Disney fans lined up at the 2011 D23 Expo to have a rare face-to-face conversation with Mickey Mouse himself. Inside the Walt Disney Parks and Resorts “Carousel of Projects” pavilion on Aug. 20 & 21, Imagineers presented a chance for convention guests to have a quick chat with Mickey before getting a photo. Emerging from behind a curtain wearing a Disney Parks and Resorts-branded collared shirt and official Disney name tag, Mickey was eager to meet his fans in a whole new way.
It was yesterday afternoon that I had a chance to talk with Mickey Mouse for the first time ever and, naturally, I captured my conversation on video, along with a few others that followed after me. My conversation was a little awkward, and I’ll explain the details why below, but first watch it in the video below:
Video: A conversation with talking Mickey Mouse at the 2011 D23 Expo
As you can see in the video above, Mickey responded to questions, gave autographs, and posed for photos. He had a variety of things to say, but the conversation didn’t always flow entirely naturally. Pulling back the curtain (MAGIC SPOILER ALERT!), it was clear that this weekend Mickey’s lines were prerecorded. This isn’t quite the same talking Mickey that created a YouTube sensation back in May 2010. Nor is it the same Mickey that chatted with celebrity guests and Disney CEO Bob Iger at the World of Color debut in June 2010.
No, what this Mickey could say didn’t always fit perfectly with questions that are asked to him. “How are you?” received a response of, “Cool!” It worked, but not perfectly. When I tried to ask him if he was enjoying the Expo, a question I thought he would surely be prepared for, he paused for a moment and the Disney cast member had to chime in with an answer for him, after which he quickly requested that we take a picture together.
As long as this Mickey guides the conversation, it seems to flow well, as guests are happy to answer his questions and are perfectly capable of doing so. And it seems Mickey is prepared for standard Disney theme park requests, such as signing an autograph (humming along while doing so) or sending a message to family back home via a video camera. Mickey even greets little girls dressed as princesses by referring to them as “royalty.” I imagine that over more “playtesting” time, such as at the D23 Expo this weekend, the writers behind Mickey’s dialogue will learn more of the usual questions Mickey gets asked and will record even more lines. And those, combined with faster behind-the-scenes reaction times at triggering the lines, will create a much more natural conversation.
There are no plans to bring talking Mickey Mouse into the parks on a regular basis yet. The D23 Expo was a great opportunity for Imagineers to get a lot of guests involved in talking with the Mouse and learn in the process. Breakthrough technology like this takes time and tweaks to perfect and it seems Disney’s Imagineers are finding just the right way to make Mickey, and presumably other characters, more interactive and social to better the immersive theme park experience. In the meantime, Mickey continues to “save his voice” just for special occasions.
Here is the photo of me talking Mickey Mouse at the 2011 D23 Expo that was taken while I was shooting the video above: