Mickey and the Magical Map Review
It has been with great anticipation that I have been waiting to see Mickey and the Magical Map. I was very excited to hear that those darn princesses would be moving out of Fantasy Faire, thus allowing the old Fantasyland Theater to return. Not much was known about the story of Mickey and his map, so I was anxious to know if this would be an original story, or more an opportunity for Disney to recycle existing stories and songs. So let’s find out with our Mickey and the Magical Map review.
The stage is great! It was the only thing we really got a peak at leading up to the show, and it looked really cool. The set dressings, while minimal, were eye catching. And the giant video screen in the background was impressive looking. What’s cooler is that the screen is actually built in three sections with a skewed visual look to it that allows for cast members to interact with the images on the screen at different levels. Very impressive!
But what’s it about? (Spoilers!)
Actually, I’m not really sure. The gist of things is that there is this map, see. And it’s magical and stuff. And Mickey and some of the other dancers are trying to paint it. Why are they trying to paint it? I have no idea. But Mickey isn’t allowed to paint it, because he’s just an apprentice. So at the beginning of the story, the other painters leave Mickey alone with the map and he decides he’s going to take that opportunity to finish painting it. You see, there was a very large spot in the middle that was unpainted. Why this would be so, I’m not sure. But this is why you don’t want me with you when watching something of a fantasy nature. I’m too logical!
So as Mickey tries to paint the spot, it becomes animated (think Flubber) and tries to run away from Mickey. Again, I’m not really sure why it doesn’t want to be painted. They don’t say. It just doesn’t, ok? And this is when the screen splits in half (also cool) and the show segues into a song and dance number with King Louie from The Jungle Book. This pattern repeats a few times as Mickey tries to paint that spot with great determination, and in between his efforts, we get performances from Pocahontas, Lilo and Stitch, Little Mermaid, Mulan, Princess and the Frog and Tangled.
Mickey eventually learns his lesson and that is that he can’t try to force a spot to be painted if the spot doesn’t want to be painted (????). And because he’s learned this lesson, Yensid declares that he has completed his apprenticeship and can now be a map maker. You see, the map should never be completed, not as long as there is imagination left in the world. Please now allow all of that to sink in.
But is it good?
Yes and no. I’m a story guy. That’s why I love Disneyland so much, because there is story behind everything. But if the story doesn’t hold, nothing else really matters. And this is the problem we see with a lot of entertainment these days. They think tech first, story second. They have this great idea for a stage show with a tiered video screen that allows the cast to interact. And it is really cool. But you can’t start there. You have to start with the story, and let the tech work around it. That’s not what happened here. Disney has tech, and songs they want to squeeze in, and it just doesn’t come together. The story is forced, random and unsatisfying.
But the good news is that just about everything else about the show was great. I of course loved the video screen concept. There are times where an illusion is created where the live action Mickey appears to fall right in to it, which is really cool looking. And there is lots of opportunity for expansion of this concept into other shows and ideas.
The songs were of course good, but that’s because they’re Disney standards. The highlight was probably the opening number with King Louie, which was tons of fun to watch. The closing routine from Princess and the Frog was also highly entertaining. The singing talent was exceptional.
I was also very impressed with the dancers and the choreography. Not because of their individual talent, which was very good, but because it appeared to me that Disney may have achieved something with these dance routines that they hardly ever do. They made the dance numbers contemporary and exciting, while not forcing it on us. Disney has, in the past, tried to be hip with their stage shows, with disastrous results. This is usually because they try to put these hip routines out front for their own sake, without really having a compelling reason to do so. But with Mickey and the Magical Map, they’re allowed to arrange some very interesting dance routines without making the dance routines the star of the show. The result is a very nice bland of dance, song, and stage.
Mickey and the Magical Map Review
All in all, I’d recommend seeing the show, but with limited expectations on the story, of which there isn’t much. But definitely enjoy the stage, the singing and especially the dancing. If you’d like to see the complete show, you can find it right here!