Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Railway opens today at Disneyland as part of the Disney100 celebration. If you’ve ridden the attraction that opened at Disney’s Hollywood Studios in 2020, you’ll know what to expect from the new West Coast version. It’s an almost identical recreation of the Disney World dark ride, an irreverent, lightly chaotic trip into a Mickey Mouse animated short, with all the zaniness and cartoon logic that entails. It’s essentially a newfangled, high-tech update on the basic concept behind Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride, and with its vibrant colors and cartoon aesthetic it fits perfectly into Mickey’s Toontown alongside Roger Rabbit’s Car Toon Spin (which is, itself, a modern riff on Mr. Toad.) It’ll no doubt be a major crowd-pleaser for decades to come, and that’s all I’m going to say about the ride.
As cool as the ride is, the new queue is something truly special. The Florida original uses the same Chinese Theater lobby that served as the queue for The Great Movie Ride; it’s functional and fits the ride’s movie premiere theme, but nothing about it relates directly to Mickey Mouse or Disney’s history of animation. The Disneyland version rectifies that with a large helping of charm and humor.
This Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Railway is also set in a movie theater, only it’s one designed to fit into the cartoon landscape of Toontown. The lengthy queue runs through the theater’s lobby, which is hosting an exhibit on Mickey Mouse’s 95 year career put on by Minnie Mouse and the Toontown Hysterical Society (expect a lot of questionable puns). The exhibit is full of “props” from Mickey’s films—the helm from “Steamboat Willie,” the plane from “Plane Crazy,” the spell book and sorcerer’s apprentice costume from Fantasia—as if these cartoons were actual physical constructs and not the hand-drawn works of art we know them as. It’s a cute, fun idea that fits the theme of Toontown, and Disney carries the idea throughout Mickey’s entire history, with separate rooms focusing on different eras of the character.
I might just be saying this because I grew up in the ‘80s, but for me the highlight of the queue was a display devoted to the Mickey Mouse Disco and Mousercise records that came out in the late ‘70s and early ‘80s. Lifesize Mickey figures decked out in his finest disco and workout threads stand on a colored dance floor as songs from the records play. It’s a surprising, unexpected reference to something rarely acknowledged in the theme parks today, and a fun tip of the hat to anybody who grew up with that music.
Other standouts include a huge vine from “Mickey and the Beanstalk” that breaks through the roof above, props from Mickey’s Christmas Carol, and costumes from the 1990 featurette “The Prince and the Pauper.” Elsewhere you can glimpse one of the ghosts from the ‘30s short “Lonesome Ghosts” materializing in a prop from the short, and instruments from 1935’s “The Band Concert.” And all throughout the lobby walls are covered with period-accurate posters for Mickey Mouse shorts that never actually existed.
Again: these are “props” and “costumes” from cartoons. These are not things that ever existed as real physical objects. It’s the kind of inspired goofiness you hope to find in a well-made cartoon, or in a theme park attraction based on cartoons.
Near the end of the queue, after the “exhibit” has ended, you’ll encounter the theater’s concession stand. It’s a big collection of easter eggs and winking nods to various Disney shorts and characters, and you’ll probably want to photograph every inch of it. (Darkwing Duck fans will be bummed they can’t actually order a box of Mallard Cups.) It’s the final set piece in the queue before moving on into a “theater” itself, at which point the experience largely follows along with what you’ll find at Hollywood Studios at Disney World.
Obviously the queue from the Chinese Theater wouldn’t work in this particular space, but I’m still impressed by how much effort and attention Disney put into building such an inspired and detailed experience simply to entertain guests while they’re waiting in line for what should be the attraction’s main event. Absolutely no slight meant to the ride itself, but the queue is at least the equal of it, as both an attraction and a work of themed art. If this was just a new walkthrough exhibit within Toontown, it would be a great addition to the park; as it is, it’s merely a prelude to a whole brand new ride. There’s a lot you can question about the Toontown remodel—much has already been said online about how the old Roger Rabbit fountain has been replaced by generic greenspace—but I don’t expect to see much criticism of this queue. However you feel about the current direction of Disney Imagineering, their queue game is about as great as it’s ever been.
Senior editor Garrett Martin writes about videogames, comedy, travel, theme parks, wrestling, and anything else that gets in his way. He’s on Twitter @grmartin.