Archive for July, 2007

Disney Detours – Mickey’s PhilharMagic

July 3, 2007

By Blake
Originally posted July 3, 2007.

A magical combination of music, favorite characters, and just genuine fun, Mickey’s PhilharMagic has been my favorite Walt Disney World attraction since its 2003 opening.

In October 2003, Walt Disney World was unveiling two new star attractions at its Epcot and Magic Kingdom parks. At Epcot, an ‘E-Ticket’ thriller created by Walt Disney Imagineering and NASA opened, called “Mission: SPACE”. Although this attraction is quite brilliant, it’s not the subject for today’s article.

At Magic Kingdom, a brand-new show would open at the Fantasyland Theater, which has quite a history. On October 1, 1971, Walt Disney World officially opened to the public, and “Mickey Mouse Revue” was on its opening day slate. The show involved 73 Audio-Animatronics representations of classic Disney characters, conducted by Mickey Mouse, all performing classic Disney songs from animated favorites. The show closed September 14, 1980 before it was moved to its new home at Tokyo Disneyland, were it remains to this day.

Over at Magic Kingdom, wildly enough, “Mickey Mouse Revue”, which was one of the park’s opening day attractions, was replaced by “Magic Journeys”, a 3-D film that showed the world through the eyes of children, which was originally one of Epcot’s opening day attractions! It ran at Magic Kingdom from December 15, 1987 through December 1, 1993.

On July 8, 1994, “Legend of the Lion King” opened in the place of “Magic Journeys” less than a month after the theatrical release of Disney’s animated masterpiece The Lion King. The new show involved puppets portraying almost all of the characters. The show also used footage of the film, displayed behind the puppets, to add extra visuals and excitement to particular scenes. In January 2002, Disney officially confirmed “Legend of the Lion King” would close, and it did so on February 23, 2002 because Imagineers felt that with the immense success of the “Festival of the Lion King” show at Disney’s Animal Kingdom, they did not need two permanent Lion King shows taking up space in the same resort. “Legend of the Lion King” would be replaced by a new show, to open in 2003.

That upcoming “new show” that Disney had confirmed was a little something more than an average attraction. It was a combined effort between Walt Disney Imagineering (the creators of all the theme park attractions) and Walt Disney Feature Animation (the talents behind every Disney movie released theatrically). The show would star Mickey Mouse, in his first screen appearance since 1995. What’s the new attraction? “Mickey’s PhilharMagic.”

The show is quite a clever combination of the previous attractions in this location, when you get down to it. As in “Mickey Mouse Revue”, Mickey is the conductor of an orchestra—though this time instead of leading classic Disney characters, Mickey conducts magical instruments that play themselves. These instruments may only come to life if they are instructed to by someone wearing the magical sorcerer’s hat (from Fantasia). Even though Mickey may not conduct classic Disney pals anymore, they certainly aren’t absent in the film. When Mickey asks Donald to get the instruments set up for the concert, the duck gets a little too carried away and winds up popping in-and-out classic scenes from Disney movies in pursuit in finding the sorcerer’s hat (which Donald lost). Presence of “Legend of the Lion King” is found in the “I Just Can’t Wait to Be King” sequence, as are several other Disney classics, among them Beauty and the Beast, The Little Mermaid, Aladdin, and Peter Pan.

The show is displayed on a 150-foot screen, the largest ever used for a 3-D film. The attraction could also be called 4-D, actually, as it is the most immersing Walt Disney World 3-D show ever. It involves the scent of apple pie, water squirting in your face, a screen that seems to wrap around the entire theater, and not to mention that phenomenal bit with Donald at the end. I won’t spoil it, but just remember to look behind you.

As a Disney enthusiast, I wholeheartedly adore “Mickey’s PhilharMagic” and loved the show even more when I found out this fascinating piece of information: Clarence Nash (the original voice of Donald Duck), who passed away in the 80’s, provides the talents for Donald in this film. The current voice of the duck, Tony Anselmo, only recorded four lines for the entire film. How is this possible? The Imagineers carefully delved through the classic Donald Duck cartoons from the 40’s, 50’s and 60’s to find just the right bits of dialogue to use for Donald in this production. All other characters have also been reprised of their original voice talents.

One might be afraid, especially if one were a Disney fan, of the digital transfer the classic characters make from hand-drawn animation to Computer-Generated Imagery (CGI). But, fortunately, all fears are destroyed and if the characters were to be presented in the future again in CGI form, they would be just fine. Special care was also taken to make sure the characters looked fresh and new, but also to be certain that the original charm of their previous appearances weren’t lost. Lumiere from Beauty and the Beast especially comes to mind when thinking of the impressive transfer from 2-D to 3 dimensions.

A true modern classic and a feast for any Disney fan (from the queue line all the way through the gift shop), “Mickey’s PhilharMagic” is loaded with breathtaking animation, whimsical classic Disney music, and the characters we all love in a new, fresh, and magical scenario.

By Blake; originally posted July 3, 2007. All images (C) Disney.