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Where’s Mickey?

Well you’re both right… and wrong. Mickey wasn’t seen in EPCOT Center (the original name for what is now known as Epcot), but could be seen long after the park opened in a very 80’s spacesuit with multicolored trim.

In an attempt to keep the parks separate and distinct from one another, no Disney character merchandise was sold in Epcot for many years. In fact, after Mickey Mouse showed up for the park’s Grand Opening in 1982, he was not seen or heard from again! That’s right – there were no Disney characters seen anywhere in the park.

That all changed when the “Eisner Era” began. Not long after he took over as Chairman of the Board of The Walt Disney Company, he paid a visit to EPCOT Center . As the largest, most complex, and more importantly, the most expensive theme park ever built, he was quite curious. He spent a great deal of time acting as a tourist, riding every attraction, and visiting every pavilion. When he visited the Centorium store in Communicore, he was unhappy with the poor quality and selection of merchandise that was available. He felt that there was not enough there for children, and the serious tone of the store seemed to have too much of a museum-like feel to it. He immediately questioned the shop’s designers about these issues. They responded that it was difficult to come up with creative, fun toys and merchandise, as many of the attractions were very education-oriented. He also questioned why there were no Disney characters either in the park or on the merchandise. He was told that Mickey and his friends belong in the Magic Kingdom . Not according to the Head Mouse they don’t!

So, that philosophy changed – and fast! The “Fab 5,” Mickey, Minnie, Donald, Pluto and Goofy soon began to make appearances in Future World, usually in shiny, silver space suits for some reason. Classic character merchandise, as well as toys based on their newest creation Figment (who was loved by children), also began to appear in shops and on carts throughout the park. Today, Mickey and his friends are present in every theme park in the Walt Disney World Resort, and make their way onto much of the attraction-related merchandise. (look for Mickey wearing a space helmet on Mission : Space shirts, riding the Tower of Terror elevator on everything from cups to hats in the Disney-MGM Studios, and helping to open Disney’s Animal Kingdom park every morning).