Disney has long been an innovator. Among the more recent Disney innovations are the interactive queues. But they are not Disney’s first attempt at interactivity. Before you could sort gems with the seven dwarfs there was Pal Mickey.
Pal Mickey was a ten inch Mickey Mouse plush but he was more than just a toy to carry around. He was an interactive tour guide to all four parks at Walt Disney World.
Pal Mickey, besides being an stuffed animal, had a microprocessor, and an infrared sensor. It also had three squeeze buttons and a speaker.
Despite all the things stuffed into Pal Mickey he was still soft and cuddly. He was also small enough for children to carry and had a loop on the back of its head for easy carrying.
Pal Mickey was available for purchase at the parks and resort gift shops.
Pal Mickey had three buttons, one in each of his hands and one in his stomach. If you were outside of the parks when you pushed buttons Mickey would tell jokes or play games.
But it was inside the Park that he truly became magical. There were over four hundred infrared transmitters scattered through the parks. When you got near one of the transmitters Pal Mickey would giggle and being to vibrate. Push one of his buttons and he would relay things like tips about the area you are in, parade schedules, showtime reminders, what characters might be nearby and rides with short wait times. He came with a memory system that kept him from repeating the same tip over and over (at least he was supposed to.)
If you were in the park but near one of the sensors, you could still push his buttons to play games or hear jokes.
Pal Mickey 2003-2008
Pal Mickey was first released in 2003. Then in 2008 he was discontinued. This is from the official notice:
As a result of our efforts to evaluate product offerings as technology continues to evolve, Pal Mickey, the interactive plush that was introduced in 2003 for use at the four Walt Disney World® Theme Parks, will be discontinued. Although Pal Mickey will no longer be available for purchase, the interactive plush will continue to operate in the four theme parks as they do today. Source WDW Magic.com
Beyond the statement that Pal Mickey was being discontinued there was no real explanation. Internet speculation fell into two main areas, price and function.
Even the original price of $50 was a little high. When it jumped to $65 in 2005 (almost a 30% increase) he was simply out of the budget for many people who viewed him as just an expensive plush.
There were also many complaints about his function. Sometimes he would get stuck, for example, and repeat the same tips, games and jokes no matter where you were or what you did. There were also complaints that you could not hear him over the noise of the parks when he was working right.
There is a third (and probably the real reason) he was discontinued, he was not selling enough to justify the space he took up on the shelves. Put simply, he was not making Disney a profit.
With the introduction of My Magic Plus (which cost Disney over a billion dollars) there is a glimmer of hope. Now that Disney has the infrastructure to pinpoint you anywhere in the park maybe a new version of Pal Mickey could be in the future? After all it would be much more magical to have Mickey tell you when your next Fastpass is coming up or which rides have the lowest wait times than checking your smart phone. Grumpy is not saying he has insider information, mind you, but it might be a way for Disney to get even more money from us. And you know Disney likes that.
The Three Versions Of Pal Mickey
There were three different versions of Pal Mickey.
The first was released in 2003. He was dressed in the traditional red shorts, white gloves and yellow shoes. He sold for $50 but could be rented for $8 per day plus a $50 deposit. Rentals were discontinued in 2004.
In 2005 a second version of Pal Mickey was released. This version had the white gloves and yellow shoes. But the buttons on his shorts were changed to gold and he also had a black tail coat and gold bowtie, both of which were removable. In his right hand he held a gold medallion to commemorate the “Happiest Celebration On Earth” and pressing his right hand would cause one of Happiest Celebration on Earth Glow Medallion (sold separately) to light up. His speaker was also upgraded and he had several new things to say over the previous version. The price increased to $65.
In 2006 the final version, Sorcerer Pal Mickey, was released. Over his red shorts he wore the red sorcerer robe, blue had and blue shorts associated with Mickey Mouse in Fantasia. They were removable. The price remained at $65.
There were a total of six outfits that were released during the production of Pal Mickey. They were Mickey Mouse Club, Pin Trading, Safari, Rain Wear, Pirate Cap’n and Santa Mickey. The outfits were $10 each.
There was also a Spanish Version of Pal Mickey.
Pal Mickey Lives On
Disney does not sell Pal Mickey anymore but you can still buy him. He can be found on both Ebay and Amazon, although it took a little searching to find him on Amazon. So if you just have to have one you can still get one. Buyer beware, of course.
That said, Grumpy can neither confirm nor deny that he still functions.
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