Mickey returns to Fantasyland in high-tech show

ANAHEIM, Calif. — Mickey Mouse is center stage again in Fantasyland.

The world’s most famous mouse has reclaimed Disneyland’s Fantasyland Theatre for himself after a six-year occupation by the Disney princesses. In recent years, the theme park venue was used as a meeting place for Disney royalty instead of an actual theater. It’s now home to a new song-and-dance extravaganza called “Mickey and the Magical Map.”

“It was time,” said director Tracy Halas, who performed two decades ago as a dancer in various productions on the outdoor stage. “With the expansion of Disney’s California Adventure over the past few years, we were really focused on more atmospheric and interactive shows. We sort of work in cycles, and it was the right time again for this kind of show.”

The production stars a mischievous Mickey — less corporate icon, more “Fantasia” rookie — who’s teleported across a huge magical map after attempting to paint a blank spot on the sketch, which is digitally displayed on a new 240-square-foot (22-square-meter) LED screen that Mickey and a cast of about two dozen singers and dancers interact with during the 22-minute show.

Michael Jung, Disney’s vice president of theatrical development, said the biggest challenge in creating “Mickey and the Magical Map” wasn’t building the enormous three-tiered LED screen but balancing the demands of a new production that would appeal to all Disneyland visitors, including new generations who are well-versed in computer-generated wizardry.

“We always want to appeal to a classic audience, people who’ve grown up with the films and properties and want to relive them or share them with their families,” said Jung. “At the same time, we want the kids of today to be engaged, present and feel like it’s relevant. I think the creative team really worked hard to find the best of both worlds.”

“Magical Map” features several Disney characters in six production numbers. There’s an opening routine set to the original new tune “Journey to Imagination,” composed especially for the show, as well as a mash-up where Pocahontas, Mulan and Rapunzel and Flynn Rider from “Tangled” all join together to belt out ballads from their respective films.

Mickey and King Louie from “The Jungle Book” are both portrayed in “Magical Map” by actors in costumes with animatronic heads, which allow their giant cartoony eyes to blink and mouths to move in sync with the show’s soundtrack. The updated articulated “talking” characters have previously been used in Disney theme park and cruise line productions.

“Magical Map” is scheduled to run during the summer five times a day. In preparation for the show, the Fantasyland Theatre received an overhaul, including the addition of new audio and lighting systems, stage supports to accommodate the weight of the 71,000-pound (32,273 kilos) LED screen and benches that can seat an audience of up to 1,800.

The venue first opened in 1985 as Videopolis, a 5,000-square-foot (465-square-meter) disco with monitors broadcasting music videos and live shots of clubgoers. It was transformed into a full-time theater in 1989, playing host to shows starring characters like Mickey, Dick Tracy, Pocahontas and Snow White until 2006 when the ever-popular princesses moved in for photo ops.

Mickey didn’t completely evict the noblewomen though. They were moved last March to Fantasy Faire, their newly erected permanent residence on the other side of Sleeping Beauty castle that features a gift shop, food cart and meet-and-greet space where guests can pose with a revolving roster of princesses. It also has its own theater that seats 300.

Online:

http://disneyland.disney.go.com/disneyland/mickey-magical-map

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