Graduate student directs film secretly shot at Disney
Deep in the underground utility tunnels of Disney World lives a secret so cool, it’s practically cryogenically frozen — or at least that’s the premise of UCF graduate student Benjamin Lancaster’s feature film titled The Further Adventures of Walt’s Frozen Head.
Lancaster’s film builds on the urban legend that Walt Disney had his head cryogenically frozen before his death in 1966.
“No one knows about it except for the executives that keep it quiet. The premise is that every year they thaw [Walt] out to get advice on the company and then they refreeze him,” he said. “He’s got like 72 hours in which they can thaw him out and refreeze him without any harm. They can kind of keep him going perpetually that way.”
Disney World opened in 1971, leaving Walt Disney unable to see his creation. However, this film takes Walt on a fictional journey through the park with the help of an employee named Peter.
The film took 25 days to shoot, with four of those days secretly shot at Disney World. The idea of shooting at Disney World about an urban legend involving Disney was something Lancaster said he wanted to capitalize on.
Lancaster said the film was appealing because of the built-in fan community around Orlando that would respond to the film. But his professors didn’t initially share his confidence.
“I think that when he first arrived and he told us about his idea, many of us were very skeptical that he would be able to pull this off, but he’s has proven that he’s very determined,” said Lisa Mills, an associate professor of film and documentary at UCF. “Once he has an idea, he finds a way to bring it to life. He won’t take ‘no’ for an answer, and he’s very passionate about what he does.”
One defining feature of The Further Adventures of Walt’s Frozen Head is that it’s shot in an older Disney comedy style as a homage to a film that was never made — one that Walt himself was working on and planned to star in.
“It was called Khrushchev at Disneyland, and it’s about [Nikita] Khrushchev, who was then the prime minister of the USSR, and a partially true story about how he threw a fit because he wasn’t allowed on his U.S. visit to visit Disneyland. It just kind of fell apart when Walt did. So in some ways, I kind of want to think this is the movie that could’ve been,” Lancaster said.
While it’s hard to pinpoint the exact personality the real Walt would have, Lancaster said he tried to make the personality of Walt as realistic as possible, basing it off popular perception as well as biographical accounts and other variables.
“This is a person who so desperately wants to hold on to this dream of building this ideal world that he’s willing to do whatever it takes,” Lancaster said. “It kind of plays into what I think their corporate philosophy still is: If your heart is in your dream, no request is too extreme. I think that’s part of the charm, but I think there’s also something attractive about someone who’s willing to do literally whatever for this idea they have.”
To stay up to date on the news and progress of Lancaster’s film, follow the film’s Twitter at @WaltsFrzenHead or visit waltsfrozenhead.com.
Alissa Smith is a contributing writer for the Central Florida Future.