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Orange Bird Photo Hunt


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The Hidden Mickey Controversy [Part Two]

By Mitch.

Lilly and I started this debate years ago.  She likes hidden Mickeys but feels they need not be overdone.  I do not like them at all.  This tradition of hiding these shapes started out innocently and fun.  Hidden details can be fun and I myself have inserted a number of things into the parks in years past.  But for me the controversy is a little more than just thinking hidden Mickeys are stupid and excessive, which they are.  I’ll explain my simple reasoning but first there’s an issue of fanhood.   Allow me to put on my mr. grumpy pants for this one.

Our appreciations for and criticisms of Disney evolve with time and as we gain knowledge and experience.  I find that my views get much more mature as I acquire knowledge.  My critics accuse me of not having an unconditional love for whatever Disney-related thing is placed before me, regardless of what it is.  This sort of mindless  desire to follow anything and everything the company produces is nonsensical.  I suppose the average park-goer does not have this sort of absentminded need to follow.  I imagine they do not feel the need to criticize everything they see either.  And honestly, existing somewhere in this middle-ground is probably the healthier place to be.

Where am I?
It’s pretty simple.  I love so many of the incredible accomplishments of Walt Disney and his creative teams of old and many of the accomplishments of the creative teams who have followed.  I love what Disneyland was in say 1967.  Was it not perfect?  I don’t have a Disney-themed house or car or anything else.  I have a small amount of tasteful keepsakes- mostly books, a few props, maps, film footage, etc.  I happen to dislike  an awful lot of things being created these days: Sub-par attractions that fail to lend to the philosophies of the parks and lands in which they reside (Test Track, Tiki Room UNM, etc.).  Or ephemeral family entertainment that seems to please even the most dim viewers for only  a short season, to name a couple.  Pooh’s little Magic Kingdom playground may look cute to passersby.  But if you remember the joy you felt aboard a 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea submarines that came before it, the little tree with Piglet on top may no longer feel so cute.  Is this even the same article I started out writing?  Really, it is…

First visits to the parks may provide such an abundance of visual goodness that less-seasoned guests need not want for more.  As we experience the parks more and more we desire to know more about the details.  While in this early stage, and upon learning about hidden Mickeys, we hope that any little nuggets of knowledge will bring us to the next level of expertise.  Knowing things that others know not gives us some sort of satisfaction.  “Did you know _______?” is a common phrase among fellow fans.  The more tidbits of information you can insert into that statement, the more of a fan you might feel you are.

Getting to the Point
My point is this…  The desire to find these hidden shapes is really a desire to see something you have never seen before and then share it with others.  The far more satisfying way of accomplishing this is the following.  Look for and find objects throughout the parks that are intended to be a part of the themes encircling them.  Don’t waste your time looking for the same three circles over and over. Get past this early stage of attempting to learn the details through hidden Mickeys and advance to the more gratifying stages of enjoying the true works of art around every corner. 

Ever notice the goat chewing on the dynamite at Big Thunder?  Or Mary Blair’s five legged goat in her Contemporary Hotel mural?  Ever focused on the depth of the set work in Pirates?  Ever just looked for something you’ve never noticed before?  Look at the Haunted Mansion ghosts in the upper portion of the ballroom instead of focusing on the three plates every time.  (I always loved moving those plates back to their original setting during early morning Mansion walk-throughs.  I’m sure it disappointed some, but by golly it was the right thing to do.)

The Real Details
As an artist, it baffles me that so much work and creative genius can go into creating something the world has never seen, only to have so many people ignore the work to look for a little nothing thrown in as an unrelated afterthought.  And that’s exactly what they are.  Original thought and care does not go into creating these things.  We should not give too much credit to that.  I cannot think of a single Hidden Mickey that lends to the story of the attraction in which it has been placed. 

The parks have so much to offer by way of wonderful details.  Here’s to the details!  The real details.


[ Part One ] by Lilly.


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Reader Comments (19)

Saying it like it is. I like it!

And no. I do not walk by and think piglet in that tree is cute.

May 8, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterAnonymous

I understand your point of view but, I think that most of the people looking for the 3 circles are also looking for other hidden things (besides little kids or people who know only of the hidden mickeys). Sometimes when scanning the area for a hidden mickey you end up finding something way better! I don't think they need to take such priority in attractions, but they aren't really the "problems" in the parks we need to concentrate on.

May 8, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterKate

Well Mitch, that's one for you and one for me. We'll see what the rest say. :)

May 8, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterLilly

"...not having an unconditional love for whatever Disney-related thing is placed before me, regardless of what it is." What is wrong with you, Mitch? Can't you just love EVERYTHING Disney-related??? You are unreasonable.

Dude, you are spot on.

