Talking Mickey Mouse chats it up with 2011 D23 Expo guests, showing off latest Disney meet-and-greet technology

in Disney, Disneyland, Disneyland Resort, Entertainment, Events, Theme Parks

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.

Talking Mickey Mouse

Talking Mickey Mouse

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 “play testing” 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 with talking Mickey Mouse at the 2011 D23 Expo that was taken while I was shooting the video above:

Talking Mickey Mouse and Ricky Brigante

12 Comments

  1. Mike Dunphy

    Not sure what i think of this. Maybe a start in the right direction, but is it worse when Mickey’s responses seem to ignore what you said. In some ways, that may be worse, especially for kids.

  2. Wild Ol' Dan

    Howdy Pards,
    I believe this could be the start of something truly magical…a memory to last forever. I hope those imagineers who are working with Mickey on this understand just how wonderful this could be if the illusion is performed with warmth and caring. There is a danger of having it seem like you are being processed through…rushed as it were…instead of truly having a magical moment with one of the most beloved characters in Disney History. When they get it right…it truly will be something to be remembered…something wonderful. Wild Ol’ Dan

    1. djdrew

      i agree…they should test it lots more before bringing it to the parks and bumming a kid out.

  3. OT

    Well, it´s not there yet and it feels kind of strange how the conversations go. It´s like someone pushes soundbites in stead of realy talking like the fountain at IOA.

  4. Claen

    I wish they didn’t do prerecorded responses. But on the bright side – it looks like you’ve lost weight Ricky! Way to go!

  5. Yeah, congrats Ricky. You’re looking great. Is it just the WDW food going downhill?

    On Mickey+, I am surprised that Mickey couldn’t just say “Yes, I’m having a great time”. It’s not like you asked him what his favorite cartoon was or something. They certainly need to have some comebacks to tough questions like “I think we both know”, or “Tough question, I’m not sure.” Also good ideas would be “hmmms” and “gee” and “ummm” that can be triggered while the operator is searching/thinking. I’m sure they’ll get there.

    1. Ricky Brigante

      Thanks! My weight loss has nothing to do with WDW food. 😉

      And I agree – those silent moments are the most awkward parts. I’m sure they’ll figure out the best in-between phrases to fill in those gaps.

  6. Pat

    On one hand, a talking Mickey seems awfully fun. On the other hand, what will he do if he is approached by a park visitor (especially a child) who doesn’t speak English? I’m sure this happens to “face” characters all of the time, but I think Mickey is too iconic to leave it to “sorry, Mickey only speaks English.”

    Thanks for all that you do, Ricky! Your photo looks great!

  7. Brandon R

    It’s too bad no videos of Saturdays session are showing up on youtube! I didn’t wait in line, but was able to witness Mickey definitely more warm and personable than the pre recorded responses everyone is talking about. I heard several people ask what he thought of the expo and even what his favorite ride at Disneyland was….with an appropriate response! Maybe they were trying out two different show modes? I did notice his eyes were not blinking like in other appearances we’ve seen.

    1. Ricky Brigante

      I hadn’t heard that! I tried to find time to stop by on Saturday but was simply too busy with all the presentations. It seems most people showed up Sunday for the same reason.

      1. Brandon R

        I’ve found one video that shows it off! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MwvQNj5Ko2Y

  8. Barry

    I think the cast members inside the suits, while waiting for that slight lag in response, should be prepared to make some of gesture of pausing… Hand to the chin in that classic, “hm…I’m thinking” pose, hands on hips in surprise, silent laughter pantomime, all those things real people do before responding to questions from time to time.

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