There is a lot of talk about the new Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Railway, with many claiming it will feature the first Mickey Mouse animatronic. However, forgotten Disney history proves these rumours to be incorrect!

What was the actual first animatronic of Mickey Mouse?

Mickey Mouse Revue was a live animatronic stage show that showcased a musical orchestra featuring famous Disney characters. The show's conductor was the first-ever Mickey Mouse animatronic, voiced by Jimmy MacDonald for the first and only time. The Mickey Mouse Revue featured 81 Disney characters as audio-animatronics. However, there were technically only 73 unique characters, with 8 duplicates. The show even gave guests a sneak peek into the future with a glimpse of a new attraction. The finale showcased characters from Splash Mountain, which would not open for a few more years at the Magic Kingdom, as they sang "Zip-a-dee-doo-dah".

The Fantasyland Theatre, where the star-studded performance was held, was massive and had a capacity of up to 500 guests at a time. However, the pre-show section had room for only 300 guests, which turned out to be an oversight. To address this issue, the pre-show also functioned as a queuing area that was constantly moving, allowing both the theatre and pre-show to use their entire space. Nevertheless, due to this arrangement, guests often missed out on the entire pre-show. The pre-show aimed to teach viewers about the importance of music and its role in Mickey Mouse cartoons. Interestingly, the pre-show featured Tigger, who did not appear in the main performance.

Attraction History

Mickey Mouse Revue was an Opening Day attraction at Walt Disney World in 1971. It was staged in the Fantasyland Theatre at the Magic Kingdom. The show was one of the only Disney World attractions at the time that came directly from the mind of Walt Disney. He spoke about it briefly in an interview with CBC.

Construction lasted for two years. The show’s working title at that time was the Mickey Mouse Musical Revue. Its starring Disney characters were referred to as “electronic personalities.” Some of the characters were supposed to sit in the audience and heckle the performers. This part never worked out for the Mickey Mouse Revue. But it likely inspired the hecklers sitting in the boxes during a Disney World show that debuted much later: Muppet Vision 3D.

Unlike many other tragic attractions, Mickey Mouse Revue wasn’t technically “closed.” It was simply moved to Tokyo Disneyland. Why? Well, it was declining in popularity after a few years of operation at the Magic Kingdom. In fact, it was the only attraction to ever be downgraded from an “E-ticket” to a “D-ticket.” Ouch. Audio animatronics were less impressive than they were upon initial opening.

Luckily for Mickey Mouse Revue though, Japan was looking to open a Disney Park in Tokyo. It would normally be difficult for Japanese guests to favour American attractions. However, the universally beloved Disney characters and songs would easily translate–both literally and figuratively–to a Japanese audience. So the decision was made to move the entire show over to Tokyo. Surprisingly, or maybe not-so-surprisingly, guests were mostly okay with this change. The Mickey Mouse Revue lived on for another 26 years until its official closure in 2009.

Magic Kingdom’s Fantasyland Theatre sat vacant for seven years until Magic Journeys premiered there in 1987. It is pretty safe to say that Mickey Mouse Revue really paved the way for, and was the inspiration behind, Mickey’s PhilharMagic.

Where are they now?

Once Tokyo’s version of the show closed, some of the animatronics were re-purposed at Walt Disney World. For example, the Three Caballeros – Donald, Jose, and Panchito -- were relocated to the finale scene of the Gran Fiesta Tour ride at Epcot. At first, the Seven Dwarfs were moved to Snow White’s Scary Adventures. When that ride closed, they were placed in the finale “Silly Song” scene of Seven Dwarfs Mine Train. What about the first Mickey Mouse animatronic? He was put on display at the 2011 D23 Expo before going back into the Walt Disney Archives. Maybe we will see him again someday!