Have you ever wondered what Walt Disney would think about the worlds he created and dreamed of so many years ago? I know I do. I think for many Disney fans, it is one of those conversations that they easily fall into when new things are introduced and older things are remodeled, improved, or taken away. I suppose it is a natural occurrence for folks, especially when it taps into their memories and experiences that they are passionate about. That is one of the amazing things about the Disney theme parks… they become the backdrop against which memories are made.
But let me get back to my original question… what would Walt Disney think about the worlds he created? Now for many Disney historians and writers… this is the kind of question that we all like to jump on and share opinions. You have to remember that opinions are based on what we know, about what we see, and trying to apply it to what we are able to understand. So… like everyone else I have my opinions as well. I must admit, I get tickled and smile to myself when Disney theme parks makes a big change by closing an attraction, or doing a major reworking of an area. Some instantly will cry out, “Walt wouldn’t have done it that way!” -or- “We shouldn’t mess with the things that Walt had envisioned.” However, history tells us that Walt himself was always messing with the things he envisioned, he was always improving, always trying to fix something or make it better. Walt Disney was a man who was constantly looking to use the latest technology or advancement in some new way to better tell whatever story he was trying to tell. With a foot firmly planted in the past grounded by nostalgia he had another foot planted into the unknown future of what could be. He loved the past and knew it was important to know and most importantly build on history and the things of old…but he was willing to risk it all to chase the future. That is one of the things that allowed Walt to have the impact and shape the culture as he did. There are times when we need to remember the one person who was always trying to make something different and better was Walt.
I was thinking about this as I was waiting in line to see Mickey Mouse at Walt Disney World. A talking Mickey Mouse is now featured at Town Square Theater, the character meet-and-greet location at Main Street, U.S.A in the Magic Kingdom. If you haven’t visited you should and you will find that Mickey has more than a few tricks up his sleeve.
The talking Mickey Mouse in the Town Square Theater is a Magician Mickey. You walk in and find Mickey in his dressing room filled with posters, steamer trunks and stage props that highlights his film and stage career with several references to other Disney movies. If you don’t pick up a Fast Pass the lines can be long but once you get inside you discover why. This time when you see Mickey he talks! Eyes blink, his mouth moves, and he speaks to you. “Well, hi there,” “Come on in,” “I heard you were here,” and “Could I sign that for ya?”
I watched as stunned children and parents interacted with Mickey. The reason that the lines are longer is that each guest gets their own personal mini-encounter with Mickey. Each encounter is different and mesmerizing. While I was in line with a 3 year old child watching and smiling… I saw Mickey do some card tricks with a pair of adults, do the Hot Dog Dance with a family of six, and then had the chance to watch as Mickey marched and played with a 3 year old who couldn’t believe Mickey was actually talking to them.
When I was a kid, I remember Mickey doing a lot of nodding, using his hands to cover his mouth, perhaps shake a hand or pat a child on the head…but this was far different and better. The silent Mickey era has passed and this newer version is creating memories that will last a lifetime. Talking Mickey has made Disney appearances before. Prior to this new experience he made limited appearances during testing at Walt Disney World and Disneyland as well as at media events. Disney characters with moving mouths and eyes are featured in some stage shows. But this is an up-close and personal experience.
Would Walt Disney like it? I think he would love it! It takes his beloved Mickey Mouse and makes the character come alive in an interactive way that leave kids breathless. They are moments that they will remember. In the gift shop outside, the 3 year old was asked, “Did Mickey Mouse talk with you?” The response with wide twinkling eyes was an enthusiastic nod, an ear to ear smile, and one word… “yea.” The moment was real, it was huge, and a memory was created.
Each of us have the chance to make moments that can impact and change the lives of others forever. Perhaps we should seize those moments today. You never know what will happen until you try…and believe it or not, you do make a difference!
Still here? Great. This is a brief note written by Jim Hill, a great Disney historian. He asked the following question, “Want to know how the cast member in the new talking Mickey Mouse suit makes Mickey’s eyes blink?” If so, here is the answer and his suggestion as to how to discover it. Pay close attention to the glove on the left hand and you’ll see that his three fingers always twitch whenever his eyes blink.