Friday, August 8, 2008

Hide and Seek with Mickey at Disneyland

Disneyland's Hidden Mickeys: A Field Guide to Disneyland Resort's Best Kept Secrets, by Steven M. Barrett. Branford, CT: The Intrepid Traveler, 2007, 94 pp.

At the Disney theme parks, the magic is in the details. The thing that makes the parks so special is the wealth of hidden (and not so hidden) details that individually may not seem like a big deal , but that together enhance your overall theme park experience. One of the details that's captivated a lot of Disney fans are little things known as "hidden Mickeys"; over the years, the Imagineers have left their mark on the attractions and environments they've created by leaving partial or complete images of the world's most favorite Mouse (and a few of his pals) in the designs of those attractions and environments. Some folks at Disney claim that there are no such things as hidden Mickeys. Other folks acknowledge their existence, but can't confirm where they may be - the Walt Disney Company has never taken up the task of documenting them, as far as anyone knows. Like many things at the Disney theme parks, it's up to you to discover hidden Mickeys for yourself - but that doesn't mean you can't get a little help from a master hidden Mickey hunter.

Five years ago, Steve Barrett wrote a book called Hidden Mickeys: A Field Guide to Walt Disney World's Best Kept Secrets, where he told his readers about these hidden treasures and provided a series of scavenger hunts so that folks could search for a few of these treasures themselves. Well, the book was so successful that Steve created a sequel, this time covering the hidden Mickeys that can be found at the Disneyland Resort. In a brief but fascinating introduction, Steve explains how the phenomenon of hidden Mickeys got started and some ground rules for determining what is and what isn't a true hidden Mickey, and then sends you off all over the Disneyland Resort in search of more than 170 hidden Mickeys. The scavenger hunts are organized into three sections - one for each theme park and one for the Downtown Disney district and the Disney hotels. The Mickeys are rated on a point scale in terms of how difficult they are to find, so you can test your hidden Mickey spotting prowess against Steve, or you, your friends, and family can challenge each other to see who's the greatest hidden Mickey finder of all.

I have to admit that I'm never much been into hidden Mickeys, and I'm awful at spotting them (you practically have to lead me right to a hidden Mickey for me to spot it, no matter how obvious it is), so I approached Disneyland's Hidden Mickeys with a little trepidation. Well, it turns out that I really shouldn't have worried. Although I won't talk about how well (or should I say how badly) I did at finding the hidden Mickeys in Steve's scavenger hunts, I did have a lot of fun learning about them, and I had a good time trying to find them using the clues in Steve's book.

The nicest thing about Disneyland's Hidden Mickeys is that you have a lot of options as far as using the book. For example, if you're not in the mood to go on a full-blown hidden Mickey scavenger hunt, Steve has thoughtfully included an index of locations in the back of the book so you can look for a Mickey while you're headed to or in line for your favorite Disneyland or DCA attraction. Totally clueless as to where that Mickey you're trying to find is? Steve has provided hints in separate sections from the scavenger hunts for when you get frustrated in your search. The book is compact enough that you can toss it into your bag or your back pocket and pull it out to go Mickey hunting when the urge strikes you. There's even a website associated with the book where you, Steve, and other hidden Mickey hunters can share (or debate) your discoveries.

So, are there any downsides to Disneyland's Hidden Mickeys? Except for the very real possibility of blowing a good part of your day at the theme parks hunting for hidden Mickeys, I can't think of any. Obviously, if you intend to do other things during your visit to Disneyland besides hunt for hidden Mickeys, you're gonna need another book to get you around. If your time is really limited at Disneyland or this is your first visit, you may want to forgo this book until you're able to devote some time to the scavenger hunts - but as I mentioned above, you do have the option of just looking for hidden Mickeys while you're waiting to ride an attraction by using the index. Aside from that, I have no real complaints.

Disneyland's Hidden Mickeys is a fun and easy way to introduce yourself to one of the more unusual aspects of the Disney theme parks. If nothing else, you'll learn to really pay attention to the little details that make up the parks, but more likely, you and your family will also have a lot of fun looking for a few of Disneyland's hidden treasures. Pick up a copy before you head to Anaheim or pick one up at one of many locations throughout the resort, and keep your eyes open - you never know where that Mouse may be hiding!

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