I have but one distinct memory of the Fantasyland Theater: burning my mouth so bad before "Beauty and the Beast" that I had to leave the park. I was young, and I'd like to say I've learned since then, but I just get so eager when presented with hot chocolate.
Since that fateful day in the mid-1990s, a lot has happened to the Fantasyland theater, most of it having little to do with being a theater. For as long as I can remember, it was some princess thing. I never knew exactly, because I never visited. I could say the same thing for Carnation Plaza Gardens in regards to it being an area I used to never visit. Ironically, it's now some princess thing.
Live entertainment that isn't for a demographic that's acutely specific, has returned to the theater that looks like Madonna's cone bra, and it's demographic is much more broad: anyone that likes to be entertained. Now, if you are only entertained by a strong story, go to the indy theater, hippie! Things that have a plot either get cancelled or bomb!
That's why, with its newest show, "Mickey and the Magical Map," Disneyland went light on story and heavy on the classic songs they know we all love so much, we don't care how one transitions from the other. (If you're counting, it took 3 paragraphs for me to get to the point. Didn't it seem like one though?)
Despite having its predecessors scar me both physically and emotionally, "Mickey and the Magical Map" had a lot to live up to. I'd started my morning off by enjoying a fine breakfast at Club 33. For something to make itself stand out in a day that starts out like that is quite a feat. Furthermore, I had risen at 5 AM to get to Anaheim by 7, so by the 12:40 show, I was...fatigued. Coincidentally, a favorite place of mine to nap is in a theater. I've heard the middle parts of Finding Nemo - The Musical at the Animal Kingdom and Disney's Aladdin – A Musical Spectacular at DCA are great. I wouldn't know.
I'm happy to report that I had my foot tapping, my fingers drumming, and my eyes open for the entire show. There was an electric feel to the whole thing that kept even me engaged for all 22 minutes of its run time. The girl screaming about Stitch in front of me also helped keep me away, but in a different way.
"Mickey and the Magical Map's" attempt at a story has Mickey reprising his role as Yensid's apprentice, way back from when the duo last appeared in 1940's Fantasia. Yensid, a poorly animated 3D (bring back the 2D! Oh, wait...) character that appears soley within a gigantic, three-tiered LCD screen, has a magical map with a missing, unpainted spot. Mickey tries to paint that spot, and by doing so, elicits King Louis, Ariel, Rapunzel, Mulan, Pocahontas, Tiana, and various other character to come out and sing their famous songs.
There's some great choreographed dancing, awesome, non-recorded singing, a cool bubble thing and a few awkward sequences where Mickey gets sucked into the map and looks like he's part of a 10-year-olds sub-par flash animation project.
Remember, despite all the negative stuff I just wrote (partly because it's more fun to dish out the disses then the praise), I walked out of the show excited and fulfilled. It has its weaknesses, but when, as a whole, the show entertains its viewers, I don't think its especially important just how it does that. "Mickey and the Magical Map" is energetic enough that you love every minute of the shoe while you're watching it. When it's over, you might be scratching your head a little, but don't over analyze it. I just did that for you.