Hidden Mickeys: A Secret Disney Park Game
Around here I’m the movie guy. I’ve spent plenty of time writing about movies here to cement my credentials as a film fanatic, but there’s something you may not know about me: I’m kind of a Disney fanatic as well. It’s not something that happened over night. A little more than ten years ago I was a Disney cynic. It’s something that I grew into during my teens and clung onto for years later. But then I visited Walt Disney World with my wife’s family and they taught me about something that changed my opinion of Disney forever. You see, they introduced me to the wonderful world of Hidden Mickeys, one of the nerdiest things about visiting a Disney property and my favorite thing to hunt for at Disney World.
A Hidden Mickey is a simple representation of Mickey Mouse (Big circle for a head, two smaller circles for ears) hidden within a ride or attraction. Hidden Mickeys don’t necessarily need to be found just in the theme parks, as they’ve also been found in films like Tron and Pirates of the Carribean, and in television shows and advertisements. The next time you see the Walt Disney Pictures logo, keep an eye out for the animated fireworks… they just might explode into a familiar shape.
The rumored history of these hidden mascots says that when the Walt Disney Corporation began work on the EPCOT park, they decided that they would shy away from their known mascots. EPCOT was meant to focus on science and humanity afterall, not anthropomorphic ducks and mice. But during the construction of the park, Disney Imagineers began hiding Mickey symbols throughout the attractions. Mickey wasn’t going to be the highlight of the park, but he’d still be a part of it. Now, anyone who’s been to EPCOT in the last 30 years (the park actually just celebrated its thirtieth birthday a few days ago) would know that the traditional Disney mascots and princesses can be found throughout EPCOT, making the point of the Hidden Mickeys kind of moot. Nevertheless, the concept of the hidden Mickey soon filtered out into the other parks and Disney media. In fact, Disney’s Hollywood Studios park (formally MGM Studios) was actually built in the shape of a Hidden Mickey (park changes and additions have changed it in recent years)!
The concept of a hidden game like this built into the very fiber of the Disney parks is incredibly interesting to me. Shows and attractions that I would normally have no interest in suddenly become possibilities for finding a new Mickey. Long lines, ever the bane of Disney parks, become scavenger hunts for potential new discoveries.
This past weekend I was visiting Disney World, and decided to ride The Great Movie Ride at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. The Great Movie Ride is a slightly outdated, slow moving “journey into the movies.” It’s not a particularly thrilling ride, but it’s cool inside and espouses the inherent value and joy of film, which is something I can totally get behind. As such, it’s become a favorite of mine. With sequences from Alien, Raiders of the Lost Ark, and my favorite, Casablanca, The Great Movie Ride focuses not just on the movies of Disney, but the history of film itself. During this ride, I was determined to find a new Hidden Mickey. We’d already found a couple in the past (for example, during the Raiders segment you can find several snakes coiled into a Mickey shape), but it had been a long time since I’d found any new ones.
During the “gangster movie” section of the ride, the tram was stopped for an acted out sequence when I noticed something high above our vehicle. On the left side of the tram, high up the building facade were a row of yellowed windows. And shadowed on the windows was the unmistakble silouhette of one Mickey Mouse.
There are hundreds of books that detail the location of every known Hidden Mickey (new ones are always being found and being placed by Imagineers) on Disney properties. And while I’ve been given these books in the past, I just cannot bring myself to use them. Because once I open a book that just tells me where these awesome hidden secrets are, then the potential for there to be a random Mickey hidden somewhere that I can stumble upon is gone. I can think of nothing less interesting than just knowing where all the Hidden Mickeys are. Think of it this way: if I never open one of those books, if I never learn the location of all the Hidden Mickeys, then theoretically there could be a Hidden Mickey anywhere on Disney property for me to find. I will always have possibility of finding a new Mickey somewhere, and that always makes me excited to explore Disney World.
It may not be an officially sanctioned program at Disney World, but hunting for Hidden Mickeys is my favorite game to play while I’m there. And the great thing is that anyone who goes to a Disney park (or on a Disney cruise ship) can hunt for Hidden Mickeys on their own, for no extra cost. Just keep your eyes peeled!
Sometimes we go to the parks and find no new Mickeys, and some times we find many (this last trip I found three new Mickeys within an hour of one another). It is absolutely my favorite part of going to Disney World and it’s a tiny aspect of the Disney parks that many people are unaware of. I thought that my in-laws were making an elaborate joke the first time they explained the concept to me, but now I cannot imagine visiting a Disney park without looking for these meticulously hidden mice. So next time you’re in a Disney park or watching a Disney movie keep your eyes on the lookout for that unmistakable Mickey shape… you might just be looking at a Hidden Mickey.