Disney Plus has proven to be a true treasure trove. Not only does the streaming service showcase some of Disney’s greatest hits, but it also unveils some hidden gems that had been lost and long forgotten, including several obscure movies, shows, and television specials. If you’ve never heard of Candleshoe, Mr. Bogedy, or The Apple Dumpling Gang, then Disney Plus offers you a chance to watch these uncovered gems from the Disney Vault.
However, just as all that glistens is not gold, not all that was lost and forgotten a hidden gem. In fact, upon re-watching them, you realize why they were lost and forgotten to begin with. Recently, Disney Plus uploaded one such hidden gem: an obscure 1977 television special based on a failed revival of the Mickey Mouse Club. Is this long, lost television special a diamond hidden in the rough, or is it a dud that needs to be chucked back into the recesses of the Disney Vault next to Walt’s Frozen Head?
For a bizarre look at this bizarre special, click READ MORE:
Chances are you’re familiar with the Mickey Mouse Club. Either you know about the original 1950’s series, or you’re a millennial like me and remember watching the 1990’s revival, which helped start the career of many 90’s celebrities like Britney Spears, Christina Aguilera, and Justin Timberlake.
Disney attempted to revive the Mickey Mouse Club with a new series in the 1970s. The fact the series only lasted one season proved it wasn’t popular, and the fact most people hadn’t heard of it proves it didn’t have a lasting impact. On November 20, 1977, a special promoting the series aired on ABC’s Wonderful World of Disney.
The Mouseketeers At Walt Disney World offers you exactly what the title says: the Mouseketeers from the then-new Mickey Mouse Club visiting Walt Disney World, which by then was more than five years old. Some people would complain the special is nothing more than a blatant commercial for both the television series and theme park—but then again, what else were you going to expect from a special called: “The Mouseketeers At Walt Disney World”?
Admittedly, the special itself comes across as dated, not simply because most of the attractions featured in it no longer exist (i.e.: River Country), but because a lot of the humor doesn’t quite fly by modern standards. The children behave cruel and vindictive toward one another, above and beyond mere bratty behavior. One especially traumatizing scene involves the children ganging up on a little girl and berating her to the point of chocking sobs and hot tears.
Perhaps most alarming are their interactions with the adults, which come across as awkward at best and “someone call Chris Hansen!” at worst. One scene has two adolescent girls flitting with a man twice their age. Another involves a pre-pubescent girl alone in a hotel room nonchalantly interacting with an adult male who isn’t a close relative of hers while she’s wearing only a towel. What can I say but “yikes!”?
But perhaps the most perplexing aspect of this special is that it’s been uploaded to Disney Plus in its entirety. All of the special! Including the commercial breaks. Yes, for whatever reason, Disney decided to upload every part of this special, including the advertisements that ran in-between and even the preview of “next week’s” program for the Wonderful World of Disney.
The cynic in me wants to joke that whoever uploaded this old special to Disney Plus lazily ripped a bootleg version from YouTube. But, no! None of the versions currently uploaded to YouTube include the commercials, as they were re-runs that aired on Disney Channel. In other words, only Disney Plus has the “original” version that aired with the commercials.
On the one hand, being able to watch these old commercials offers a true time capsule glimpse into the life and times of when this special originally aired; on the other hand, Disney has quite the balls to post these commercials on their official streaming service. Most of these products still exist, and their companies most likely didn’t give Disney the right to air their old commercials. So it’s only a matter of time until we see how long this special remains on Disney Plus before inevitably being pulled.
Overall, The Mouseketeers At Walt Disney World is a television special that exists. I honestly can’t bring myself to hate it. At worst, it’s dated in its humor and references. Otherwise, it’s something that gives you exactly what the title says. It was created in a time when Disney wasn’t doing exceptionally well with the exception of its theme parks. So of course Disney was going to create a special advertising its newest theme park, and use it as a blatant tie-in for an attempted revival of a classic television show. Again, what else are you going to expect from something called The Mouseketeers At Walt Disney World?
The special is currently available on Disney Plus, but you can find bootleg versions uploaded to YouTube. To be honest, this special is so bizarre in and of itself that a simple review proves insufficient. It’s a truly piece of work that begs to be riffed scene-by-scene. So enjoy this humorous recap:
The special opens with the Mouseketeers riding the monorail to their hotel. Along the way, they sing "Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah"!
