When Imagineers create the next chapter of a Disney classic attraction, we have a responsibility to bring that story to life with faithfulness, with charm, and in a way that feels at once compellingly new and warmly familiar. But how do you take on that responsibility when the story you are telling is that of none other than Mickey and Minnie? Talk about having some big yellow shoes to fill!

An Iconic Starting Place

The journey began with the reimagining of the Chinese Theatre at Disney’s Hollywood Studios at Walt Disney World Resort. An iconic landmark needs iconic headliners—and Mickey and Minnie have a history with the venue dating back almost as far as their 1928 theatrical debut. To bridge our world and theirs, Imagineers invite guests to the premiere of a new Mickey and Minnie short, through the silver screen, and into the center of a bright, playful cartoon adventure.

Beginning with Story to Define Experience

To put guests in the center of a Mickey and Minnie short, Imagineers began by asking themselves some foundational questions: What are the elements of a great Mickey and Minnie story? What is our guests’ role in that story? What’s unique about being in a cartoon? How do we want our guests to feel as the adventure unfolds? The answers to these questions came together to form the attraction’s narrative and guest experience. They became the North Star for a bi-costal design team.

That North Star matters because every project Imagineers undertake requires thousands of individual decisions from experts in many different disciplines, each with their own tools for storytelling.  In Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway, the whole Imagineering team worked together to consistently reinforce the experience that guests had been transported from a Hollywood theater, into a cartoon world.

Building on Details

That team-wide commitment to a common vision ultimately reaches down to the smallest details. Cartoon worlds are flat, graphic, and bold. They’re made of ink and paint and pixels and light, not steel or concrete or fiberglass. Translating that animated look to the physical world means inventing new ways to blend printed graphics with painted sets, and carefully mixing video projection with show lighting, to build a cohesive, immersive, and dynamic environment. It means taking the shine off of a metal ride vehicle because animated trains are reflection-free. These choices come together to faithfully recreate the look and feel of Mickey and Minnie’s 2D world.

As Mickey and Minnie appear throughout the attraction, they always feel like Mickey and Minnie. The same guiding principles of guest experience and story allowed the team to represent beloved characters in the medium that would work best for each moment—whether that was projected 2D animation for a chaotic wide-shot, or as Audio-Animatronics® figures for an intimate epilogue duet.

The Many Behind the Mouse

Delivering the look and feel of an authentic Mickey and Minnie adventure also means reaching out to the talent that brings those adventures to the screen. Imagineers collaborated with Disney Television Animation as well as Paul Rudish and Joseph Holt, executive producer and original art director, respectively, of the “Mickey Mouse” shorts. Together, the team ensured that the newly three-dimensional characters and world retained the look, feel, and detail of the original shorts.