The Town Square Theater in Magic Kingdom is so much more than a glorified meet-and-greet location. It is a trip backstage, a peek behind the curtain, a VIP visit to the main mouse’s dressing room! As such, this elevated experience treats observant visitors to a number of callbacks, gags, inside jokes, and Easter eggs. Take a trip back to the turn-of-the-century, and learn where to look for all of these treats!
10. McDuck Safe Co.
In an episode of the original DuckTales entitled Once Upon a Dime, viewers learned that Scrooge McDuck built his money bin when he had amassed such a fortune that it was no longer tenable for him to keep it under his mattress. Perhaps Mickey’s magic show is so magnificent that he can no longer store his earnings in the recesses of his bed. Either way, a safe has been installed in the theater queue by McDuck’s Safe Co. This is a great photo-op for anyone who grew up reading the Scrooge McDuck comics or watching original or rebooted episodes of DuckTales.
9. The Band Concert
A bulletin board to the left of Mickey’s mirror is covered with several notices and notes (more on these later). The largest of these is a flyer for a “Band Concert at the Park.” It says the show will feature “uplifting musical selections” and “an all-star ensemble on their whirlwind tour.” The band will be playing Zampa, the William Tell Overture, and Turkey in the Straw. This poster is, of course, a reference to the 1935 cartoon short The Band Concert. Each of these pieces of music is featured at different points throughout the cartoon: the overture to Zampa plays over the title credits; Mickey attempts to conduct the William Tell Overture in spite of many difficulties; and Donald Duck relentlessly tries to join in by playing Turkey in the Straw.
8. Madam Mim’s Potions
The Marvelous Mad Madam Mim is the villain of the 1963 Disney animated film The Sword in the Stone. She plays foil to Merlin and shows off her magical prowess in a duel against the wizard. Mim had quite a few tricks of sorcery in her arsenal, so it should come as no surprise that she would be adept at brewing potions. However, it is a bit of a shock to find that Mickey has a few of “Madam Mim’s Potions and Spells” in his open magician’s trunk in his dressing room.
7. Steamer Trunk Travels
Several sturdy steamer trunks can be found sitting on the ground in the Meet and Greet area. It is clear that these have accompanied Mickey to several performance venues around the world. Evidence of his journeys can be seen on the travel stickers from locations such as Tokyo Hotel Mira Costa (one of Tokyo Disneyland’s actual resorts) and Castaway Cay Bahamas (Disney’s private island visited by the Disney Cruise Line ships) among others.
6. Madame Leota
A number of somewhat random (or maybe not so random…?) items can be found atop a shelf in the dressing room. One of these is a crystal ball – perhaps Mickey is borrowing it from Daisy Fortuna – with the words “Leota Crystals – Model 1969” engraved on the base. This is a reference to Madame Leota of the Haunted Mansion and, by extension, Disney Imagineer and Legend Leota Toombs Thomas. Also, the original Disneyland Haunted Mansion first welcomed foolish mortals through its doors on August 9, 1969.
When the film WALL-E premiered in theaters on June 27, 2008, the loveable robot had an equally endearing rabbit as his opening act. Alec Azam and his magician partner Presto DiGiotagione were the stars of the Pixar cartoon short Presto. While it was clear that Presto and Alec had some issues to work through, by the end of the short they seemed to be on their way to a successful run in show business. After having wowed audiences, Presto has sent words of encouragement that Mickey has tacked up on his bulletin board, “To my friend Mickey Mouse, Have a great show! –The Amazing Presto.”
4. Imagineer Jason Grandt
On the same bulletin board mentioned above, in the upper left-hand corner, there is a drawing of Mickey and Oswald. It looks as if a young fan who visited Mickey’s show sent him this piece of artwork. It says “For Mickey and Oswald From Jason.” Jason is actually referring to Walt Disney Imagineer, Jason Grandt who was the Concept Designer on the project that converted the Town Square Exposition Hall into the Town Square Theater in 2011.
3. The Nifty Nineties
In the Town Square Theater queue, there is a bulletin board labeled “Art and Publicity Department.” On the right side of this display is a poster for Mickey the Magnificent that is still in the design process. At the bottom, it says “Opening Act Fred and Ward.” These two names are in reference to Disney animators Fred Moore and Ward Kimball who have the distinction of not only lending their voices but being rendered in animated form in the 1941 cartoon The Nifty Nineties.
The Nifty Nineties is set in the 1890s and the plot is centered on Mickey taking Minnie to see a Vaudeville-style show and then for a ride in a horseless carriage. One of the acts in the show is “Fred and Ward – Two Clever Boys from Illinois.” When the duo takes the stage, it is clear that the characters were based on the two real-life animators.
2. J. Thaddeus Toad Motor Cars, Ltd.
There is an interesting piece of correspondence sitting on Mickey’s desk. It is typed on letterhead from “J. Thaddeus Toad Motors, Ltd.” and says the following:
“Mr. M. Mouse, Thank you for your recent purchase of our ‘Nifty Nineties’ edition horseless carriage. We feel confident that this conveyance will more than suit your motoring needs whether it be for business, pleasure or nowhere in particular. Yours, A. MacBadger.”
This letter includes references to the aforementioned The Nifty Nineties cartoon as well as the obvious reference to the characters J. Thaddeus Toad and Angus MacBadger from Disney animated classic The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad. These mentions are an interesting find, but this letter goes deeper into the history of the building itself. When Town Square Theater was known as the Main Street Exposition Hall, it was home to several photo-ops. One of these backdrops was of the Magic Kingdom and included an actual ride vehicle from Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride. Guests were allowed sit inside to make it appear as if they were driving the motorcar down Main Street, U.S.A. Too bad Mickey didn’t decide to park his “Nifty Nineties” edition somewhere within the theater!
1. Bill Justice’s Mailbox
From 1973 to 1992, the Gulf Hospitality House on Main Street, U.S.A. was home to a film called The Walt Disney Story. There was a large mural in the pre-show area that included an incredible range of characters from Disney animated feature films and shorts. What made it spectacular was that it included ones both well-known such as Cinderella, Snow White, and Pinocchio, as well as less celebrated characters like Alan-a-Dale, Archimedes, Horace Horsecollar, and dozens of others.
This mural was painted by Disney Animator and Imagineer Bill Justice. Unfortunately, Bill’s mural did not make the transition to the Town Square Theater, but a reference to his work did. On the way back to meet Mickey, there is a set of postal slots. One of the openings is labeled B. Justice and has a rolled up piece of artwork inside. Guests who had the opportunity to see Bill’s original will immediately recognize the print.
These 10 details are just the beginning of all there is to find in the Town Square Theater. Be sure to keep an eye out for nods to Mary Poppins, Fantasia, 101 Dalmatians, The Jungle Book, Walt Disney himself and many others!
Photos from the author’s personal collection.
Kendall has been a member of the WDW Radio Team since 2013. Today, you can read her work on the WDW Radio Blog or hear her join Lou for a number of WDW Radio podcast episodes. Kendall’s affection for Walt Disney World began with her very first family visit in the 1990s and has continued with each magical vacation since. Follow her on Twitter @kl_foreman.