PAL MICKEY MEETS IRREGULAR.COM!
Have you ever been bossed around by a plush rodent? Not too many people can say they have so that's why Disney's rolling out Pal Mickey. He's cute. He's astute. He comes with a belt clip. While he'll play a few simple kid games and rattle off corny jokes on command, Pal Mickey was made to follow you through that $51.88 click of the turnstile that catapults you into the world of Disney's four Florida theme parks.
It's there where Mickey really struts his stuff, alerting you to character greetings, short wait times at marquee attractions and show hours. He's also packed with more than 700 phrases including geo-specific trivia as you pass certain signature rides.
The staff of Irregular.com got a hold of one of the earliest models this past week and everyone seems to agree that the best feature -- hands down -- is the off switch. Unzip his back and it's there above his battery-powered buttocks and behind his little rat brain.
We tired quickly of his lame jokes that made Marmaduke seem like vintage comedy so we decided to take him on a World tour. Here is what our new Pal had to say.
We walked down the Main Street Mall and figured we would do the park counter-clockwise to see if we could throw Mickey off. No way! In a creepy way he knew just where we were going. He started to giggle and vibrate so we squeezed his hand to indulge his urges.
"It's a great big beautiful Tomorrowland," he sang out.
We passed a shuttered building on our right that set him off again.
"Oh, cow pie! Timekeeper is closed again," he said. "Come back over the summer when the park is full. We never open this attraction if everyone is comfortable."
A few steps later he had even more to say.
"That's Buzz Lightyear's Space Ranger Spin to the right," he said. "It's a real cool ride. Don't you dare go ride Men in Black at Universal Studios Florida now, you hear? After that you may no longer appreciate our neon plywood cutout targets, the lame weaponry and the vehicle's limited motion."
We passed an escalator on the way to Space Mountain.
"Hey, Tomorrowland Transit Authority may not seem like much but it sure beats an abandoned Rocket Rods ride, don't you think?"
He shook something fierce when we passed a two story structure by the Space Mountain entrance.
"Did you notice the stairs," he asked rhetorically. "Of course you didn't. There didn't used to be a ride here. No way, Jose. We wouldn't raise ticket prices every year and remove a quality transportation ride that gave you an aerial view of the park and those unthemed Fantasyland roofs. We wouldn't. Honest."
We moved over to Fantasyland where the Winnie the Pooh ride was down for two months of rehab.
"Oh Pooh," he said. "But check out the lagoon to your right. We used to have a unique submarine adventure here that promised to take you 20,000 leagues under the sea. Well, as long as you didn't notice that the water surface was just a few feet over your porthole. But we closed the ride for a much better idea. Character greeting stations!"
We strolled past Liberty Square and into Frontierland where Mickey had more to say.
"You see that body of water? That's the Rivers of America. We used to have canoes here where folks could get some exercise as they paddled about. We got rid of them for something healthier. The churro cart. We'll fry anything here in Disney World. The more plump the guest the more likely he or she will be to buy up loads of Winnie the Pooh merchandise. It's true. We call this caloric marketing."
We wrapped things up at Adventureland where Mickey stopped us short of a flying carpet ride.
"Here's a joke for you. What does a flying carpet, an elephant and a triceratops have in common here? Everything."
Leaving proved troublesome as Pal Mickey wanted to stop at every store on the way out to let us know how they once used to be lavish attractions that showcased penny arcade games, short films and even a tribute to Walt Disney's story.
We zipped down. He zipped up.
The next day we arrived at Disney's latest theme park addition to its Florida arsenal, Animal Kingdom. Pal Mickey didn't wait long to get going. We arrived just as the park was opening and joined the beeline to the back of the park.
"Hey, where you all going, huh," Mickey questioned. "The Kilimanjaro Safari? Why don't we go hit something else, like taking the train to Rafiki's petting farm or the carnival rides at Dinoland? No lines. No waiting. Don't join the herd to our only E-ticket attraction. That doesn't make you any better than the animals here now does it?"
We insisted. Mickey persisted.
"Oh, I get it now," he continued. "Ignore your Pal Mickey. You think I'm happy trying to talk you out of following the lemmings? I told Michael and Joe that this was a big mistake. You open up a safari attraction where the animals aren't going to be as active later in the day and decide to wait 8 years before opening up another marquee ride and this is exactly what's going to happen. 500 acres and we've got an ant trail of park guests going to Africa."