Sorry! Did I say "sing"? I meant alternate between singing, whistling, and mumbling to the lyrics they don't know.
At the very least, this musical number gives me nostalgic vibes for Splash Mountain, which, at the time of this blog post, is slated to be refurbished to Princess And The Frog. Only a matter of time until they stop playing this song at the parks altogether. Sigh.
The kids disembark at the Contemporary Resort. One boy voices his desire to visit River County. The scene then cuts to a musical montage of the water park.
Considering how River Country opened one year earlier, this music video is an obvious advertisement for the water park. I can't complain. This special is called "Mouseketeers at Walt Disney World." Of course it's a blatant promotion of both the New Mickey Mouse Club and Disney World. What else would you expect?
Oh well! Have fun with the brain-eating amoeba, kids!
Oh, that's not fair. That was only one rare incident. Besides, the real reason River County closed was due to a lack of visitors following the opening of the other two water parks and new state regulations on swimming in lakes.
"Ha ha! Fat bald man fall out of his tube. It funny cuz he's fat and bald. Ha ha!"
Seriously, whoever edited this special must have found that clip funny. They used it twice in this number.
We then see the kids (presumably back from the water park, as most of them appear to be in their bathing suits) playing in an arcade.
You know this is the 1970s because the only video game there is a Pong machine. Every other game is skee ball or pinball.
Their manager arrives to give them their park passes and instruct them to go to the docks for a press conference. Once they leave, he decides to sneak in a game of pinball.
"That man is playing pinball ! He thought we wouldn't notice, but we did."
The kids get dressed and head to the docks. There, one of the girls invents the concept of food selfies by taking a photo of salad.
"Why are you taking a picture of a salad?"
"I'm on a diet! Can't take a picture of anything fattening."
This girl is at the Happiest Place on Earth, yet she decides to waste her film snapping photos of salad. You'd think she'd save it for the actual park. This is the 1970s, after all. This is back before digital cameras allowed you to take unlimited photos. You could only take so many photos on one roll of film. Perhaps she has extra rolls.
Oh look! They're taking a photo near the edge of the dock, and the girl taking their picture asks them to keep taking one step back.
I'll give you a few guesses to figure out what punchline they're setting up.
If you said, "the kids fall in the water", congratulations! You're as "talented" at comedy as the creators of this special.
Their manager is paged to the front desk, where he meets a reporter covering the Mouseketeers visit and upcoming performance for a magazine article. She insists its going to be the "story of the year."
To steal a quip from Tony Goldmark on Twitter: "I mean, I knew the Carter administration was boring, but..."
The kids rush into the lobby soaking wet. The reporter snaps photos of them fighting. And the manager, of course, appears embarrassed. He later returns to his hotel room to talk with his boss on the phone.
One of the little girls then enters the room. Soaking wet from a fresh shower. Wearing nothing but a towel.
I'm not going to post THAT screenshot for obvious reasons, but…I know the 1970's were a different time, but who thought showing a scene of a presumably naked little girl in the same room as an adult man who isn't related to her was a good idea?!?
Who produced this special? Harvey Weinstein? (That's probably not fair. Dan Schneider probably produced it! LOL!)
Skipping ahead a bit, the manager decides to make the children get along with each other by having them split up into groups and enjoy the park on their own. One group of girls visits the Disney Village Marketplace (now Disney Springs) for some shopping--and apparently, flirting with boys.
Sorry! Did I say "boys"? What I meant to say is that two adolescent girls decide to hit on a man twice their age. They even call him a "fox."
Again, who produced this special? Dan Schneider?! I know the 70s were a different time, but still…
We then cut to another scene where some of the boys are racing on the Tomorrowland Speedway. You know this is the 1970's because the Speedway is considered one of the few "thrilling" attractions. The only other "thrill" ride at this time was Space Mountain. (More on that later!)
Meanwhile, back at the hotel room, the young girl from before decides to force her friends to get along by tricking them into believing she's sick and in need of their immediate attention. She even asks them to buy her sweets and ice cream. (Such nice kids, aren't they?!)
