Part old-school theme park attraction, part love letter to animation, and part modern display of projection technology, Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway has finally landed in Disneyland’s Toontown, its second home, but its most fitting.
The Walt Disney World import is a nostalgia-fueled charmer, though it celebrates the Walt Disney Co.’s most recent animated shorts with the corporation’s biggest star since roughly 1928.
There are plenty of nods to modern theme parks in the trackless ride—characters look at us, talk to us, direct us, dance with us, and give the illusion of responding to us—but the latest addition to Toontown, opening Friday, is a Immediate standout in Anaheim Park’s portfolio for its don’t-make-them-like-they-used-to-do ethos.
Relatively slow-moving, family-friendly, and filled with tiny black-lit details, the attraction serves as a fully realized animated short brought to life. While packed with screens, Walt Disney Imagineers worked to make sure this was not some flat, passive 2-D theater, as digitally animated water fountains gushed all around us and tropical flowers seemed to blink between us.
If nostalgia is often a dominant factor at Disneyland, Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway works because it transcends it, focusing on the winning, hyperactive animated style of the company’s most recent series, “Mickey Mouse.” And yet it still manages to feel more like a 1930s short, with a train breaking down taking passengers to tropical hideaways, waterfalls, and a dance lesson with Daisy Duck. It’s not deep, but it’s silly, focusing on light themes of friendship and love, and culminating in a romantic outing between Mickey and Minnie Mouse that makes its pre-Valentine’s Day opening ideal for lovers and perhaps less so for those. who fight against heartbreak.
But even the happy ending of the trip comes with some Goofy-fueled hiccups. Walt Disney Imagineers spoke of the attraction fitting a lineage that stretches back to the earliest rides at Fantasyland, home to attractions inspired by the “Peter Pan” and “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs” films. “This particular attraction is really important to us because it sticks to the traditional storytelling while looking to the future of how we can modernize it,” says Marnie Burress, a portfolio project management executive at Imagineering, the company’s division responsible for the theme parks. experiences.
Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway follows a theme park design school where cartoons take precedence over a definitive plot. The ride definitely has the latter: a Mickey Mouse accident causes the train to break apart, but after the opening moments, we’re taken from scene to scene, one minute in a carnival, the next in a factory. It veers, happily, from the more cinematic school of ride design to focus on what theme parks do best, which is transport us into various environments that can enhance, exaggerate, or put a very fantastic spin on ourselves.
It also serves as a work of alternative history. While the ride itself is virtually identical to its Florida counterpart, the ride’s long queue is significantly different. Here, we enter a museum housed within a theater, one said to have been curated by Minnie Mouse, from the story of Mickey Mouse. There are nods to many of the once-mischievous rodent’s appearances: “Steamboat Willie,” “Fantasia,” and “Mickey and the Beanstalk” are just a few of the dozens of works mentioned.
Befitting its Toontown setting, works like “The Skeleton Dance” are treated as created and crafted by living toons rather than skilled animators. It’s a museum-like setting, but don’t expect a lively history lesson, as the plates are filled with eye-roll-worthy puns rather than actual facts. Still, clever details abound, like a little robotic figure of a lesser-known character like Erica, cruise director in Mickey’s short film “Shipped Out,” in the concession stand’s popcorn machine.
“This is a Mickey Mouse exhibit that we call ‘Through the Ears,’ organized by Minnie and the Hysterical Society of Toontown to mark the occasion,” said imaginator Manny Chavez. “Disney history buffs will find plenty in this queue,” as there are allusions to Mickey’s disco era, “The Goofy Movie” and even “Mickey Mouse Clubhouse.”
Pre-show special effects abound, including a ghostly mirror and, flown in from Florida, a shattering theatrical screen. Nationwide, the attraction is located at the resort’s Disney’s Hollywood Studios. But Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway feels like it’s always been destined for Toontown, where it will join the somewhat underrated Roger Rabbit’s Car Toon Spin as the land’s second exhibit attraction. Both are celebrations of animation, but Roger Rabbit does it with physical sets, while Runaway Railway uses the art of animation itself.
When the ride debuted in Florida in early 2020, just before the COVID-19 pandemic forced theme parks around the world to close, the Runaway Railway was faced with the unenviable task of replacing that park’s The Great Movie Ride. , an audio-animatronic showcase who was an animator. for the legacy of live action cinema. The Runaway Railway further altered that park’s theme, moving it away from the history of cinema and the making of movies into a collection of Disney-owned properties, and did so by replacing a fan-favorite single attraction with live theater elements.
There are no such obstacles at Disneyland, where Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway is a new addition that will anchor a redeveloped Toontown, set to fully reopen in March. For a park that was largely originally conceived by animators caught up in a new craft of theme park creation, Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway is an honorable tribute to the medium that built the first 100 years of Walt Disney Co.