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Talking Mickey Mouse greets Disneyland vistors

Disneyland is testing a new talking animatronic mask to replace the previously mute Mickey Mouse. It’s partially charming, partially scary:

(Thanks, Iain)

  • A.C.

    “Are you having a good time?”

    “THANK YOU!”

  • Erin Siegel

    Nifty! Now if they can just get the eyes to look in the right direction.

  • doop

    Thats… kind of cool? Is it a voice changer or some kind of automated response system?

  • Shawn Jackson

    It’s probably initially going to get slammed by the masses, but kudos to Disney for pushing the envelope nonetheless…….

  • AdrianC.

    Cool! I imagine it’s an automated response system rather than a voice changer; the quote A.C. used makes me think this. Regardless, I think it makes the experience of meeting Mickey at Disneyland that much more authentic or special. If they can make the eyes move that might make Mickey seem less creepy…or maybe just the reverse. I’m not quite sure.

  • AdrianC.

    Upon doing a quick search on Youtube, Disney apparently tested out this idea last summer. In the clips I’ve seen, Mickey’s dialogue is much more dynamic and pertinent to the situation then in the clip above. This makes think that at that time they had Bret Iwan or some other voice actor in a remote location so he could deliver his dialogue in real time. I also noticed that Mickey can blink during these tests. Here’s an example: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d6k2xdtU8Wc

    • Kate

      Wow he looks really great this other video! I think the eye-blinking makes him look a lot more natural.
      Normally I do find animatronics creepy, but this is more like puppetry, since he can react in real time.
      However if I was small then I would probably still be scared of it.. but then I was one of “those” children (I also was terrified of meeting Santa)

    • Disney Fan

      You’re correct. For those earlier tests they had Bret Iwan at a remote location watching the interactions on a monitor. I believe it was one of his first Mickey gigs. The actor playing Mickey had to try and guess what Bret was going to say and try to coordinate their motions with Bret’s words.

  • Disney always do stupid ideas well, and it’s a smart choice that Mickey uses the same old outdated expressions he always did, like “Oh boy!” and, even more pleasingly, “Hot dog!”.

    • Luke

      Tourists: “Hey, it’s Mickey, want to have a picture with Mickey kids?”

      Mickey robot: “OMG, LOL, that would be kewl.”

      I prefer the outdated phrases.

    • Funkybat

      I agree that it’s better for Mickey to continue to spout “Oh Boy” etc. rather than try to get “hip” to the “lingo” of a given time. Mickey is a creature of the early 20th century, and unless he were completely retooled to be contemporary to some later era, he should stay largely planted in the 20s-50s. I think my ears would spontaneously combust if I heard Mickey say “For reals, tho” or “That’s sick!”

  • Steven M.

    Interesting idea, but it can’t go without saying that it’s a little creepy.

  • Randy Koger

    Actually, I think it’s kinda fun….but it sure has a long way to go yet.
    For one thing, it sounds like canned responses that don’t always fit the situation. It comes off kinds spastic and sterile. But it’s a good start.

    When I was at Disney World last year they had a roving, talking trash can that was controlled and given voice by someone nearby but out of sight. It worked perfectly because the trash can gave appropriate responses to anyone interacting with it. And it was funny! Seeing kids interact with it was especially fun.

    Maybe Mickey needs to be controlled, voice and response-wise, like the trash can was. The employee in the costume also needs to turn down the spastic responses. It’s way to jerky and fast.

    But as I said, it’s a great start and a good idea. I always thought the silent characters were sorta strange considering that they all got their starts in cartoons – lots of sound and personality.

  • Randy Koger

    I just watched the youtube video mentioned by AdrianC.

    Now THAT’S what it should look like. That was great!

  • d. harry

    it cut’s just before Mickey starts to tell him “now carry your butt outta here”!

  • 2011 Adult

    What’s creepy about this? I for one have been waiting to see this happen FOR YEARS.

  • Gobo

    They’ve been using the fully articulated eye-blinking heads in the musical show at the WDW Magic Kingdom for a year or so now, and the effect is really striking. The articulated eyes give all the characters a whole range of emotions, which on Donald looks terrific.

