BAY LAKE, Florida – This is one of the first attractions guests spot if they pass through Cinderella’s Castle to reach Fantasyland. Pass in front of La Fontaine de Cendrillon and the Bibbidy Bobbidy Boutique which is currently closed, turn left before the Carrousel and you can’t miss it: the Mickey Mouse Philharmonic.
Since 2003, Maestro Mickey Mouse has welcomed guests to don 3D “opera glasses” for a special concert presentation. Being a modern theme park attraction, something goes terribly wrong and the performance is hijacked by Donald. But this is not the Maestro’s first concert in this space, and it is not the first time that he has been hijacked. Both times he was taken to Tokyo, but I’m getting ahead of myself.
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In the December 31, 1962 issue of Newsweek, while touting a dazzling innovation in 3D animation that he called “Audio Animatronics,” Maestro Walt Disney spoke about the enchanted Tiki room then under construction at Disneyland.
Looking beyond the songbirds and flowers, he was setting up a show with “all the Disney characters, so everyone can see them… I have a theater in mind, and the characters will not only do the show but will be seated in the boxes with the visitors, heckling. I don’t know when I’m going to do it. That “when” turned out to be October 1, 1971, when “The Mickey Mouse Revue” debuted on Walt Disney World’s opening day, albeit without rowdy. This idea was first used in the Country Bear Jamboree the same day (and much later in Muppet * Vision 3D).
Like Hall of Presidents, “Mickey Mouse Revue” was too far advanced to be successful before Walt left us, but the idea clearly hasn’t been forgotten. To give an idea of the scope: on opening day, there were 36 presidents sharing a stage in Liberty Square, and 73 Disney characters were featured in the Revue, but there were actually 81 animatronics.
Cinderella was “transformed” from her rags into her magical ball gown by the Fairy Godmother and later in the show appeared with her Prince Charming, all thanks to a different kind of magic: hydraulic lifts and light effects.
Likewise, a highlight of the show featured The Three Caballeros appearing in different parts of the theater. First Donald, José Carioca and Panchito are together, then they separate, before finishing their act together. To achieve this, it took three copies of each character and it all played out in less than a minute.
Also impressive: Alice singing “All in the Golden Afternoon” with a choir of flowers from the 1951 animated classic “Alice in Wonderland”.
Snow White sings “I’m Wishing” in the middle of a small forest of animals. A few yards away, the seven dwarves sing “The Silly Song” inside their cottage, with Grumpy playing the organ.
Mickey’s orchestra itself featured 23 Disney musicians ranging from Daisy and Huey, Dewey and Louie to new era stars Baloo, King Louie and Kaa (playing his tail like a flute) from 1967’s “The Book of the jungle “and Winnie the Pooh, Rabbit and Piglet from the 1966 & 1968 short films. Their full feature film did not debut until 1977.
Perhaps, most fittingly, Minnie Mouse gets the limelight with an impressive violin solo from “When You Want a Star,” while Walt Disney World’s most advanced figure was Mickey himself. Standing at 42 inches tall, Maestro Mickey could perform 33 different functions, the same as Abraham Lincoln of the Hall of Presidents, who was almost twice as tall at 6 feet 4 inches.
If this sounds like a mind-blowing spectacle, well it was. It was also a user-friendly 9 minutes and 30 seconds duration, much shorter than sister music magazines The Enchanted Tiki Room and The Country Bears. However, Mickey Mouse Revue was one of the few headlining attractions that went from an “e-ticket” to a D (the opposite of Dumbo).
There are probably two main reasons it wasn’t as popular: As I just mentioned, it was one of three similar song robot shows, and bears and birds originally had more time to show their personality. The second, more important reason – in a rare miscalculation, the Revue’s main theater could accommodate around 500 guests at a time, but its pre-show could only hold just over 300, so most of the time, the main show had a lot of empty seats. , which sends the wrong psychological signal.
Still, it’s possible that Mickey and the gang still performed for the 50th anniversary without The Oriental Land Company. When the owners of Tokyo Disneyland visited Florida and Anaheim, they made a list of what they wanted most for their new park and Mickey Mouse Revue was at the top of the list. When Tokyo Disneyland first opened, it was kind of a weird hybrid: California’s Small World, Space Mountain and Pinocchio Ride, next to Haunted Mansion in Florida, Snow White and Mr. Toad Rides, and a few – like the Pirates who are mixtures of the two. It was designed by a small team of imaginaries, as most of Disney society as a whole spent their time and money building the EPCOT center. The two parks opened less than six months apart.
With its huge distribution, it was much easier to pack everything up and ship it to Tokyo than to build a duplicate. The curtain fell on Mickey Mouse Revue on September 14, 1980, just before a 9-year-old race in Florida. In Tokyo, he performed in front of mostly crowded crowds from opening day, April 15, 1983, until May 25, 2009, when he was 26 years old.
The Revue building in Florida remained dark for seven years, until EPCOT Center’s spooky Magic Journeys 3D movie moved in (it was replaced at EPCOT by Captain EO). After six years, Journeys closed its doors to make way for the “Legend of the Lion King” puppet show in 1994. This played until 2002 to make way for Maestro Mickey to reclaim his home. Mickey’s Philharmagic is such a success, since its debut in 2003, it has now opened in one form or another at all Disney resorts around the world except Shanghai. This is what replaced Mickey Mouse Revue in Tokyo.
Just in time for the 50th, Philharmagic will launch an additional scene based on the Pixar film “Coco”, giving guests a new reason to see the 18-year-old attraction.
You can also see some of the artists from Mickey Mouse Revue to date. While the numbers aren’t quite so advanced, the molds of the Seven Dwarfs were used in a 1994 redesign of the Snow White’s Adventure ride. When this closed in 2012, most of these characters were moved to the cottage stage at the end of Seven Dwarfs Mine Train.
More importantly, an original set of the 1971 Three Caballeros returned to Florida after it closed in Tokyo. They have performed for guests at the ‘Gran Fiesta Tour’ boat ride finale at Epcot’s Mexican pavilion since December 4. 2015. Figures of the same molds debuted in Florida in April 1969, exhibited with Maestro Mickey at a VIP and press briefing in Ocoee to announce that construction of Walt Disney World was progressing.
The Caballeros were also on display at the Walt Disney World Preview Center. The set of numbers actually used in the Review were just refreshed earlier in 2021 and are back in the Mexican race. Hopefully, they can continue to entertain their guests in Florida for the next 50 years.
To everyone who comes to this happy corner of ClickOrlando.com, welcome! Walt Disney World is counting down to its 50th anniversary, and so are we. With 50 days up to 50, we take a daily look at the past, how the Disney openness has shaped Central Florida’s present, and a glimpse of what lies ahead for the future.
We’re also looking to hear your memories of Walt Disney World: What do you like? What are you missing? What are your magical moments? You can share them with us by emailing us and we’ll post them all for everyone to enjoy. Some might even be featured on our News 6 TV coverage of Walt Disney World’s 50th anniversary.
It’s gone to dream, and here’s another half-century of The Most Magical Place on Earth!
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