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The year that Mickey & Minnie almost got married

Jim Hill

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The year that Mickey & Minnie almost got married

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Take a moment. Go check out your Disney t-shirt and coffee mug collection. There's an awful lot of anniversary logos & celebration slogans there, aren't there? 35 Years of Magic. 40 Years of Adventure. 100 Years of Magic. Remember the Magic. Year of a Million Dreams. What Will You Celebrate? Give a Day, Get a Day. And - of course - Disney Parks & Resort's most recent effort, Let the Memories Begin.

But for every one of these Disney Parks promotional campaigns that receive major media buys, which were then supported by splashy newspaper ads & numerous TV commercials ... There were an equally large number of campaigns that never quite made it out of committee.

Take - for example - that promotion which Jack Lindquist dreamed up for Disneyland's Summer of 1991. Which was when Jim Henson's Muppet*Vision 3D was supposed to have replaced the Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln show at that theme park's Main Street Opera House.

Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved

Jack wanted to do something genuinely big to make the public aware that the Muppets were now in residence at the Happiest Place on Earth. Which is why he proposed sending Mickey, Minnie, Donald, Pluto & Goofy off on vacation for the entire Summer of '91. So that -- while the Fab Five were away from Anaheim -- the Muppets would then be left in charge of Disneyland.

And from the moment that you came thru the turnstiles that summer, you would have known that this theme park had a new (albeit temporary) head honcho. Given that the Mickey-shaped floral planter that's adorned the lawn in front of the Main Street, U.S.A. train station for decades now would have been replaced by a Kermit-shaped planter.

Mind you, even if you were out driving by on the 5 during the Summer of '91, you would have known that something unusual was going on at Disneyland. Given that - as part of this promotion -- Jack wanted to paint the Matterhorn Kermit-the-Frog green.

The "Here Comes the Muppets" stage show as it was presented at Disney-MGM
Studios theme park. Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved

These two over-the-top touches were just the beginning of the Muppet-type madness that was to have invaded the Happiest Place on Earth that summer. Over on the Videopolis stage, there were to have been several performances daily of the "Here Come the Muppets" stage show. Which was to have been this Disneyland-specific version of that Disney-MGM stage show which ran at the Studios from May 1990 through September 1991.

And when the Muppet walk-around characters weren't onstage performing at Videopolis, they were supposed to be down in Town Square doing meet-n-greets and/or waving to Guests from floats during Disneyland's twice-daily presentation of the Magnificent Muppet All-Star Motorcade. Which was to have featured Gonzo riding on a rolling camera platform as he directed this music video which starred Dr. Teeth and the Electric Mayhem.  And did I mention that Fozzie, Scooter and Rowlf would be riding aboard the Muppet tour bus as it rolled through that theme park?

That was Jack's grand plan for introducing the Muppets at Disneyland in a big way. But all of Lindquist's hard work was for naught. Given that - in December of 1990 -- The Walt Disney Company's first attempt to acquire the Muppets fell apart in December of 1990 when Mouse House management and the Henson family failed to come to terms.

Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved

Anyway ... I told that story today because I wanted to give a sense of the hundreds of hours of hard work that The Walt Disney Company will sometimes put into the development of a brand-new promotional  campaign for Walt Disney Parks & Resorts. Only to then suddenly abandon that effort. Which means that the public never gets to see any of that artwork / see that particular PR narrative unfold.

The other reason that I'm exploring this aspect of the Company's history today - on Valentine's Day of all days - is ... Well, did you see the big news coming out of Toy Fair this morning? Where - after seven years of being apart -- Barbie and Ken have officially announced that they are once again a couple?

This is - of course - a PR stunt that Mattel dreamed up not only to spur sales (i.e. look for a special limited edition of "Together Again" set of Barbie & Ken dolls to hit store shelves shortly) but to also help reinvigorate this brand. But where this gets interesting is that - back in the mid-1990s - The Walt Disney Company toyed with doing something very similar with Mickey & Minnie.

Copyright 2011 Mattel, Inc. All rights reserved

As I recall, the initial discussion reportedly began back in late 1992 / early 1993. There was supposedly a concern on the PR side of things at Walt Disney Parks & Resorts that the Company had maybe gone back to the anniversary well once too often. To explain: That - by continually hyping artificial events like the celebration of Disneyland's 35th & WDW's 20th anniversaries - there was a danger that the public would start losing their enthusiasm for these sorts of cooked-up campaigns. Which is why Disney officials were looking to do something different  - something big, bold & dramatic - in order to recapture people's attention / imagination.

And given that 1986's "Totally Minnie" program -- with its record album, TV special on NBC, merchandise line as well as a daily parade at Disneyland -- had proven to be so popular with the public (More importantly, had helped redefine that character. Get Minnie out of the kitchen, out of Mickey's shadow and then show off this character's independent spirit & fun nature) ... Given that Mickey Mouse's 65th birthday was coming up, the Company's Corporate Synergy & Special Projects office toyed with the idea of commemorating this special occasion back having Mickey & Minnie become Man & Wife ... er ... Mouse & Wife during a year-long event that would run from the Fall of 1993 through the late Summer of 1994.

The scenario (as it was explained to me) was that - sometime just after Labor Day 1993 - Disney officials were to have announced that Mickey had just proposed to Minnie. More importantly, that she had "Yes." And since it had taken these two nearly 70 years to finally make it to the altar ... Well, a single day-long wedding wouldn't cut it. Which is why Walt Disney Parks & Resorts wanted to stage this year-long celebration of the marriage of Mickey & Minnie Mouse. Where the daily Guests at the Parks would then automatically become guests at Mickey & Minnie's wedding.

Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved

If all had gone according to plan, this was to have been a multi-media extravaganza. With ABC airing a "Mickey & Minnie Mouse's Wedding" TV special, plus a daily parade at the Parks where Disney characters from around the world were to have arrived with gifts for the happy couple. I also remember something about a nightly marriage ceremony in front of the castle - with Pluto as the ring bearer and Donald & Goofy continually jostling to see who Mickey's best man would wind up being. And then - when the happy couple had their first official kiss as Mouse & Wife ... Well, that was supposed to have signaled the start of the Park's nightly fireworks display.

So why didn't the marriage-of-Mickey-and-Minnie happen? Well, the way I heard it, there were actually people who worked at the Mouse House who were concerned that -- by marrying Mickey -- Minnie (as a character) would then be taking a step backwards. That -- by marrying Mickey Mouse -- Minnie would then be forced to settle into the stereotypical housewife's role.

Then there were those at The Walt Disney Company who were uncomfortable with all the real-life baggage that would then come with these two much-beloved characters finally getting hitched. As in: How were they supposed to answer kids questions like "If Mickey & Minnie's marriage doesn't work out, will they then get divorced" ?

Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved

Given that there was something that was obviously special about Mickey & Minnie's relationship (i.e. that they had managed to stay sweethearts for 65 years) ... And given that -- at least from a little kid's point of view  -- marriage is often seen as icky and/or loaded with all sorts of complicated adult-type emotions ... Well, it just didn't make sense to screw up something that had worked -- and worked well -- for six decades plus just to temporarily boost attendance at the Disney theme parks and/or sell some collectibles.

Which is why the Company never pursued the Mickey-and-Minnie-get-married idea. More importantly, why Walt Disney Parks & Resorts went back to promotional campaigns that keyed off of anniversaries.  Like 1996's Remember the Magic, 2000's 100 Years of Magic and 2005's the Happiest Homecoming on Earth events.

And given the carefully parsed way that Mattel is approaching the promotion of Ken & Barbie's reunion (i.e. "She said Yes. Ken and Barbie Rekindle their Epic Romance" rather than saying that these two dolls are now gong to get married), I think that that the Mattel Corporation - just as Disney did back in late 1992 / early 1993 - recognizes the dangers involved in taking a couple that the public has loved for decades as dating singles now and then making them man & wife.

Copyright 2001 Mattel, Inc. All rights reserved

That said, I still think that it's kind of cool that -- according to the official Barbie & Ken timeline that Mattel sent along earlier -- it was this couple's reunion on the set of "Toy Story 3 " that supposedly let to the rekindling of their relationship.

But what do you folks think? Even if this had just been a promotional campaign that Walt Disney Parks & Resorts cooked up in order to get you & your family to return to the Resorts in 1993 & 1994, would you have still made a special trip to Anaheim or Orlando in order to attend the marriage of Mickey & Minnie Mouse?  Or were Company officials wise to take a pass on this particular PR stunt?

Your thoughts?

The article was updated / corrected on February 19, 2011 to fold in additional information

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  • I would go, I hope this happens someday :)

  • I would totally go! This would be so much fun! And then they could build a new house in Toon Town for both Mickey and Minnie!

  • Mickey and Minnie are at least DISNEY characters. The idea that someone else's characters should take over Disneyland like the cancer that took over Walt's lungs was an idea that deserved to die, and it did, thank god. A green Matterhorn. Jeebus christ. The rest of the park would have turned green too, from the barf ejected by tourists. Burn in heck, Jack Lindquist.

    As for Minnie, the Disney character designers need to work a little harder to make her look different from Mickey. At least the walk-around-suit Minnie has a smaller muzzle than does Mickey, and that helps. And it's probably a good thing that the Madonna-wannabe-Minnie gimmick flopped. Otherwise that genius Rich Ross would probably have Minnie imitating Lady Gaga right now. *gag*

  • I think it was an excellent, daring and innovative idea.  I hope they will reconsider.  I was most impressed with Disneyland's 50th Anniversary Celebration and depressed by the "Year of a Million Dreams".  Disney needs to re-energize their campaign and give people a reason to attend- a better reason than an "anniversary".   I think the "wedding" idea is very appealing- everyone loves a good wedding... the idea of being a "guest" will picque the interests of many; and real wedding bookings at Disney will skyrocket! www.DustinDrorbaugh.com

  • Anyone who hates the Muppets has no soul, and no sense of humor.

  • **Anyone who hates the Muppets has no soul, and no sense of humor.**

    Well, I dunno, I think you're pretty funny.

  • Speaking of fictional characters getting married, didn't the frog and the pig puppets get married in one of the muppet films? I seem to remember something about that. And the Henson people apparently ran from THAT idea. I guess. Apparently it was a desperate bid for attention. And Mickey and Minnie don't need that. They're eternal sweethearts, and Mickey wooing Minnie is cute and funny. Why change it?

  • Gigglesock-

    Characters like Cinderella, Pinocchio, Peter Pan, and more, were not originally Disney characters either.

    Food for thought.

  • No, but Disney changed them so much and improved on them so much that they practically are Disney's characters now.  And that took art and talent and creativity. All it took to add the Muppets and the Marvel superheroes to the company was opening a checkbook. Anybody who can't tell the difference between the way Walt did things and the way Eisner did things is truly the one with "no soul".

  • Great post.

    I recently asked Dave Smith on the D23 website about the extensive merchandise throughout Japan depicting the wedding of Mickey and Minnie and asked whether there was a backstory to it.  His short reply was that Disney in North America didn't recognize the "marriage" of Mickey and Minnie.

    Ironically, the day following Dave's answer appearing on D23, the Disney Parks blog had an extensive post showing Mickey and Minnie wedding merchandise! So I guess that Disney doesn't acknowledge their wedding, but they sure like to sell us stuff that does! disneyparks.disney.go.com/.../disney-merchandise-for-living-happily-ever-after

  • I think you have to think long and hard before you do this sort of thing. I think you have wiggle room with Barbie who's been sold in "dream" wedding gowns as opposed to Midge who had an actual wedding, or the Muppets who are more of an acting troupe. I would compare it more to the awkward way Spiderman's marriage ended.

  • Timing is everything. What may have missed the mark in 1998 would go over big today. They should do it.

  • I'd bet that the lucky coincidence that the year 2000 was approaching put the kibosh on this plan more than anything; this allowed a few quiet years after 1996 until the massive (and in my opinion, quite successful) Millennium Celebration would take starting in 1999. Going from one massive marketing celebration to another can lead to celebration fatigue, as I think it did in the early 2000s, so it's good they didn't go through with this.

    Plus, how were they going to explain the fact that Mickey and Minnie had separate houses? Of course, this is no longer a problem (in Florida), but hopefully they don't try anymore gimmicks with Mickey and Minnie Mouse.

  • Gigglesock, the characters that Kermit and Miss Piggy were playing in that movie got married, not Kermit and Piggy themselves. There is a difference between the Muppets as "actors" and the Muppets as characters they play in their movies.

    As for the Muppets themselves, they should be now be considered Disney characters in the same way we consider Pixar characters to be Disney, or in the same way we consider characters originally created by The Brother's Grimm, Lewis Carroll, or A.A. Milne to be part of the Disney family.

  • I *distinctly* remember from Traditions in my The Disney Store days (and yes, i do still retain my blue, letterman sweater) that the Company official line was Mickey and Minnie are ACTORS who occasionally portray boyfriend and girlfriend, but are best of friends... wonder what happened to that...

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