Once everyone was seated, a host or hostess got on the house mike and reminded everyone not to eat, drink, smoke or use flash bulbs during the show. The room grew dark and the sound of an unseen orchestra tuning their instruments filled the room while the curtains separated and were pulled back toward the wings. In the center of the stage, the shadow of Mickey appeared against a secondary curtain. Then Mickey came into view on his bright red pedestal as it rose from the pit. The orchestra soon rose around him. Spread out across 35 feet of the stage area, the orchestra’s members**, numbering 23, ranged from cartoon short stars such as Minnie, Goofy, Daisy and Pluto to earlier feature film personalities like Dumbo, Timothy Mouse, the Mad Hatter, March Hare, the Dormouse, Gus and Jaq all the way up to more recent (for 1971) film performers like Baloo, Kaa, King Louie, Winnie the Pooh, Piglet and Rabbit. Their instruments were varied: tubas, tympani and trumpets, ukuleles, kazoos and clarinets. Kaa played his own tail like a flute, which still seems as absolutely strange to me now as it did when I was six. The orchestra played a medley of familiar Disney tunes, starting with “Heigh Ho,” then moving on to “Whistle While You Work,” “When You Wish Upon A Star” and “Hi Diddle Dee Dee.” At the conclusion of that brief overture, Dumbo’s tuba intoned the first few notes of “Who’s Afraid Of The Big Bad Wolf” as the wolf’s shadow snuck across the rear curtain toward center stage. Further right a section of the curtain rose to reveal the Three Little Pigs in a cross-section of Practical Pig’s brick house. The pigs played and sang a few seconds of their signature song before the curtain closed over them and another section lifted to the left. The next vignette featured Snow White and some forest animals sitting on a wooded hillside. She sang a version of “I’m Wishing,” the same version that emanated from Snow White’s Adventure’s wishing well at WDW until 1994, while the animals listened in. As Snow White finished, an adjacent area of the hillside came into view from behind another section of rising curtain. Here the Seven Dwarfs stood in their cottage, playing “The Silly Song.” The molds from which these dwarfs were cast were reused many years later to create the dwarfs that now inhabit the cottage scenes in both Disneyland and WDW’s revamped Snow White rides, as well those in Disneyland Paris and Tokyo Disneyland…making the latter park home to two complete sets of dwarfs. In the Mickey Mouse Revue, the dwarfs sang part of the song with Snow White’s help before the curtain lowered on their setting.
To the far right end of the stage the curtain rose on a scene from Alice In Wonderland, with Alice standing in the midst of fifteen oversized flowers. As Alice and the flowers swayed in time, she sang part of “All In The Golden Afternoon.” Alice’s stage voice, like that of many other characters in this production, was a marked departure from her film voice. Much like the Darlene Gillespie version that plays in Disneyland’s Storybook Land, this Alice sounded more mature and polished than did a young Kathryn Beaumont. This scene was the best in the show visually; every last piece of it looked like it was crafted of confectioner’s sugar and the colors popped like fireworks.
The next scene was from “The Three Caballeros,” the show’s most animated and comical segment. As soon as Alice’s song drew to a close, a flying carpet rose from the pit to the left of the orchestra. On the carpet were Donald, Panchito and Jose Carioca. They broke out into the main theme from “Three Caballeros” in a blaze of music and color, with Donald on maracas, Jose on guitar and Panchito firing two pistols. Each shot sent sparks of bright light streaking across the room. The three had barely begun their song when the lights went out on the carpet. Instantaneously, Panchito and Jose appeared (still singing) on the small side stage to the audience’s right. Then Panchito fired a pistol and the glow of his bullet raced across the stage, illuminating Donald on the left side stage. Donald shook his maracas vigorously and continued the song like the frantic duck he is. With the sound of another ricocheting bullet, he disappeared and reappeared on the right side stage. Another shot and Panchito and Jose popped up where Donald had been just seconds prior. Moments later the three were reunited on the carpet, where they quickly finished the song and disappeared as quickly as they’d arrived. This was definitely a highlight of the show. The sight of Donald wiggling around so fast (in three dimensions, no less) was absolutely infectious.
