Written by Alina Mae Wilson
I WENT TO DISNEYLAND!!! Despite my status as an Orange County local, it has been many years since I have visited the Happiest Place on Earth. It has even been longer since I have seen one of the Disney classics that I watched as a child. So when I discovered a few characters were doing a performance in Fantasyland I charged in eager to reminisce.
Mickey and the Magical Map made it’s debut in Fantasyland Theatre back in 2013. Apparently it’s still going strong. This live-action adventure starts out with the great one himself –the symbol of all that is wholesome and good in the Disney universe–Mickey Mouse! Mickey is decked out in his apprentice garb and wants to move on from performing tedious chores to map painting (this is evidently some sort of magic reserved for more advanced wizards like Mickey’s employer, Sorcerer Yen Sid). When Mickey decides to finish painting a spot on the map in order to prove himself ready to be a real mapmaker, the spot takes him on a musical journey featuring both beloved classics (like “Under the Sea”) and some more recent hits (like “I See the Light). What’s that? You don’t know a song called “I See the Light”? Don’t worry, modern day children will definitely… Well, no they won’t, but they will recognize singers Princess Rapunzel and Flynn Rider from the 2010 film Tangled, and if that’s good enough for them, it’s good enough for me. Moving on.
Let’s talk about atmosphere. The day I went to see the show it began to rain, so huddling in Fantasyland Theatre’s massive tent provided some much needed respite from the current downpour. As you may suspect, many other people felt the same way. Never fear –it is Disneyland after all –so they anticipated a huge crowd. The audience is spread out nicely to counter any overt feelings of being cramped, and the stage is set up in such a way that I don’t think there is a bad seat in the house. This statement can also be taken as a directive for people chaperoning young children–don’t stress! The biggest concern in finding a good seat is finding a seat. As stated, it will get pretty crowded, so if you are with a big group that is unwilling to split up for the show, try to get there a little bit early to find room together.
For the most part the visuals are lovely–Mickey goes back and forth between being a solid being in front of us and being an image on the screen. This is obviously to enable him to do a few magic tricks for our benefit, and it manages to not detract from the story –this is probably because these transitions are absolutely seamless. I mean, they are really, really good. The previously mentioned screen serves as a giant backdrop for all the action and shifts from being the magical map to being the colorful setting for various songs. No complaints to be found here.
The performances are good, but the music itself is in doubt for me. From the standpoint of a reviewer I recognize the need to check all expectations at the door. From the viewpoint of a nostalgic fan, I wish the songs sounded more like the originals. Don’t panic, it’s not like they changed everything to Disney Channel Pop, but they did change the voices of some of the singers. One difference in particular sticks in my mind. Sebastian is now less baritone and more tenor. I realize that the singers are not going to sound exactly the same as the originals, but as someone who doesn’t think people with lower registers get enough love these days anyway, this is important to me. Also, I came here to reminisce Disney! If I wanted a re-imagining of these films I would have stayed home and watched Once Upon a Time. But I digress. For the most part the songs are true to the originals.
Nothing negative to say about the featured princesses, their voices are all well-suited for their respective tasks. Pocohontas, Mulan, Rapunzel, and Tiana all make appearances. Their songs sound good separately, but despite some songwriter’s best efforts, they sound weird when meshed together at the end. And of course, there is the fact of Rapunzel singing “I See the Light,” which is forgettable even in the context of her own movie. Tiana’s song “Dig a Little Deeper” isn’t great on it’s own, but it does encourage some audience interaction and increases energy. When all is said and done, this is a very good way to spend twenty or so of your minutes during the trip.
The music is not perfect, but it’s pretty darn close. The energy onstage is captivating, and people of all ages can enjoy seeing these characters they have so grown to love. There is something very interactive about the whole experience. The excellent views of the stage and comfortable environment add to the feeling that the cast members are performing exclusively for you. The ending is just about as pleasantly Disney as it gets, and the story before manages to keep the attention of adults and kids alike. This is an excellent way to rest your feet without stopping the day’s entertainment. Be sure to ask Disney cast members (employees) about Mickey and the Magical Map.