I guess any true Disney fan knew it would only be a matter of time before this topic was broached, but try as I might, I can't avoid it. I love Hidden Mickeys! No, I am addicted to them, as are my kids, and we look forward to seeking them out during each visit to the parks. So, here we go...
What? What's that? What are Hidden Mickeys? Well, imagine playing hide-and-go-seek with the leader of the Fab Five himself, Mickey Mouse. A Hidden Mickey is a partial or complete impression of Mickey Mouse placed by Imagineers and artists into attractions, resorts, restaurants and more. According to Disney, it started as something fun and unique by Imagineers. However, there is an "unofficial" story as to the origin of Hidden Mickeys. According to this legend, when EPCOT was in the design phase, Disney held the stance that the characters belonged only in the Magic Kingdom. The Imagineers held a different belief, so they found a way to slip the characters into EPCOT.
Whatever the official story may be, the existence of Hidden Mickeys is real and fun! So, how do I know when I see one? Well, let me first let me note that there is a debate over what an "official" Hidden Mickey is. Some you see are "design Mickeys" while others are "Hidden Mickeys". That aside, my family considers all of them the same. The three-circle silhouette of Mickey's head is the most common. There are also Mickey profiles, full body shapes and even 3-dimensional versions.
In fact, the largest Hidden Mickey could once be seen from the air, but was sadly covered a few years ago. When Disney created Hollywood Studios (MGM Studios back then) Mickey's entire face could be seen in the center of the park. The Great Movie Ride served as the chin. Sadly, this was covered by the addition of the Sorcerer's hat. Here, see if you can find him, go ahead...
Need a little help? OK, now try...
Before the hat covered his nose, before Sunset Blvd. was added, and when the roof of the building on the left was painted like the lower half of a black oval, there he was.
The second largest Hidden Mickey can still be seen from the air, untouched by progress or expansion. Now, where could that be? On special occasions, you may also see another hidden character; my favorite is the Hidden Donald in the chair inside the Haunted Mansion.
OK, so what is so fun about hidden shapes? Well, Disney is notorious for long lines, especially in certain seasons. Looking for these hidden treasures is a great way to pass the time. In fact, you may get so into looking for them, this activity itself may become an attraction of sorts. One year, my wife and I went to Disney alone and spent the entire trip looking for them. It was a blast to find them, snap a photo, and check it off the list. The added bonus is that looking for Hidden Mickeys is absolutely free! Make searching for them a game and see who in your family can find the most. Maybe the winner can get an Ice Cream Sandwich from the Main Street Bakery!
OK, so my interest is piqued, where do I start? There are a number of resources, but I will recommend two specifically.
Hidden Mickeys, 4th Edition: A Field Guide to Walt Disney World's Best Kept Secrets by Steven Barrett. This $8 book can be found at any of the parks or at your local bookstore. It provides hints for finding the Hidden Mickeys and is setup in a treasure hunt format.
Steven Barrett's Hidden Mickey Walt Disney World is also available as an iTunes App. Yep, there's an App for that! And, it's worth it. Not only is this less expensive than the book, but it is interactive, and allows you to note and catalog the ones you have found.
If you are anything like us, once you get started, you will start seeing Hidden Mickeys everywhere. My son often finds them at home, in rug designs, billboards, books and more. So, for the real Disney enthusiast, the fun of this activity can last far beyond the days spent inside the parks.
What? You want to know where to find the second largest Hidden Mickey? Are you still thinking about that from a few paragraphs ago? OK, visit Google Earth and locate Walt Disney World. It should take you to the center of the Magic Kingdom. Go ahead, I'll wait...
Now, toggle (technical term) down toward the parking lot. There you go, now, go past it until you see the Disney Raceway, home of the Richard Petty Driving Experience. Now, look in the middle of the track. Do you see it? Yep, the lake is shaped like Mickey. There you go, your first one! Now, go find the rest.
Have you looked for Hidden Mickeys? How many have you found? What was your favorite? Do you see them outside the parks? Let us hear about them in the comments section below.