BTW, this is the 1970's, well before the invention of cellphones. So the little girl had to call her friends using the phone in her room. Their other friends answer her call with other landline phones throughout the hotel. (How exactly does that work?)
Meanwhile, two of the boys are in line waiting to ride Space Mountain.
Sorry. Did I say they were "waiting"? I mean they're cutting in line. (Such nice kids, aren't they?!)
Apparently, this was back before the coaster seats were separate and riders had to sit on each other's laps.
Also, apparently "turkey" was an insult back in the 1970s.
With the children now getting along, the manager and reporter celebrate by riding her favorite ride: the Skyway!
You know, those little buckets you ride in just like Disneyland.
*insert obvious Freakazoid joke here*
The next day, they all decide to leave the Contemporary and spend the night at Fort Wilderness. In tents.
Okay, this is something I never understood. I can understand wanting to stay at the campgrounds either in a lodge or an RV. But in a tent? Who wants to spend their Disney World vacation in a tent? People who can't afford a regular hotel room?
The kids set up camp by singing "Whistle While You Work."
Don't really have anything to say about this. This is a legit nice musical number.
One of the girls, Nita, is instructed to tie the rope holding up the tents to "something solid." despite passing several trees, she decides to tie it to the back of an RV.
Bet you can't see where this joke is going.
After the kids sing a campfire song, they go to bed in their tents.
Oh, look! The RV the tents are tied to drives away, and their tents are dragged away behind it!
Cue the wa-wa trumpet sound effect!
Obviously, all the kids are mad at Nita and they start yelling at her. One girl even tells her that she ruined their camping trip. And the scene ends with a traumatized little girl sobbing. (Such nice kids, aren't they?!)
Are you laughing yet, folks?!
The next morning, everyone discovers Nita has run away. The other Mouseketeers, realizing how terribly they treated her, go out to find her.
Meanwhile, Nita is wandering around the Fantasyland Hub, and--wow! Look at how empty the park looks. That's the emptiest I've seen it, and I've seen pictures of the park closed for COVID-19. How is the park this empty?
Nita decides to take a nap near the Cinderella fountain. Which is right behind Cinderella Castle. Near the Carousel. And, apparently, the location is "secluded" enough for her to take a nap without being disturbed.
Mind you, this is not some random isolated location. This is one of the busiest sections. There should be visitors pouring through the castle, especially during this time of the day. Again, how is the park THIS empty?
Nita dreams she's dancing the polka with Pooh and the other kids in a musical number called the "Pooh Polka."
Is there are reason for this scene? Other than Nita is taking a nap? It's a catchy number, but it doesn't really serve a purpose. At least the River County music video promoted a then new attraction. This is just a song and dance number for the sake of a song and dance number.
In other words, this is a…BIG LIPPED ALLIGATOR MOMENT!
Nita wakes up to find the other children are nearby. Comedic chase scene follows. They chase here everywhere. On a trolley. On the Skyway. And even by boat.
Yes! Nita eventually rushes down to the lake where she hops a motorboat and high tails it to Discovery Island.
Let me repeat that: Nita leaves the park, goes down to the boats, drives off in a boat without paying for it, drives all the way from the Seven Seas Lagoon to Bay Lake, and lands on the shores of Discovery Island easily WITHOUT being accosted by a cast member for trespassing.
There's suspension of belief, and then there's GTFO! There's no way that anyone, especially a little girl, is going to get away with doing all that without being stopped.
Later on, night falls with only 10 minutes to showtime. Nita returns to the park to sulk in front of a poster. The reporter lady finds her, soothes her, tells her everything is going to be all right, and miraculously, Nita arrives at the performance in time to sing and dance with her friends. She doesn't even need to change clothes, and they probably didn't rehearse, but they pull off the number without a hitch.
I've come to hate storylines where the child protagonist runs away, everyone else stops what they're doing to hunt them down, and they all hug it out because they're glad to find them. It teaches children to put themselves in danger so everyone else is forced to care about them.
It's selfish and unrealistic! Her friends wouldn't be glad to reunite with her. They'd be pissed that she nearly forced them to cancel the show, or otherwise put on the show without rehearsing.
And the special ends. We don't get to see Nita apologize for making her friends worry about her, and we don't see her friends apologize for yelling at her. We simply have to assume that they all made up before the show.
And that's the end. Really!