Mickey Music Mondays

Rock ‘n’ roll it, baby, do the Mickey Motion

Rock ‘n’ roll it, baby, do the Mickey Motion

Rock it, baby, do the Mickey Motion now

It’s not the Mouse (Rock it, baby, do the Mickey Motion now)

It’s not the Jerk or the Swim or the Mashed Potato

I’ll show ya how (Rock it, baby, do the Mickey Motion now)

Tiptoe to the left

And you wiggle to the right

Wave your hands behind your head, do what Mickey says

Spin and shout with all your might

Rock ‘n’ roll it, baby, do the Mickey Motion

Rock ‘n’ roll it, baby, do the Mickey Motion

Rock it, baby, do the Mickey Motion now

             Rock ‘n’ roll it, baby, do the Mickey Motion

Rock ‘n’ roll it, baby, do the Mickey Motion

Rock it, baby, do the Mickey Motion

Rock’n’roll it, baby, do the Mickey Motion now

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Theme Park Thursdays: Happy Anniversary to the 999 Happy Haunts!

On August 9, 1969, DISNEYLAND History was made as Walt Disney’s Haunted Mansion opened its doors to the world. Not only would regular guests experience the attraction for the first time, another first happened that day- for the first time since opening day, DISNEYLAND had to close its gates due to being at capacity. Over 70,000 guests swarmed into the park to make a trip through the Haunted Mansion.

At its peak, the wait time on that first day was reportedly eight hours. The line stretched out to Frontierland and back. Why would the attraction garner so much attention on its first day? Aside from being a masterpiece in themed entertainment, which admittedly would have been unknown to the crowds who descended on the park that day, the Haunted Mansion was the beneficiary of the very first viral marketing campaign designed by Walt Disney.

When DISNEYLAND decided to feature a Native American Village which would feature authentic entertainment performed by a cast of Native Americans, Walt Disney felt that the best location for the village would be on the far side of the River of America where Critter Country exists today. The only issue with that location was that the park hadn’t fully built out that side of the park yet. Guests would have to take a long trek out there past trees, a berm, some benches and little else. Since DISNEYLAND’s master plan was to eventually build a Haunted Mansion as part of its New Orleans Square expansion, Mr. Disney decided to just build the mansion ahead of time even though nothing would be inside it yet. Seeing the house would add atmosphere to that side of the river and make guests wonder about what existed inside those walls.

The gambit worked. Guests swamped DISNEYLAND’s City Hall to ask just what was in that house? A future attraction? Walt Disney’s Secret House? Cats? To satisfy the curious and drum up interest in the future attraction, Mr. Disney had a sign put up that became infamous among Disney theme park fans. The sign is shown below:

This sign made guests even more curious about what would occupy the house that seemingly sprang up overnight and also hid the fact that even Walt Disney himself wasn’t sure what would eventually go inside his Haunted Mansion. One early concept was a “Museum of the Weird” walkthrough designed by Imagineer Rolly Crump. The house would host bizarre and potentially haunted articles that guests would experience on foot. This idea was even mentioned by Walt Disney on his weekly show The Wonderful World of Disney.

Park operations wasn’t thrilled with the idea of a walkthrough attraction, since it would have a low capacity. Another question that came up- would this be a truly scary Haunted Mansion or would it be a funny, happier Disney version of a Haunted House? In 1966, Walt Disney settled on the funny, happier version that would be a ridethrough where guests would get to see the ghosts throughout the mansion. Finally, something was getting into that Mansion.

So by the time opening day rolled around, millions of people had walked past that house and its sign. Millions more saw Walt Disney talk about it on his show. Considering all these factors, it shouldn’t have been much of a surprise that so many guests would be there on opening weekend. 49 years later, Walt Disney’s Haunted Mansion still entertains millions of guests every year.

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Walt Wednesdays: A Brotherly Business

When Walt Disney signed his first contract to produce his Alice Comedies in 1923, the first person he ran to was his brother Roy. Roy had been convalescing in an army hospital after World War I because he had contracted tuberculosis. After hearing that his kid brother needed him, he checked himself out of the hospital and the two brothers setup the Disney Brothers Studio.

As time went on, and the studio’s fortunes grew ever brighter, a studio publicist advised the two that they should either rename their company after just one of the brothers or give it a more generic name. It was felt that using just one of their names would make it easier to promote the studio’s films. As the creative mind behind the company’s productions, it was decided to rename the company “Walt Disney Productions,” though Roy would still hold an equal number of shares in the company.

Despite the implications behind this decision, Roy was not upset or jealous of his brother’s ascension as the public face of the company. Roy wasn’t really interested in the Hollywood scene; he probably would have teamed up with his brother even if he had planned to open a box factory. Roy enjoyed the business side of things and spent his time keeping Walt under budget and finding money to continue making and building his brother’s dreams.

While the partnership often went through rough patches- Roy was never fully onboard with the idea of DISNEYLAND and Walt had to get his brother out of the country in order to get the Matterhorn built- their fondness and love for one another seemingly conquered all. Whether it was protecting his brother from bullies or financing a Magic Kingdom, Roy was always there when his brother needed him. A successful partnership indeed.

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Mickey Mondays: Mickey in DISNEYLAND

Today, Mickey Mouse is synonymous with DISNEYLAND. After all, he lives there now! It wasn’t always the case that Mickey would be found there, however, despite the fact that the park was originally called Mickey Mouse Park. 

As Walt Disney’s dreams grew bigger and the projected costs for his Magic Kingdom grew, his brother Roy had pulled his support for the project. This so-called ‘Magic Kingdom’ would go forward without and funding or support from Walt Disney Productions. This meant that the company’s famous characters and trademarks could not be used inside the park. Not one to accept defeat, Walt Disney started up his own company- Retlaw Industries- and began planning out a Mickey-less Magic Kingdom. 

Crossed wires, however, resulted in a Walt Disney Productions shareholder complaining to Roy about the Magic Kingdom. The shareholder felt that Roy needed to reign in his brother and threaten trademark and copyright infringement lawsuits if the park went forward. After all, didn’t Walt Disney Productions own the Disney name? Roy did some investigating and realized that it didn’t. The company had never had a formal agreement with Walt Disney to be ‘Walt Disney Productions’. If his brother found out, he could build Walt Disneyland and force Walt Disney Productions to remove his name from the company. Roy quickly fixed the problem by formalizing the agreement to use his brother’s name and make Walt Disney Productions the largest shareholder in DISNEYLAND, Inc.

This explains why the early Mickey Mouse costumes looked so odd and bizarre. They were originally designed by the Ice Capades and borrowed from the production for the early days of the park. Designed to be viewed from a distance and allow the skater a clear view of the space around them, they weren’t very appropriate for close-up viewing at a theme park. The delay in getting permission to use the characters forced the park to make do with what it had. Eventually the suits were replaced with a more theme park friendly design.

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