    Now, as for actually meeting these guys — as a kid the thing that really freaked me out, besides MEETING MICKEY, was his hollow staring eyes, open mouth, and mute miming. Really kind of weird. I wouldn’t have been nearly as intimidated by this.

  • Well, Walt would’ve dug it. That said, maybe Disney Inc. oughta re-train the folks inside these costumes NOT to move around so much now that their characters can speak. After all, the constantly waving arms, nodding heads and Chubby Checker-esque waists were a product of the pantomime used because the characters COULDN’T speak. Doing both just makes ’em look like cartoonized versions of Christian Bale’s jittery junkie character in The Fighter.

    Anyway, congrats to the Imagineers. You’ve given the guys and gals at Real Dolls a real burst of inspiration!

  • tedzey

    I could tell that camera man wanted to get the hell out of there once the mouse cracked it’s lips!

  • Brandon Pierce

    It just needs to blink its eyes every once in awhile.

    • Blinking would make it tougher for the photographers to get a good shot.

  • Look awesome!

  • tgentry

    I was expected to be creepy! It’s actually a whole lot less creepy then the motionless dead faces that we’re so used to by now. Good job Disney!

  • love it. so cool

  • This is a GREAT idea.

    People are going to hate it.

  • Scarabim

    I don’t think it’s creepy. I think it’s cool.

    And I don’t think people are going to hate it. Look how the kids responded to the talking Mickey in Adrian’s video. That was wonderful. That was gold.

  • Stolle

    I don’t get how this is “creepy”.

  • Gee Whiz.
    Does this Mickey have other movable rubber… parts?

    • VGREER

      lol now *that’s* creepy.

  • Oliver

    Reminds me of the mass-murdering cult leader in Naoki Urasawa’s ’20th Century Boys’.

  • Emily

    I think this is going to be awesome for little kids! Much better than speechless Mickey head.

  • CVG

    This is great! I remember as a kid when first meeting Mickey thinking, “Why isn’t he talking?” and it made me wonder if I was (really) meeting Mickey. But if I had met a talking one I think I would have been completely enchanted to see this. It’s like how you start to believe a puppet’s “character” when it’s in motion looking around and talking to you, and you forget the guy holding the puppet. Just add a little blink and some personal touches like “he can say your name” and I’m sold.

  • That is the coolest thing I’ve seen all day. I honestly think this is incredible! Having Mickey and all the other characters engage in a conversation like this is fantastic! I can’t wait to see more to come out of this.

  • J.M

    They should just hire a voice actor.
    Mickey´s voice is easy to do…now I dunno about the Donald Duck. That could cause problems to the actor´s throat.

    • Funkybat

      Yeah, I don’t think we need a more “authentic” Donald in the parks. Not only is his general temperament often seething or outraged, even when happy his speech is barely intelligible. Having the general public, especially children, interact with someone whose speech is open to interpretation is probably not a good idea. I picture lawsuits claiming “Donald said @#&^%$*&# to my child!!”

    • Given how lots of people can’t even understand what Donald’s saying most of the time, I think it might work for him to just say a list of pre-recorded things, like it seems Mickey is doing in the first clip.

      I don’t think this is any creepier than the costumed characters usually are, if anything the talking makes them seem more like themselves and less like strangers in costumes. The second clip where he’s talking to the girls is great.

  • I think it looks pretty cool…

  • Justin Delbert

    This new idea is pretty cool because Mickey can now talk to the guest (literaly). Check out the related videos of this after the posted video. The late Wayne Allwyne once said that the parnets have their memories of seeing Mickey and they want to share it with their children. They absolutly love Mickey. Heck, I still have my memory of meeting Mickey. Everyone should be aware that although Mickey Mouse fully developed the look we’re used to now in 1939, The art of costumed characters has changed over the years. Go to old history sites on Six Flags and see different Bugs Bunny costumes over the years for an example. I think Walt Disney would have loved this because he loved technology, and this is a new step.

