It’s a party—a castle party! We’re all invited to come and join the fun. For nearly ten years, the Dream Along with Mickey live show has graced the Castle Forecourt Stage in the Magic Kingdom. Mickey Mouse is throwing a party at Cinderella Castle, and some surprise friends (and foes) are on the way to help show doubtful Donald Duck the power of dreams. As the show prepares for its final performance on April 2, 2016, let’s take a look back at this Magic Kingdom favorite of nearly a decade… so let’s get started; so much to do!
Dream Along with Mickey debuted on September 30, 2006. Its introduction to the park served as a strategic move from two standpoints. Firstly, at this time in Disney history, two franchises were killing it: pirates and princesses. 2006 saw the theatrical release of Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest, which became the second-highest-grossing film ever at that time. Elsewhere, Disney was honing in on its relatively newfound Princess arm of consumer products to crazed success. Having the two primary sequences of Dream Along with Mickey focus on Minnie’s dream of being a princess and Goofy’s dream of being a pirate made perfect sense from a synergy perspective. Additionally, the show served as a perfect centerpiece of Mickey’s Pirate & Princess Party, a short-lived special event that Disney experimented with in 2007 and 2008. Dream Along with Mickey was performed each night of the event in addition to being performed during Magic Kingdom‘s regular daytime hours.
Secondly, Dream Along with Mickey was part of the new array of entertainment rolled out for Year of a Million Dreams, which officially kicked off the day after Dream Along‘s debut, October 1, 2006. This celebration focused on the idea of the Disney theme parks being a place where dreams come true, and Disney committed to making at least one million of them come true over the course of that year. These ranged from as simple as a special character moment to as grand as a stay inside the then-new Cinderella Castle Dream Suite. The purpose behind Year of a Million Dreams and the central theme of Dream Along with Mickey were essentially (and intentionally) the same—dreams come true—making Dream Along a nice complement to the festivities happening Resort-wide. Year of a Million Dreams was initially supposed to last 15 months, but was ultimately extended to 27 months (quite a “year,” huh?) and concluded on December 31, 2008. In a bit of a surprise, as the calendar turned to 2009 and Disney moved on to its next promotion (titled What Will You Celebrate?), a new castle show did not come with it, despite the other offerings from Year of a Million Dreams discontinuing.
Dream Along with Mickey is actually a revised version of Mickey’s Gift of Dreams, a show developed for Tokyo Disneyland‘s twentieth anniversary in 2003. Both shows tell essentially the same story: Mickey hosting a castle party, villains led by Maleficent crashing the show, the enlisting of the audience’s help to allow dreams to prevail. The two shows share much of the same soundtrack, too (a portion of which can be heard in the YouTube clip below). The major difference between them is that Dream Along‘s middle segments are themed to the Disney Princesses and Peter Pan, while the middle portions of Gift of Dreams highlight the jungle, Disney Princesses (in a different way), and Clopin from The Hunchback of Notre Dame (this is why the instrumental during Maleficent’s ascent is “Hell’s Bells”).
As the years progressed, Dream Along with Mickey remained the same in terms of content. The story and script are the same today as they were on opening day. It did see several changes aesthetically, though. In January 2007, Dream Along with Mickey became the first live show in a Disney theme park to allow its characters to become, shall we say, animated (we’ll leave it at that) in a way that has since revolutionized expectations from live productions. Additionally, while the characters’ glittery blue-and-silver costumes that were designed exclusively for the Year of a Million Dreams remained in place for several years after the promotion ended, new Dream-Along costumes came in 2011 to reflect the fact that Million Dreams was long over. These outfits are variations of the Fab Four’s traditional park costumes (Mickey in his tux, Minnie in her polka dots, etc.) with brighter shades of the classic colors and extra helpings of sparkle to make them twinkle on stage. At the same time the costume changes took place, the festival tent that serves as the stage backdrop for the show was changed from its blue/silver look to a dominantly purple scheme. The only content change over the years came at an unknown time; it’s a small, clever touch that was probably added spontaneously, and varies from performance to performance. Sometimes, in the finale, just before Mickey and Minnie begin their ascent on the rising platform, Peter Pan gives a blow and sends some Pixie Dust their way. Mickey then points to him, gives him a thumbs-up, and the platform begins to rise skyward. When it happens, it’s a fun little moment and a neat bit of interaction between Peter and Mickey.