The next vignette began with the Fairy Godmother and Cinderella, in her scullery maid outfit, standing at the far left side of the stage. The Fairy Godmother sang “Bibbidi-Bobbidi-Boo” and waved her wand around. Soon, in a shower of twinkling lights, Cinderella was transformed into her princess incarnation. Then the rear curtain lowered as a projection of Cinderella and Prince Charming, as silhouettes, danced across it in a spotlight. They sang “So This Is Love” as they waltzed. Clusters of hearts framed them on the curtain. And, yes, this was the most boring part of the show.
When the projection faded out, the sound of the orchestra came rising up from the pit. To the right, Brer Fox, Brer Bear and Brer Rabbit rose into view and began singing “Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah.” Fans of Splash Mountain and Song of the South might wonder how it came to pass that these three resolved to put aside their longstanding homicidal feuding and join each other onstage in song…but remember, Kaa played his tail like a flute! As they sang, the orchestra rose beside them. The Three Caballeros reappeared also, and then the rear curtain lifted to reveal all of the show’s scenes at once. The houses of the Three Little Pigs and Seven Dwarfs were gone, leaving all the characters contrasted against a brightening sky in the background. Cinderella now stood with Prince Charming, and everyone joined in the song. A rainbow gleamed across the horizon as the voices and instruments of all the characters reached a crescendo. At the close of the song, the entire stage fell dark save for a spotlight on Mickey. His pedestal spun to face the audience as the other characters sang the “Mickey Mouse Club Alma Mater.” Mickey, all choked up, spoke. “Well folks, that concludes our show, we hope you enjoyed it…” Then, as he let out a little mouse laugh, the main curtain was drawn and the show was over. The total show time came out to only 9 minutes 30 seconds, which made it a relatively short Disney stage production. Yet it used far more characters than any of its predecessors or 1971 counterparts.
The specifics of why the Revue was removed from Florida are not well documented, but it’s fairly easy to connect the dots. For one thing, the show opened in 1971 as an “E” ticket attraction, denoting that the company anticipated it to be a top draw…just like the Country Bear Jamboree in Frontierland. But whereas the Country Bear show was so popular that its queue required the closure of a gift shop to keep the line out of the street (see
Westward Ho,) the Mouse Revue seldom drew a comparable crowd. In 1973 it was downgraded to a “D” ticket – an extremely rare occurrence. It continued to pull an audience, but never gained the prominence that had been expected for it. Secondly, when representatives of the Oriental Land Co. began touring Disneyland and WDW in the 1970s and choosing the attractions that would comprise their new Tokyo Disneyland park, the Mickey Mouse Revue made their list. Of course, the least expensive means of achieving that would be to send the original overseas. For whatever combination of mitigating factors existed, its exodus ultimately turned out to be an acceptable concession; it was the only attraction at either Disneyland or WDW that was shipped to, rather than replicated for, Tokyo.
In Tokyo, the Mickey Mouse Revue played almost identically to its staging in Florida for another 26 years. The beautiful holding area art was faithfully reproduced, the pre-show film footage was the same except for the final live-action segment and the show scenes ran in the same order with the same music. The largest difference was that the voices were recorded in Japanese – which actually makes it more entertaining. There were some minor changes in the set colors and a handful of modifications to the characters themselves (Kaa’s eyes were in slightly more of a hypnotic trance mode in Japan than in Florida, but he still played his tail.) In 2008 news came out that Tokyo Disneyland would replace The Mickey Mouse Revue with its own version of Mickey’s Philharmagic. The former production closed May 25, 2009 to make way for the 3-D movie. History will judge whether the switch from a one-of-a-kind show rooted in old-school Disney animatronics and classic film scores, handcrafted by WED Enterprises’ best and brightest, for a projection-based show digitally crafted by WDI’s 21st century regime was a stroke of genius or just another unavoidable step along the horrible road to all original WDW attractions being destroyed. All I know for sure is that Japan just slipped a couple notches on my list of places I really want to visit. * The working title for the attraction was The Mickey Mouse Musical Revue prior to its opening. The pre-show film had evidently been shot and overdubbed before the final name was decided upon.
** The figures ranged in height from 12″ (the Dormouse) to 6′ (Baloo), not counting the long-stemmed Alice flowers. Mickey stood at 42″ tall, and at the time of the show’s opening was Disney’s most complicated Audio-Animatronic figure. Mickey was capable of 33 functions, the same as the much taller (6’4″) Lincoln figure housed in the nearby Hall of Presidents, but all of the mouse’s mechanical grace had to be stowed in a much smaller frame, which was a considerable task.