We crossed the bridge to Africa and followed the crowd into the safari entrance.
"Don't make me do this," Mickey said. "Okay. I'm sorry. I have to. Big Red is dead, okay? Poached like your egg breakfast she was. We actually had her bloodied carcass on display when the ride first opened. Doh! That lasted for about a week or two before folks went bananas. How dare we make a point with an animal slain for its ivory tusks. Some mom in Duluth that doesn't think twice about showing Bambi to her kids is going to tell us this is too extreme? Puh-leeze. Anyway, Big Red got scraped -- err, I mean scrapped. Little Red is fake too, you know? And one more thing --"
Unzip. Flick. Pal Mickey remained in the off position until we completed our safari.
"Gee whiz, is that a train whistle I hear," Mickey said. "Let's all go to Rafiki Planet Watch at Conservation Station. You're not going to like the layout. It's a train ride low on scenery leading to a needlessly long footpath that winds up at an outdoor petting area. But, hey, there's also an air-conditioned building where we can brow beat you on the merits of conservation despite the fact that we didn't conserve your time with the pointless long journey to get there."
Unsold, we moved on. We took a leisurely stroll towards Asia. We came across a raft ride where ponchos were the dress code apparently.
"Ahhh, Kali River Rapids," he said. "This one here was called Tiger Rapids Run until we realized that we wouldn't have any live tigers to look at. Why? Because we're Nahtazu!"
We kept walking towards Dinoland.
"Dinosaur is a wild dark ride," he started. "And I do mean dark. It opened as Countdown to Extinction. Then we released our computer-animated full-length feature Dinosaur. So we decided to rename the attraction. We changed, well, absolutely nothing beyond the sign in front of the ride. We'd love to light up the ride some more, but, gosh, where's GE as a sponsor when you need it?"
We got off the ride and started looking for the iguanadon we brought back through time with us. He didn't turn up so we walked past the game booths wedged between a pair of fair rides known as Triceratops Spin and Primeval Whirl.
"Well, at least our carnies bathe," Mickey said as we headed out towards The Tree of Life. Beautiful etched sculptures of animal life lined the faux bark of the park's signature centerpiece.
"Pretty, isn't it," Mickey gawked. "But with the tens of millions that we spent on this work of art structure don't you think we could have afforded to color the leaves in a hue that matched its green surroundings? That's just Goofy."
It wasn't even noon and we were already sweltering under the Florida heat. We made a dash for the exit.
"Where do you think you're going," Mickey asked. "If you head out now your Irregular.com readers are going to think that this is a park that can be done in a quarter of day. It's not. This is a half-day park! Half-day park!"
We spun Mickey around, singing "Circle of Life" as we gleefully threatened to turn him off.
One of Walter Elias Disney's last living visions was for an Environmental Prototype Community of Tomorrow. He either envisioned an urban cutting edge metropolis where folks would live, work and interact with one another or a place where pyramid eyesores lined the entrance with etched images of egomaniac suckers in a park divided into tiers of opening and closing times because two park halves could never equal a complete whole.
Mickey wasted no time to let us know that Spaceship Earth once featured Walter Cronkite as a narrator, replaced by The Lion King's Jeremy Irons. Yes, Scar, but it didn't take us long to see the scars with our own eyes.
World Showcase wouldn't open for a couple of hours so we veered right to find an attraction with waves crashing up against the rocks.
"The Living Seas used to feature a ride through a giant aquarium," Mickey said. "But the ride is gone now. Sure, you can stand in a belittling queue only to be left standing in an open room for no reason other than self-humility and to be eventually led through a fake "hydrolator" which is just a pair of sliding doors separating you from the aquarium area. Or you can go to those sliding doors marked "Exit Only" and show a little pride and self-worth by ignoring the sign and just walking in when the first of those doors opens to get into the tank viewing area."
Finally. Mickey was starting to earn his keep. He gave other helpful hints about free cookies later in the day in The Land and trivia tidbits of a ride he called Figment version 3.0 but we noticed that everyone was actually going over to the other side of Future World so we followed.
Mission: Space looked awfully cool but it was also awfully closed. Test Track was there but it had run out of FastPasses.
"Silly me," Mickey chuckled. "I should have told you that there is only one attraction in this park where a FastPass is recommended. That's why they run out so quickly. Come back later this year when Mission: Space changes all that, okay?"
