“Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls: Welcome to the Magic Kingdom, where every day is a celebration!”
These words heralded the arrival of Celebrate a Dream Come True Parade, performed 2009-2013, but they just as easily stand for any given time in the park’s storied history. Celebrations have been part of the fabric of Walt Disney World since its opening in 1971, when Julie Andrews hosted a lavish television spectacular which included the release of thousands of balloons into the sky above Main Street, U.S.A.
Over the years, celebrations continued to be a special part of Walt Disney World tradition, whether they be for annual holiday seasons or for birthdays and special occasions families hosted for themselves in the place where dreams come true. And now, at the dawn of its latest event, Mickey and Minnie’s Surprise Celebration, we’re ready to party up (sorry, too soon). If we look closely, we can even spot a trend that Mickey and Minnie’s Surprise Celebration plays a part in, something exciting in concept and endless in possibility: Disney celebrations rooted in the studio’s own heritage.
This is a party celebrating all things mouse. Special merchandise and food will be abundant throughout Magic Kingdom. Mickey and Minnie will greet guests together (!) in exclusive attire (!!) inside Town Square Theater, which is also where party-goers can sign the hosts’ guest book. A new street party, Move It! Shake It! MousekeDance It!, will combine classic characters known most prominently from Mickey Mouse shorts and songs from Mickey Mouse Club with live singing and a few on-lock secrets that are sure to be fun. The Dapper Dans will also sing Mickey-centric tunes during their daily sets. It all happens January 18 through September 30, and it’s going to be wild.
But first things first: By all accounts, I’m not quite sure what’s happening here. It’s a party thrown for Mickey and Minnie, about Mickey and Minnie, by Mickey and Minnie? How vain. Secondly, who is this a surprise for? If Mickey and Minnie are the hosts, it’s not a surprise to them, and if we’ve known about this since September, it’s not a surprise to us. And, perhaps most confusing of all, this kicks off in January when Mickey and Minnie’s birthday was in November.
Of course, none of it is supposed to be taken that seriously or examined that thoroughly, but in determining that there is no real reason for this celebration, we find a fun discovery, and if we look back at recent Disney events, the theory is confirmed: Disney is in a trend of centering its celebrations on the legacy of its strongest characters and franchises. These celebrations don’t commemorate an anniversary. They aren’t associated with any holiday. They don’t attempt to support a haphazard marketing slogan with quickly assembled entertainment. They exist, apparently, for the sole purpose of existing. Sure, they’re designed to draw Guests in and boost attendance, but their theme doesn’t inherently connect with anything outside of the parameters it has the freedom to set for itself. These celebrations hone in on a unique facet of Disney lore and celebrate what fans love about that particular world of characters. It’s a fresh, inviting approach that places the Guests’ involvement within the celebration on a different level.
Festival of Pirates and Princesses at Disneyland Paris challenged families to choose a side and engage with adventurous and royal opportunities that met an incredible reception from Guests. Pixar Fest at Disneyland marked the most prominent theme park presence that Pixar has ever had, highlighted by a magnificent fireworks display and the opening of the permanent Pixar Pier. Season of the Force at both of those aforementioned resorts brought Star Wars to life in new ways, like retrofitting an old favorite to become Hyperspace Mountain during the duration of the festivities.
For nearly two decades prior, Disney was in a flow of establishing property-wide celebrations. For a while, they focused on anniversary-specific events (like the 25th birthday in 1996, 100 Years of Magic in 2001, and The Happiest Celebration on Earth in 2005). Soon these segued into resort-wide festivities tied with each year’s marketing theme (like Year of a Million Dreams in 2006 and What Will You Celebrate? in 2009). These events typically lasted a year or two, with new entertainment matching the national publicity Guests had seen advertised.
In recent memory, we’ve seen somewhat of a mixture between the two. While each year’s marketing theme isn’t as loudly shouted from the rooftops or ushered in with new attractions, it’s still prescenced through merchandise. We’ve experienced an increase in acknowledging smaller anniversaries, celebrated within individual parks but not warranting their own national advertising campaign, like the 20th anniversary of Disney’s Animal Kingdom last year and the upcoming 30th anniversary of Disney’s Hollywood Studios.
The focus away from the slogans and onto the studio was something we arguably first experienced with Frozen Summer Fun at Disney’s Hollywood Studios in 2014. At the apex of Frozen‘s massive popularity, the park hosted an event to welcome Anna and Elsa and allow Guests to experience some snowy magic in the middle of the summer. One could perhaps even trace the origins of such an event back to Star Wars Weekends, but seeing as that was an annual tradition rather than a one-time season, I’m not sure it qualifies in the same category.
Mickey and Minnie’s Surprise Celebration is expected to be a one-and-done thing. It won’t become a perennial season for Magic Kingdom in the park that is accustomed to rotating through special events. That, paired with the notion that the theme seemingly came out of thin air, points to intriguing opportunities for the future. If seasonal offerings within the parks aren’t limited to the same holidays we experience every single year (however great they are), and if virtually anything is on the table to be celebrated, imagine where this trend could go next! Imagine which characters, stories, music, and themes could get the spotlight this time next year.
What’s more, the event doesn’t negate other huge things from happening at the resort. Sure, it’s not a colossal, permanent new attraction, but it’s not in replacement of one, either. This year we’re still getting Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge, Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Railway, and a host of other exciting new projects IN ADDITION TO Mickey and Minnie’s Surprise Celebration. Any neat little event to make the parks feel even more special and invite Guests in on the fun is a win in my book.
It’s worth noting that a few other limited-time experiences being offered through September 30 also debut on January 18, including the transformation of Pixar Place at Disney’s Hollywood Studios to emulate the city of Metroville from The Incredibles, as well as Hakuna Matata Time Dance Party on Discovery Island at Disney’s Animal Kingdom. In the past, we might have seen an effort for all of these experiences to somehow tie together, but perhaps in a smart move, Disney has left each project to be its own, with Magic Kingdom exclusively playing host to Mickey and Minnie’s Surprise Celebration.
For trivia buffs, it’d be remiss not to point out that the event’s name is a bit of a hidden Mickey in itself. Cinderella’s Surprise Celebration was the castle stage show performed 2001-2005, initially debuting as part of 100 Years of Magic. Additionally, Surprise Celebration Parade was the name of the park’s 20th anniversary procession that performed 1991-1994. It seems fitting that a celebration from a new era pay tribute to the past.
What would you like to see a future celebration be themed to?
Images © Disney.
To learn more about Blake and read his recent posts for the WDW Radio Blog, visit his author page by clicking the link on his name at the top of this post.