May 9, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterTL98H8R

Hidden Mickeys aren't bad at all. Only noobs look for Hidden Mickeys, and the pros look at the details. Hidden Mickeys are just the training wheels for a future Disneyland enthusiast! Once they have had enough of the Hidden Mickeys and realize there is so much more detail in every ride than just hidden mouse shapes, they start to care about the details that Walt cared about himself. So they're a good thing :)

May 9, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterAnonymous

Very well said. Seeing a hidden Mickey is cute but searching all over the parks for them is not. Am I the only one who thinks that the guy who wrote a book about hidden Mickeys and has a website with his own rules about what makes a hidden Mickey is slightly in need of a new hobby?

May 9, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterPM

PM: Haha. Agreed. Although I'll bet too many people are giving him money.

May 11, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterLilly

True, my cousin bought the book and it seemed a lot less fun to look up the hidden mickeys rather than just finding them yourself...

May 11, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterKate

To me it's like fan nods in movies. They used to be fun when I got the feeling that the creator got a kick out of sneaking one in. But now they seem like a requirement. I don't sense that much joy goes into their creation.

May 13, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterMesa Verde

Your tendency to glorify a long gone era of Disney Parks is annoying. It's a certain form of hero worship. You're remembering it the way you experienced it. 20K leagues had a really sub-par illusion that required far too much suspension of disbelief than most were able to muster. And it was too expensive to upkeep, especially when you consider its passenger frequency being consistently low.

Basically what you're saying is that people shouldn't enjoy something that they enjoy. Don't be so self-righteous. Guests enjoy hidden Mickeys. Guests enjoy hidden anything. It doesn't really matter what it is. Now, if you're saying Imagineers are using hidden mickeys to become lazy on other details, then I sort of understand what you mean and would agree. However, there is no reason hidden mickeys and deeper details can't exist together.

I just have a hunch that if hidden mickeys had existed in the 60s with the same amount as now on all the attractions you put on a pedestal then you'd consider them fantastic details that are a staple in making the Disney parks what they are. But instead, it's just another thing enabling you to nit-pick and complain, all the while telling people that they're enjoying the haunted mansion wrong.
The best way, every scholar knows, is to enjoy the haunted mansion with the dinner plates separated.

May 17, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterChris

Chris, you should write an article about us complainers. It's refreshing to hear strong opposing views.

Anyway, I think you are missing my point. People can enjoy whatever they want to enjoy and that's fine. But Disney isn't here to produce things "just as long as they are enjoyed". That mentality encourages a lower standard, a lower quality. They have set up for themselves high standards from the beginning. There is an issue of integrity and the need to maintain that integrity. This isn't Old Town in Kissimmee (another attraction I happen to love, but for different reasons).

If you asked a hundred guests at random (and this is just an example) if there should be multiple Stitch statues in every land and in every ride, popping up squirting water out of his mouth, I bet a large number of them will say, "yeah, that sounds cute!". But is that the right thing for the parks? Maybe, maybe not. 99 people might want that but the company needs to find ways to please the guests without sacrificing what makes these lands and rides great. If an idea takes away from the principles behind the lands and parks (story, theme, inspiration, design, etc.), good judgements need be made. I remember a pole on the Gold Rusher ride at Six Flags Magic Mountain years ago that had hundreds of pieces of chewed gum on it. Management let it stay there for who knows how long because people liked it (myself included). But they have different standards than Disney and in my opinion it's ok for them and many other parks to follow the philosophy of "as long as people like it, it's ok for us".

As for the Haunted Mansion, I'm only sayin' that WOW, this ride is great. There is so much more too it than you can spot in the first hundred times you ride it so look around there's a lot to see. That's only my suggestion and nothing more.

May 17, 2010 | Registered CommenterMitch

The owner a fine restaurant shouldn't put McDonald's french fries on his menu just because people like them. It's not in his business plan.

Disney should not go down the path of becoming the Wal-Mart of theme parks. They can be classy and fun all at the same time.

May 17, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterTL98H8R

I like this blog because it isn't like the millions of other blogs who get excited about every new little thing that comes about. There seems to be a level of intelligence that exists among it's writers and readers. Yes, it does have a negative tone at times but what I get out of it is that a group of people who really care and want to express their cares and concerns AND the things they like, whether those things be from decades ago or from weeks ago.

