The most enduring symbol of Disney theme parks finally has a permanent home. For the very first time, the world’s most famous rodents will put down roots at a theme park when Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway, the newest ride at Disney’s Hollywood Studios at Walt Disney World Resort, opens today.
The beloved duo had gone nearly a century without a place to call their own, but don’t expect Disney’s latest attraction to be an homage to Mickey’s past. While the iconic cartoon mouse, who first made his debut in Walt Disney Studios’ Plane Crazy, was originally rendered in black and white back in 1918, Mickey & the gang are seen here in a modernized, almost gritty reinvention of that early animation, presented in the chromatic style of Disney’s popular Mickey Shorts cartoon series.
You’ll find yourself inside one of those very cartoons soon enough — aided by an eye-popping effect that will leave riders chomping at the bit to enter — but what you’ll walk away from is much more dynamic than a mere television program. Almost as soon as Goofy pulls his passenger-packed train out of the station, each car splits apart to reveal a system of four “trackless” vehicles sliding and swirling in an unpredictable manner that’s instantly glee-inducing.
Eight-passenger vehicles seamlessly glide from room to room, traversing busy city streets, jungle landscapes, a raucous carnival and even a surprise underwater dip without having to travel too far, because none of it’s actually there. You’re whipping past a twister but far from peril; plunging down a waterfall but bone dry. With flat visuals that don’t sacrifice depth for dimension, the stylistic color-drenched projections are made all the more real when paired with the ride’s physical sensations.
At times, you’ll find yourself floating through a sewer into a downtown city where you can feel the jackhammer’s rumble or doing the Conga as a student in Daisy Duck’s dance studio; both are as smooth as they are wildly unpredictable. Just when you think the ride is over, you’ll get a vibrational jolt; it’s conductor Goofy jump-starting the train before pulling back into the station.
Whimsy and chromatic with a less-is-more aesthetic, it pays homage to some of Disney’s greatest hits (in this case, Hong Kong Disneyland’s Mystic Manor and Luigi’s Rollicking Roadsters at Disney California Adventure, both trackless-style rides) with the two-dimensional set pieces pulling nostalgic-sapped fans towards memories of early Disneyland rides like Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride.
Mickey Mouse’s first ride may be for all ages, but the sensations and spaces pack a punch heretofore not seen within Walt Disney World’s toddler-friendly experiences. With no height minimum — everyone can ride! — it’s fun for the entire family and itself a significant representation of the modern re-imagination of both Mickey and Disney’s Hollywood Studios as a whole. Plagued by large-scale construction the past few years, the former Disney-MGM Studios has emerged anew with new Star Wars and Toy Story-themed lands offering a testament to the robust entertainment profile of The Walt Disney Company and marking that this park — and these classic Disney characters— ready for their time in the sun.
And after 91 years? It’s about time.