney “gang” members, interviews and gets help from some former employees and fellow darksiders, does his best to complete an international drinking binge at the park, and catches a Christopher Cross concert at Epcot with a guy who likes to drop acid when he catches live yacht rock.
It’s a given that Disney fanatics will find this interesting, but you don’t have to be a season pass holder at the Magic Kingdom to find THE DARK SIDE OF DISNEY fascinating. Like many of my favorite documentaries, this one is really just a look at the eccentric side of human nature. And yeah, one could quibble that Swift puts himself too much in the center of it all to approach the material with objectivity, but unlike, say, Michael Moore or Morgan Spurlock, it never feels like THE DARK SIDE OF DISNEY is all about him. He’s an active participant, but he’s far more interested in the other people he meets in the course of making his film than in dwelling on himself. 3 out of 4 stars.