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Meet The Mouse

We’ve just talked about things that are well-executed with which I philosophically agree, and in some ways this falls under the same category. I’m uneasy with the idea of character meet-and-greets, yet I realize that they’re here to stay at Walt Disney World and there’s nothing we can do about it. So, if we have to have them they can at least be done well, and fit their surroundings. Thankfully, that is the case with the new Town Square Theater, which occupies the space on Main Street, U.S.A. formerly home to The Walt Disney Story, various preview centers, and later the Main Street Exposition Hall. The Expo Hall had areas dedicated for character-themed photo ops, but they were clumsily organized and poorly integrated into their surroundings. The Theater, which opened earlier this year, involved a total reconstruction of the building’s interior and finally uses a show space specifically designed for its intended use.

Where this project diverges from things like Carsland or Avatarland is that it isn’t obtrusive, doesn’t occupy a large tract that prevents future development, and doesn’t soak up vast resources that could be better spent elsewhere. It doesn’t “feel” wrong where it is. Best of all, the meet-and-greet is fairly seamlessly integrated with Main Street. The idea of “Toontown” taking over Main Street gave me a severe case of the vapors when rumors about this project began to emerge, but thankfully from the exterior the building looks exactly like it should – the Town Square Theater. Inside you pass through a number of waiting areas that slowly ease you into the cartoon world, but in perhaps the most merciful aspect of the project Imagineers decided not to go with the over-done and corny “toon” stylings of over-inflated, plastic-looking furniture and accessories, with “moldy fig” sagging lines and faux-”whimsical” zaniness. While some of the accessories in Mickey’s dressing room are still slightly too oversized for my taste, it looks far less fake than the slapdash surroundings often found in Toontown-like theming and works well in making the cartoon characters seem to overlap with real-world surroundings. The use of real materials and more realistic designs is a huge improvement over the plastic-y, on-the-nose “toon” look.

I’m sure you’ll find more super-detailed walkthroughs of the attraction online; I merely strolled through and took some photos of details which I found interesting. Unfortunately for you budding theme park explorers, the operations staff is so ruthlessly efficient in cramming people through that it’s pretty much impossible to examine, much less photograph, most of the details, and there’s probably a lot of references in Mickey’s dressing room that have yet to been discovered simply because there’s no way to catch a second to examine them. But here are a few things I did notice…

First, the lobby inside the building has been completely re-done and re-structured to suit its purpose…

New fixtures, new wallpaper, new carpet…

Actual gold-leaf ornamentation brings its distinctive look to pilaster capitals and mouldings…

Show controls and cast member storage are contained in these wall-boxes themed to vintage fire hose cabinets…

Through the side door we pass into a hallway leading to the theater offices and backstage areas…

When the attraction opened, Imagineers had poured the entirety of their show budget into the dressing room sets themselves, as well as the post-greet store area, with the notion that it was best to make those areas as detailed and lavish as possible on the first try. Thankfully, they have now been allowed to go back and fill in the first two waiting areas with details, some of which have debuted within the last few weeks. It would have been preferable for them to have had a budget which allowed it all to be done on the first try, of course, but at least it’s getting done.

After a brief stay in a still-unadorned hallway, guests enter the back offices and box office of the Town Square Theater. Bulletin boards and fliers covers one wall, while a massive, free-standing, wooden mailbox cabinet occupies another. The bulletin board belongs to the art department…

Those guys are hard to book…

Paris, you say?

An old ticket machine…

I’ll buy one! Love that they look “real”…

Looks like Mickey’s kept in touch with his old boss

Checking out the mailboxes now; who’s this Mr. Story?

What does Mr. Justice have in his box?

All those box office receipts get bundled up and sent to the best bank in town…

And here’s my favorite detail. Of course, I’m a sucker for any Duck reference – especially to the esteemed Mr. Duck. Because I’m insane, I couldn’t help but note that McDuck himself typically uses the products of the Oso Safe Co., but it’s perfectly plausible that he has his own line of consumer-level safes to sell to institutions with lesser security needs. In other news, I want a McDuck-branded safe for my own use.

