Jim White

“Escape from Tomorrow” is a film that succeeds at taking surrealism to new levels. Its cinematography and its story are so vivid that it’s hard to comprehend the movie as a finished product. The audience can’t tell whether they’ve wasted an hour and a half watching a pointless art-house movie trying to convey something or if their minds have contorted under the genius of the picture. The film is neither. It’s just a movie that is intriguing mostly because it’s so enjoyably disturbing. It takes Disney World, the global symbol for family-friendliness, and molds it into a grotesque and ugly monstrosity that physically and mentally attacks the patrons that flock to its theme park. The total result is a compelling and bizarre movie with treacherous undertones that undermine the perceived innocence of the theme park.  


On the last day of a family vacation to Disney World, Jim White (Roy Abramsohn) finds out he’s lost his job just before the family ventures into the House of Mouse. As Jim tries to make the day special for his wife Emily (Elena Schuber) and his children Sarah (Katelynn Rodriguez) and Elliott (Jack Dalton), he’s plagued by strange events. He starts to witness eerie hallucinations and becomes obsessed with two young French teenagers (Annet Mahendru and Danielle Safady). Slowly, he starts to notice horrific occurrences in the park and is eventually caught up in a surreal, corrupt nightmare while venturing through the Happiest Place on Earth.


The film has accumulated pre-release buzz because of the way it was filmed: It was shot inside the Disney parks without the company’s consent. TThat alone is a feat worthy of praise, considering Disney’s tight security and its strong protection of its image. Writer and director Randy Moore took risks that paid off, creating a movie that worked with monumental challenges. He also made a great choice shooting it in black and white, giving the movie an almost neo-noir feeling and making the audience feel claustrophobic every time the characters are stuck on the rides or charging through the mass crowds. 


Throughout the picture, it’s obvious why Disney made the decision to ignore the film’s existence in an attempt to curb the film’s publicity: Its whole message shows the unpleasantness that lurks beneath the facade of whimsy and magic. It shows us that under the almost superficial joy exists a world full of weird fantasy and crazed science. It gives us the type of perverse, demented world anyone going to Disney-goers wish to escape. The movie is realistic in showing that not every moment spent in a fictional magic place is relaxing or pleasant.  Some of best parts of the movie were the family quarrels that pepper the “super family outing,” including marital troubles and occasional public drunkenness. The film expands on the fear that lurks behind the friendly Disney brand and suggests that the oddities that the White family is experiences are the work of the park itself. 


The actors are great passing off as regular vacationers caught up in a terrifying reality; having to act in a sort of secrecy obviously gave them great motivation. They all can excellently act confused and frightened by the events happening around them. Jim is a perfect representation of the parent who can’t escape from reality even inside the park; he still sees the phoniness in it all but has to go along for the family’s sake. His wife is the figure who is trying to make the excursion enjoyable for her children, but she keeps finding herself stressed out and arguing with her partner. The kids are typical children, taken in by the fun but become whiny whenever something doesn’t go their way. These are truly memorable characters because they symbolize the real, imperfect visitors of the Disney parks. 


Then there’s the story. The director doesn’t really want the audience to know why the things that are happening are happening, but holds their interest by doing so. Just because the film doesn’t lay out any clear explanation doesn’t make it a train wreck. The audience shouldn’t feel cheated by not fully understanding why these events are occurring. It was exhilarating just seeing them happen. There are some concepts that are introduced that are hard to grasp. There seemed to be such an intense focus on sex: many innuendos are not-so-subtly shown and the protagonist’s motivations are activated by lust. Sex is just such a taboo for Disney that the movie can’t help but to have it as a large part of its focus. Disney is squeaky-clean entertainment, so the director perverts it in order to see how much darker the story becomes. When it gets down to it, controversial subject matter such as sex and violence are what make this a dark, horrific parody.


“Escape from Tomorrow” is an insane, sometimes uncomfortable picture that explores the seedy underbelly of childhood wonder and attacks the nostalgic feeling of Mickey Mouse’s Kingdom. It serves as an interesting experiment in guerilla filmmaking and surrealism. It highlights a strange way to make a film and does it brilliantly. It’s a brilliantly strange way to make a film, making the viewer question the innocence of childhood spectacles. This is a movie that successful brings out the mystery and terror out from one of the world’s most recognizable and friendly brands. 

It has been a difficult year for the UT club hockey team. For assistant coach Jim White, the battles that take place on the ice have taken a backseat.

While the Longhorns have faced off against North Texas, UTSA and Texas A&M this season, White has been forced to deal with a more difficult opponent: cancer. His battle with kidney cancer has impacted his team more than any game could.

Dave McShane, also an assistant coach for Texas, has been working alongside White for years. The two led the Austin bantam travel team to a 20-1-1 record in 2006-07, just one year before joining the Longhorn staff.

“He really is a student of the game,” McShane said.

White was one of the first coaches in the Austin area to earn his Level 5 Coaching Certificate, the highest level awarded to coaches by USA Hockey. Before the 2008-09 season, Texas head coach Bob Smith asked White and McShane to join his staff and work on strengthening the ice hockey program.

“At that time, he was a huge guy,” McShane explained. “He was incredibly strong, benched huge amounts of weight and most likely had the hardest shot in town.”

Goaltender Ryan McSherry and defenseman Will Harlin both played for White during the 2008-2009 season.

“He was one of the better, if not the best coach I ever played for,” said McSherry, an electrical engineering graduate student.

There aren’t too many things more important to White than the game of hockey. The Philadelphia native wrote an instructional book on half-ice practice drills. However, if there was anything that meant more to Jim White than the game itself, it was the players who played it. Both McSherry and Harlin, a sophomore business major, agreed that although White was tough on them at times and didn’t mind making his guys skate an extra few laps, he was understanding and cared about every one of his players.

“The coaching staff and the kids in the locker room were the most important people in his life, right up there with his wife and family,” Harlin said.

Things took quite a turn for White and the entire program in the middle of last season. During his trips to the weight room, White began to notice a pain in his back. At McShane’s urging, White went to see a chiropractor.

After just a couple sessions, the chiropractor could tell that there was something more severe than a muscle strain in White’s lower back. He was referred to another doctor who took some X-rays and noticed a handlike shape surrounding the lower part of his spine.
It was a tumor.

The doctor knew that the cancer could not have come from the spine itself and as a result, traced it back to where it had originated in the kidney.

“When you lose a person who means that much to your team, it really hits you hard,” McSherry said.

White’s kidney was removed in February of last year, and he has continued to battle the cancer ever since. His former 260-pound, athletic stature is hard to imagine at this point. White continued to lose weight last year but is stabilized now at around 170 pounds.
Just a few weeks ago, the cancer and other complications led to White being put on life support. When White’s wife was asked by the doctor if she wished for him to be put on support, she gave a firm response.

“If there’s a chance, I want him to have it,” she said.

McShane heard the news just before the Longhorns took to the ice in Austin for a game against North Texas. After informing the team about White’s status, they prayed for him together. About a week later, White fought his way back and was once again supporting himself.

White’s illness has forced him to take a break from coaching, but the team continues to hope and pray for his return.