  • BobT

    I feel bad for the person having to wear the suit. I can imagine it being torture having to endure an entire day in a hot smelly costume like that. But now you have to listen to these canned responses as well?

    I’d probably go bananas after the hundredth “Hot dog!”

  • Dr. Ivo Robotnik

    Thank you for providing more fuel for my nightmares.

    • Mad dog

      But robotnik how can this be scary? Considering you turn poor little animals into robots! XD

  • Keith Paynter

    It still won’t prevent them from occasionally being kicked in the junk…”Oh, boy!”

  • Katella Gate

    Wow, this is a good start. I think it’s a strong concept, and I am sure it’s gonna work well. As a kid I was always a “rubber head hater” because there was no interaction and pantomime is alien to most kids. This fixes the problem.

  • plastic bottle

    Can anyone say Howard the Duck?

  • I’m thinkin’ suicide would look good after one day of working the talking Mickey suit.

  • Brian Kidd

    I agree that, in cases where Mickey is going to be in a single location, a live voice actor is a must. The interaction that a guest receives at shows like the Laugh Floor and Turtle Talk is wonderful. Can you imagine the thrill a child would get from this? Heck, as an adult it would make my day.

  • Cyber Fox

    I don’t find it creepy at all
    I think it’s about as creepy as the Worlds of Wonder Storytellin’ Mickey doll

  • Galen

    But what does it sound like in person? Does Mickey’s voice sound live, or like it’s coming through a speaker? Where is the speaker located? In the head? Is there any mechanical noise generated from the moving parts of the head? A YouTube video might be the best way to experience this. The real test is how it feels in person.

  • Lucy

    ….I remember my trip with my family to Disneyworld last year, it was the first time either my brother or myself had seen the moving faces (in one of their stage shows). Now, we’re both in our early twenties….

    ….But we were freaked the hell out by it. The fact they talk now makes it even worse. My next stop on the Internets is his Facebook page, to post this.

    Yay, nightmare fuel.

  • Mickey gets a S.AG. card, Kool!

  • DB

    OMG – that is exactly the kind of thing that would have TERRIFIED me as a 5 or 6 year old child.

    I was also petrified of clowns and Santa Claus – but this Mickey would have probably sent me into cardiac arrest.

    Way to go, Disney!

  • pez

    When I was a kid I always wished the characters could talk… at least in the Shows. I think this is great!
    I can’t wait to go check it out.

    I want a talking Donald and Goofy next!

  • Steve Gattuso

    The ultimate trick would be to include some sort of modulator into the mask so that the actor could speak and have their voice and mouth movements converted into Mickey’s. This could invite some degree of abuse, but the actors are already coached into their best behavior.

    I’m sure there are folks who find this creepy. There’s folks who find mute creatures creepy. Me, I find the guy who drives the parking lot shuttle creepy. Something about a bad experience on a tram as a child…

  • What threw me off were the gestures. It’s like they always say about animating humans being so difficult because we know how humans should move and act; same goes for Mickey. By adding a voice, it makes you more critical about how Mickey is portrayed. This Mickey seemed off.

  • tiffany

    the gestures!
    car salesmen mickey

  • Mad dog

    I love this! However I will have to say it would be better this was a voice changer instead of a prerecorded dialogue.

    It was kinda awkward when the guy asked how the park was.

  • Matt

    This isn’t creepy at all!
    However, this video doesnt do this cool invention justice. Youtube “Talking Mickey Mouse” and watch some better ones. Kids AND adults are having a blast with it!

  • I bet when he was silent at Disney parks he was “Plane Crazy” about Barney the annoying dinosuar!

    So he’s now in his “Steamboat Willie” or better yet, “Karnival Kid” phase, the parks’ newsletter healdines “Mickey Mouse Speaks”!

    Mickey ages slower than his actual cartoon counterpart in the real world theme parks.

    If Walt Disney was alive when “Sesame Street” first had Big Bird, he would have pioneered that invention like all of the other stuff he’s “credited” for but did not invent, like sound cartoons, color cartoons, and animated features.

  • rghbr

    …What’s Mickey’s appeal anyway?
    I wonder if the other characters are doing this too.