In Mickey’s dressing room there are lots of large steamer trunks with travel labels referring to Tokyo’s Mira Costa and Hong Kong’s Hollywood Hotel; the trunk was made by the Colonel Hathi company. The only picture I managed to get was this hat; situated overhead, a slight crunching emanates from within, and two furry ears periodically bob up and down…

After the meet-and-greet is, naturally, a shop. Thankfully this is well-themed too, continuing the backstage theme with lots of steamer trunks and theatrical equipment. Historically, the “backstage” theme has been used to excuse and conceal cheapness and/or laziness, most notably at the Studios park; how many times have we seen racks of broken or disused lighting equipment piled in dusty racks used as a visual shortcut for “backstage”? In this shop, however, all the tools and equipment appear to be of appropriate vintage and are stowed in a more orderly fashion resembling that of an actual theater. Real metal tools and prickly hemp rope give a sense of texture that is often absent in Disney shops anymore, and evoke memories of time spent backstage in real theaters. And there are more little details…

The front of the shop is set somewhat separate and themed to a seamstress and millinery shop; it adopts a fancier Victorian look that helps segue guests from the utilitarian “backstage” areas back into the atmosphere of Main Street. A centerpiece of the area is a familiar dress…

These hatboxes line the shelves; amusingly, this was actually a real company of the era…

Those are a few of the details from the Town Square Theater. As I said, although I’m not a fan of meet-and-greets, it’s nice to see one done right. And even though it’s a small project, this is the kind of quality and attention to detail I’d like to see brought to larger, better-funded, and originally-themed attractions. Not to mention that small projects are important too – Disney is about the details, and when all the small projects contain a high level of quality it eventually affects the big picture as well. I appreciate the effort not to make Mickey’s world clash with Main Street, and to use real antique items and set decorations that make the settings feel authentic and prevent Toontown from spilling onto Main Street.

And, you know, Duck references.

The rear part of the theater is currently used for princess photo opportunities; this is merely temporary, until their new facility is completed in Fantasyland. One hopes that there are plans to use this area in a new and creative way – there are many possibilities for such a space, after all – and we’ll see the entire Theater building well-used for the first time in nearly twenty years.

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15 comments to Meet The Mouse

  • RO93461

    Nicely done. I like the little roll of tickets!

    • That was one of my fave details too – because when I looked I expected them to be typical “fake” Photoshopped tickets, but they really look authentic. LOVE that wavy security paper that is reminiscent of the old DL/WDW ticket books!

  • philphoggs

    “Toontown is not gone, it’s taking over mainsteet.” Thank goodness that concept art was so far off. Ok, so now we know the boogieman is interactive at the Firehouse.

  • I visited in September, and it’s such a great use of the space. I was so pleased to see it all, although I’d dread seeing it when the queues are full!!

  • Niki

    Love the new details that weren’t there when we visited.
    Thanks for sharing.

  • Jeanine

    Bizarre that they wouldn’t let you wander around and take photos–I went in earlier this year when no one was around, and they didn’t seem to care if I snapped away until the next family showed up.

    (They did force me to take a picture with Mickey, which was livened up only by one of the photopass guys actually photobombing it.)

    • Well, I’m sure they would have – I just felt weird being a grown dude, along, lingering around the Mickey meet and greet while people were having their family pics taken. I would’ve liked a better look at his desk and “stuff” in the dressing room, but maybe if there’s no one in there next time I’ll walk back through.

  • Adam, "MarkTwain"

    It really is a fantastically designed meet and greet. The only problem is that it apparently doesn’t do nearly the numbers that the old Toontown Fair Mickey M&G did… wonder why?

  • I have to admit I enjoyed meeting the mouse – at the Halloween Party. I turned up dressed as Mickey’s Sorcerers Apprentice and they all loved it. I had about 20 ish minutes in there and PhotoPass took over 70 photographs.
    One of my moments of pixie dust. So seeing all the little details in this post has just added to the magic for me

  • We went to this new meet ‘n greet earlier this month. The decor was great, as were the details. Got several photos of the posters and items in the queue and Mickey’s dressing room. We liked it.

  • Cmdr Crimson

    I love the small Mural poster in Bill Justice’s bin…Why can’t they sell small versions of it!?

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