No one can say for sure why Dream Along with Mickey lasted so long. In looking to the past, there doesn’t seem to be much rhyme or reason (not consistently, at least) for the duration of previous castle shows. Some, like Cinderellabration, were barely around at all, debuting in 2005 for The Happiest Celebration on Earth and closing in 2006 promptly when that promotion ended. Others, like Disneymania, seemed to stand the test of time, ultimately concluding in 2001 after being performed for over a decade (and being updated sporadically to reflect different, current Disney characters). So, who’s to say why some castle shows are gone in a flash and Dream Along with Mickey was with us for almost ten years? Frankly, it’s probable that part of the concern might have been budgetary. In such an unhealthy economic climate that the recession boded, there wasn’t any reason to crank money into replacing things for the sake of replacement. Dream Along with Mickey may have been developed in tandem with a temporary promotion, but it works just as well without that connection, and that undoubtedly helped its longevity.
In fact, I’d go as far to say that Dream Along with Mickey didn’t scream to be replaced for so long because it so expertly and boldly encompasses the purpose behind the Magic Kingdom, and, to an extent, Walt Disney World itself. Is there any purer message than “Dreams come true” to embody the inspiration we feel following a Disney vacation? Is there a more definitive statement to pinpoint the drive Walt must have had in wanting to build a place that celebrated that very sentence? I don’t think there is. In the same way that IllumiNations exemplifies Epcot, in Dream Along with Mickey we find an unexpected source sharing the purpose behind a day in the Magic Kingdom, and that quality propelled the show to become more than something just passing through. It does this all while using only characters created during Walt’s lifetime, further adding to that classic feel.
What’s coming next will do a complete 180. Mickey’s Royal Friendship Faire will replace Dream Along with Mickey as the newest castle stage show. Taking a different approach, Mickey’s Royal Friendship Faire celebrates films from the recent boom of Disney animation, with appearances by characters from The Princess and the Frog, Tangled, and Frozen. Mickey and the gang still have hosting duties, of course; this time even adding Daisy Duck to the mix. It’s certainly a change of pace, and one that, along with the Festival of Fantasy Parade, ushers in a new generation of Disney to this iconic park. The final performance date for Dream Along with Mickey is Saturday, April 2, 2016, and no opening date has been announced yet for Mickey’s Royal Friendship Faire at the time of this writing.
There are many qualities that make Dream Along with Mickey a special and important part of Disney history, but perhaps its most influential legacy will be its encouragement to chase after what inspires us. It’s practically swarming with tag lines Sue Heck of The Middle would take no hesitation in plastering onto huge bedroom posters. And even if it isn’t exactly subtle about its intentions, that’s ok. When I was in middle school, this show served as a beacon proclaiming that while fairy tales may be fantasy, their messages are life’s truest realities. It more recently acted as a giant, metaphorical cheerleader as I prepared job applications prior to graduating college this May. This was the show I watched three times in one day when I was worried my future career would be pummeled by the prospect of unemployment. This was the soundtrack I listened to repeatedly on my bus ride home after stressful days. This was the production that, for ten years, taught its audience to take the dream with you, wherever you may go.
What are your favorite memories of ‘Dream Along with Mickey’?
Images © Disney.
Blake studies Electronic Media and Film at Appalachian State University. He will participate in the Disney College Program in Fall 2016. Blake’s favorite attraction is the hub grass. You can find him on Twitter @blake_242 or at BlakeOnline.com.