Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Railway is coming to Disney’s Hollywood Studios at Walt Disney World! On this new attraction, guests step through the movie screen and join Mickey and friends on a railway adventure as they take part in the wacky and unpredictable world of a Mickey Mouse Cartoon Short. (Last updated April 8, 2019.)
Walt Disney Imagineer Kevin Rafferty came on stage during the Walt Disney Parks & Resorts panel during the D23 Expo and described Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Railway as a zany, out-of-control adventure with unpredictable twists and turns, dazzling visual effects, and mind-boggling transformations that happen during the scenes.
April 8, 2019 Update: While the official slated opening season for Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway has been “Fall 2019” for a while, rumors point to the attraction’s debut being delayed until Early 2020. While nothing is confirmed as of yet, and we assume Walt Disney World would like this to be open by the time Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge is unveiled in August to help absorb crowds, it now appears that Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway won’t be ready until 2020…
Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Railway is inspired by the Mickey Shorts on the Disney Channel, with a visual style matching those cartoons. Imagineering has partnered with Disney Television Animation to help bring the attraction to life…
Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Railway will feature a new story and a new singable attraction theme song (Rafferty billed the attraction as a totally original concept, but also underscored just how closely Imagineering was working with the Mickey Shorts team).
He also indicated that they had developed pioneering technology that Imagineering is calling “2 1/2 D.” This sounds somewhat akin to the glasses-free 3D that James Cameron has mentioned for the Avatar sequels, except the visual style here calls for 2D sets, so I’m guessing this will use similar technology, but with the goal of immersing guests in a different style of environment. The good news is that no glasses will be required.
Rafferty also promised that “this is not going to be a small attraction, it’s going to be game-changing.” That bodes well for Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Railway, and I think it’s safe to say Imagineering will make every effort for Mickey Mouse’s first fully-fledged theme park attraction to live up to the iconic character’s reputation.
There’s one downside to this: in order to begin to prepare the new home of Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Railway at Grauman’s Chinese Theatre in Disney’s Hollywood Studios, Great Movie Ride presented by Turner Classic Movies has now permanently closed.
It’s not surprising that Great Movie Ride is closing so soon. As we previously reported, Imagineering has already filed a “Notice of Commencement” permit with the Orange County, Florida Comptroller for “Project M — Package 1” with Great Movie Ride’s approximate location identified as where the work is to occur. The expiration of the permit is October 31, 2019.
That, compounded with the fact that I’ve never really seen these new Mickey Shorts on the Disney Channel (I watched one once and wasn’t really into it) gave me an initially tepid reaction to this. It was not the Mickey Mouse that I grew up watching.
With that said, I recognize that these Mickey Shorts are insanely popular. We know several parents who say that their kids absolutely love them. It’s definitely a distinct visual style, and I can see why there’s appeal. I also “my” version of Mickey Mouse was not the original Mickey Mouse, anyway, and his style has been malleable over the years as different generations of artists made their impressions.
So with all of that baggage out of the way, I remain cautiously optimistic about Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Railway. A video of very early/rough test footage was shown at the D23 Expo of one of the “mind-boggling transformations” mentioned above, and it looked really cool.
Rafferty was careful to note that was very early, very rough proof of concept footage. If something early looks that cool, I think the visual transformation effects could have a lot of potential. In fact, I could see this being a lot like a next-generation Roger Rabbit’s Car Toon Spin, which I think is a very strong attraction.
The glasses-free nature of the attraction is also appealing, I just hope there’s more than just screens. Bringing a few of these characters to life with cutting-edge Audio Animatronics sounds really, really cool to me…but I’m guessing that is not going to happen.
Maybe Imagineering already mocked them up and it didn’t look quite right to bring characters with a distinctly 2D visual style to life as three dimensional figures, or maybe that just is not the direction they want to go with the attraction. (Or, maybe they will do it!) Even though there was a lot of time spent on this attraction during the Parks & Resorts panel, little substantive information about the attraction was offered.
With that in mind, I still think the potential for this attraction is through the roof. If The Great Movie Ride must close, Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Railway still sounds like a good choice for a replacement. A cutting-edge Mickey Mouse attraction as the park’s centerpiece behind the famed facade of Grauman’s Chinese Theater sounds almost perfect.
The “almost” part of this is because it still pains me that the Great Movie Ride will be closing. I’ve been preparing myself for this for a while, and the more time has worn on, the more I’ve come to terms with this ride’s days being numbered. While it was once a flagship attraction in the Disney-MGM Studios, that was a different era.
The writing has been on the wall for a while with regard to The Great Movie Ride. It seemed that the TCM sponsorship forestalled the inevitable for a little while and briefly breathed new life into an aging attraction, but without a large-scale refurbishment at that time, that’s all it did.
The Great Movie Ride has felt tired for a while–from the corny script to a few scenes that have not aged well–it would have needed a massive refurbishment to keep it fresh for another two decades. Even if that were to happen, I’d worry about how Disney would choose to update the attraction with its current focus on what IP is hot now, and with that in mind, it’s easier to come to terms with its closure.
By the time Star Wars Land and Toy Story Land are both open in a couple of years, this park will be two generations removed from the Disney-MGM Studios park some of us fans grew up with. While so many of us loved (and continue to love) that version of the park, it has been gone for a while, and there is zero chance of that incarnation ever being resurrected.
In a lot of ways, the Great Movie Ride is very similar to Universe of Energy. Both are old-school dark rides that are slow-moving, both feature long ride-times, and both are largely passive experiences from a different era. While I’d content that Great Movie Ride has much more timelessness and fan popularity, I also think that the replacement concept for Great Movie Ride has a lot of potential and is thematically appropriate for its park. So, this stings a bit, but not nearly as much as Guardians of the Galaxy going into Epcot. This is mostly a positive, I feel.
On the plus side, there is a new vision for the park, and I think it’s a rather strong one that retains elements of old Hollywood while also injecting adventures based on various Disney properties. It may not be as thematically cogent as on opening day, but I think the theme, motifs, and substance will–collectively–make it a considerably better park for guests. If it lives up to the legacy of Mickey Mouse, I think Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Railway has the potential to be the attraction that ties the entire park together, being Disney’s Hollywood Adventure’s flagship draw. There’s a lot that remains to be seen before we get to that point, but I’m willing to remain cautiously optimistic on this.
What do you think about the concept for Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Railway? Was it what you were expecting? Do you think this concept has potential, or would you rather have seen a “Great Mickey Ride” that took guests through Mickey Mouse’s classic on-screen performances? Do you agree or disagree with my reaction to this announcement? Hearing from readers is half the fun, so please share your thoughts or questions below in the comments!