May 17, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterAnonymous

I appreciate the response. I see your point a little better. While I agree with you on quality setting the Disney standard, I'm just not sure how I feel about dictating how and why something works based on a certain TYPE/distinction of enjoyment that not everyone shares. Identifying what makes quality, if narrowed too tightly, is far too esoteric and individualized. If there isn't a balancing act, Disney will be find itself trying to dictate peoples likes and tastes, which will backfire, and if they acquiesce too far, then the parks will fall to something substandard because the audience doesn't always know best (even though they sometimes do). this is an extremely difficult position on Disney's part and I don't envy it.
Such a position is such a difficult thing that I don't think can be figured out completely (which leaves risk, which sometimes pays off and other times does not). Take abstract art as an example. Two people can look at the same cubist painting and one person enjoys it because it makes him feel like the world is structured and patterned therefore he is calmed. All while the guy next to him feels enjoyment because the painting's colors remind him of the setting sun he saw at his childhood summer camp. These two could get in a fight about why they enjoy the painting and how the other is not enjoying it properly. Or, they could agree that it's a great painting, compile the reasons why each of them feels that way, and then agree that the deceptive simplicity makes it great. I see certain things like hidden mickeys functioning in this way in the parks.

Like I said before, the only real danger to hidden mickeys is if Imagineers confuse hidden mickeys or donalds or what have you as more than easter eggs, and use them to replace story and detail because they think the hidden mickey hunt is enough to keep keen-eyed guests occupied. That is when it will be too much. I have no idea if that's where we are.

Also, I too enjoy this blog because of the intelligence level and passion of the posters and bloggers. My only real criticism is of the excessive negative criticism that seems to be routine. Criticism is just a form of deconstruction. We look at the parts that work and don't work and try to figure out why. This blog stays away from complaining, mostly, which I appreciate. I'd just like to see more of a balanced deconstruction of the modern attractions as well as the classics. It does seem to fall more on why something doesn't work, without fairly exploring what does and why, and perhaps ideas (backed up with supporting reasons) as to how the attraction in question could be better represented.

May 17, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterChris

For someone who has been to the WDW a hundred or so times and ridden rides like the Haunted Mansion and Pirates 2-3 times each visit, searching for new stuff to see in the details and hidden mickeys I think it is just a new and exciting thing to do. Do I want 30 in each new attraction? no. Do I want 1 or 2 small unique very hidden ones? Yes. I have seen and looked for all the detail I can during rides and its a nice addition to try and hunt for the hidden mickeys when I've been to the park so many times. Its just something fresh.

I love love love going to Disney and won't ever stop but you have to admit that there are only so many times you can ride a ride until you have seen all the details. Searching for a hidden mickey or something like the goat eating a dynamite stick makes riding the ride almost new again. They don't hurt anyone being there and not everyone is going to notice the hidden mickey charm on Tyler Perry's necklace on the Rock-n Roller coaster so as Lilly said before as long as its not overboard and extremely obvious it only adds to the overall park. At least that's my opinion

June 25, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterryan

From a younger generation here, i'm 17 and love finding hidden mickeys, and especially introducing them to my friends. I think they're a fun little "secret" that make guests feel excited and "in the know." And though for many people (such as yourselves and other dedicated Disney fans) it may seem cliché and commercialized, finding these Hidden Mickeys makes my teenage friends, my mom's friends, and my 5 yr old cousin adds to the experience of it all, and makes there day just that more magical.
For me, to see the faces of those people who hardly go to Disneyland light up when they notice the plates at the HM (i personally like showing them the heads on the mantle of the fireplace...the very same that stare at you in the queue), or the dice in Astroblasters, or Big Ben in Peter Pan's Flight, that's what makes the Hidden Mickey's special.
However, i also know it isn't the only thing to see on an attraction. I try to point out to my guests every little special detail that goes into creating an environment and a feeling (not saying i know all of them, just trying to get them to appreciate it :) )
And as Walt said, "Disneyland will never be finished." Things in the park will always be changing and it is a thriving (well, theme park attendance has gone down these past few years) business.
And though the Hidden Mickeys may not contribute to a story in the attraction, they in a way continue to the story of the park, don't you think? Allowing each guest the opportunity to find a little magic in their day :)

August 16, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterDiana

Should Disney be buying non-Disney properties and sticking them in the parks? Kermit the Frog in DHS? Spiderman in Adventureland? HELL NO! But that's what it's coming to.

I hate the Iger regime at Disney, and I pretty much hated the prior (Eisner) regime, for that matter. I'm SICK of accountants running Walt's kingdom! I despair sometimes of things ever getting better, now that Roy's gone...

September 10, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterMagenta Panther

While I understand the frustration of people missing the bigger picture of what makes these rides so cool, at the same time this rant kind of sounds like "YOU'RE NOT HAVING FUN RIGHT!"

July 15, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterCaptain C

@Magenta Panther
I'm actually pretty cool with non-Disney properties in Disney parks providing they fit the theme. Kermit in DHS? That works. Technically, Walt did the same thing. Does no one else remember when the Fritos mascot appeared at Frontierland? If Kermit was randomly walking around Fantasyland, then we'd have a problem.

July 15, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterCaptain C

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