Maybe. Figuring that the Wonders of Life pavilion was just Disneyfied porn and that Ellen DeGeneres and dinosaurs had way too much in common we went back to the middle of Future World. Waiting for the country exhibits to open we went into the Ice Station Cool igloo, only to find a hidden gem on our own -- free soda samples.
"Don't you dare try the Beverly," Mickey said. "You're going to friggin' hate it. See, you made me say friggin'. I'm a bad, bad, toy, but I'm still better than that stinking bitter Beverly crap."
We passed on the Beverly. The World Showcase opened so we toured the countries, realizing that it's pretty, with what seemed like amazing restaurants but not a whole lot in terms of rides. We didn't find a currency exchange kiosk to convert some dollars into Euros so we avoided spending any money there. Free SARS masks were being handed out in the China pavilion. That was a nice touch.
We were done. Mickey took a nap.
We tackled the last park of our Pal Mickey test drive under a stormy afternoon. We knew that he couldn't get soaked so we fashioned a popcorn box into a poncho for our newfound friend. We hit the thrill rides first, like everybody else it seems.
Tower of Terror and its new programming was fierce and amazing but Pal Mickey was left unimpressed.
"Where is the Twilight Zone zinger," he questioned. "Where is the It's a Cookbook or Room For One More, Honey or Burgess Meredith smashing his reading glasses? Golly gee, I get the part about the five people vanishing in the elevator in the 1930s. I'm hip to the fact that we are going into the boiler room to ride the service elevator. I'm thrown for a loop when we're asked to sit down -- I mean, who sits down in an elevator -- but I'll suspend belief for the sake of ride safety. But if all we do is go into the shaft, swing up and down, and wind up in the lobby's gift shop where's the cool plot twist? Rod Serling would turn in his grave if he ever saw this."
Maybe we were starting to wear on Pal Mickey but he was becoming as jaded and sarcastic as we were.
"Bring me the head of the imagineer who couldn't give this ride a worthy story ending," he said.
Our next stop was the Rock 'n Roller Coaster.
"Aerosmith? In a Disney park," Mickey started. "I know they came clean but these Boston boys were major druggies in the 1970s. Steve Tyler even pulled a Polanski when he took a 15-year-old on the road with him one year. And don't get me started on Pee Wee Herman. We took down his video from the animation tour when he was caught with his pants down at the Wonders of Life pavilion but he's still the voice of your pilot in Star Tours. What's up with that? Pervs should be heard and not seen?"
Maybe some of the passing rain was making its way to Mickey's voice chip. We decided to try to cool him off by taking him on the backlot tour. No such luck.
"Empty Nest? Golden Girls? Ernest movies? Hello! Anything new ever happen around here? Wasn't this supposed to be a working studio? And you wonder why ABC is now in fourth place! Oh, bother. Wait, isn't that ABC's think tank over there? Catastrophe Canyon? Now it's all starting to make sense."
We apologized to everyone around us on the tram tour. We exited the tour and walked over to the New York City area.
"This place gives me Goosebumps," he said as we passed the park.
We passed by the stage where the Hunchback of Notre Dame show takes place on certain days. This wasn't one of those days.
"It's a no-go for Quasimodo," Mickey said.
The next Who Wants to Be a Millionaire was about to start so we ducked a gray cloud and grabbed a seat. Mickey was quiet through most of the show, then went off when the guest in the hot seat picked "B" for his $32,000 question.
"M-I-C," he started. "M-I-C. Get it? The answer is C! I know this is Who Wants to B a Millionaire but if you can't C the answer move over and let a real trivia rat take over. How about getting a lifeline? Better yet, how about getting a life!"
The answer turned out to be D.
We then wrapped up our day at the park by checking out Sounds Dangerous, which at times had about as much lighting as the Dinosaur attraction that we had experienced over at Animal Kingdom.
It was next to an empty theater building, which Mickey explained once housed a Doug live show. Before that it was an interactive Super Star Television show where guests acted out on blue screen stages.
"Why don't you stick around to see Fantasmic," Mickey offered, coming back to his pimping senses as we were ready to leave. "I'm the star of the show. Well, the boring water screens take up most of the stage time but I do have a heroic cameo."
Plush had come to shove. It was time to head on out and get Mickey back into his game-playing joke-spouting mode.
Want to test Pal Mickey too? Head out to Disney World now while the crowds are still light. Check ParkOutlet.com for the nearest hotels including onsite resorts where you can enter a different park an hour early each day! The Disney World resort hotels include: