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Fridays with Jim Korkis: Mickey’s PhilharMagic

By Dave Shute

Welcome back to Fridays with Jim Korkis! Jim, the dean of Disney historians, writes about Walt Disney World history every Friday on


By Jim Korkis

Mickey’s PhilharMagic is a twelve minute long 3-D animated film that is enhanced by interactive effects like scents, vibration, jets of air and water.

Donald Duck must set up the instruments on the stage for the performance but is warned not to touch Mickey’s Sorcerer’s Apprentice magical hat that Mickey will use to conduct the instruments. Of course, Donald disobeys and finds himself caught up in a whirlwind of magic that swirls the hat away.

Image (c) Disney

Donald follows to try to catch the hat that spins through several animated features including Beauty and the Beast, Fantasia, The Little Mermaid, Peter Pan, Aladdin and The Lion King.

“This is where all the Disney characters go to see concerts,” said Kevin Rafferty, senior show writer and director for Walt Disney Imagineering. “Today’s performance will feature Mickey Mouse conducting the PhilharMagic orchestra.

“What’s neat about this space is this is where Mickey made his debut as a conductor in the Mickey Mouse Revue when the Magic Kingdom Park opened. It’s exciting that Mickey is coming back in a next generation version of a classic character attraction.

“The theater has a beautiful musical motif inspired by the classic music halls of Europe, mixed with the design elements of Fantasyland. The décor inside has royal blues and golds, and the carpet has musical notes and instruments in the design. As soon as guests walk in the door, they’ll know it’s a very special, enchanted place.

“Donald decides he wants to be the conductor, so he puts on the enchanted hat and begins to conduct the instruments. The instruments give him a hard time and send him into this vortex like Alice in Wonderland.”

Creative Executive for Theme Park Productions at WDI George Scribner directed the animation. He also directed the animation for the Gran Fiesta Tour at the Mexico pavilion in Epcot. He started at Disney as an animator and became a director on Oliver & Company (1988).

He said, “For example, all of the close-ups and tight shots of Lumiere were done by Beauty and the Beast animator Nik Ranieri who animated the character in the original feature film. He was amazing. Here’s an animator who shifted from traditional animation to learn computer-generated techniques and nailed it.

“Then there was The Little Mermaid animator Glen Keane who animated Ariel in the original feature film. We wondered how we could make a scene with Ariel and Donald better, and Glen went in, reanimated it in computer-generated animation and it really showed.

“Music is an important element. Our goal was to convey the storyline through music and not have to rely on dialog, thus making the production more universal in scope which is one of the reasons that Donald was perfect for the starring role.”

According to the posters in the queue area, previous performances in the theater have included:

  • “An Evening with Wheezy – Now in its final squeak!” Wheezy is a squeaky toy penguin from Toy Story movies.
  • “Genie Sings the Blues.” Aladdin’s Genie is of course blue.
  • “Hades Sings Torch Songs.” From Hercules, Hades is fond of fire.
  • “Ariel’s Coral Group- A Must Sea.” The Little Mermaid’s poster is a pun on both undersea coral and musical “choral”.
  • “Wolf Gang Trio performing Sticks, Stones and Bricks in B flat.” The Wolf Gang Trio is a musical group made up of the Three Little Pigs who defeated the Big Bad Wolf.
  • “Festival de los Mariachis- Una Fiesta Festiva”. This poster advertises the Three Caballeros: Donald Duck, José Carioca, and Panchito Pistoles.

The large mural found in Mickey’s PhilharMagic’s queue is titled “Music on Parade,” and according to a plaque it was donated by Minnie Mouse. The mural features imagery from classic Disney cartoons that showcased music including: Toot, Whistle, Plunk & Boom (1953), Melody Time (1948) and Fantasia (1940).

*  *  *  *  *

Thanks, Jim! And for more from Jim on Mickey’s PhilharMagic, see this and this.

And come back next Friday for more from Jim Korkis!

In the meantime, check out his books, including his new books Kungaloosh! The Mythic Jungles of Walt Disney World and Hidden Treasures of Walt Disney World Resorts: Histories, Mysteries, and Theming, much of which was first published on this site.


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