ANAHEIM — You might say the latest character to join the Disney cast, the Iceman, is in a bit of hot water.
Known the world over for creating characters that people love to hug, the folks that brought us Mickey, Donald and Goofy finally may have come up with a character people love to hate.
Unveiled Friday night at the Anaheim Arena during the inaugural game of Disney's Mighty Ducks hockey team, the Iceman's wild-eyed, in-your-face shtick met with a chorus of boos and hisses the likes of which no Disney character has heard.
And when the Ducks played their home sequel on Sunday, the Iceman was not to be seen.
For his part, the Iceman said he thinks his icy reception was a raw deal.
"The team was down 5 to 1 and the crowd turned on me," the 32-year-old musician said this week after being told by Disney officials to keep a low profile.
The Iceman hasn't stepped foot on the Pond's ice since the end of the second period intermission Friday when Mike Davis, Disney's director of entertainment, walked up to him and told him to call it a night.
Ducks fans probably won't see the Iceman at tonight's match against the Edmonton Oilers either. For now, at least, the Iceman has been shelved. Frozen. Or, as they do in Toon Town, sent back to the drawing board.
"The Iceman's a little battered and bruised," Davis concedes. "We're not sure we're going to bring him back."
Davis called Friday night's reception a new experience for a Disney show.
Said Tony Tavares, president of the Mighty Ducks, "We've . . . got to put some distance between that bad performance and the crowd. At this point, it wouldn't matter if he was Neil Diamond up there, he'd still get booed."
Ironically, Disney officials conceived the Iceman's bizarre, silver-faced, frazzle-haired looks and rock-till-you-drop demeanor \o7 because \f7 they were dealing with that peculiar breed of sports fan--the professional hockey fan. For the uninitiated, the average hockey match has more brawls than a Clint Eastwood Western.
Disney officials already had a mascot, the Mighty Duck, and a dance group, the Decoys, but they thought they needed something more, something tailor-made for hockey fans.
"Not that more is better," Davis said. "But being Disney, we need to do it different."
On paper, the Iceman was supposed to pop up in different parts of the arena, rant, rave, belt out a few tunes and generally whip the crowd into a frenzy.
On Friday, he whipped the crowd into a frenzy all right, but it wasn't quite the frenzy Disney had in mind.
So sheepish were Disney and Mighty Ducks officials after the performance, they declined to identify the entertainer who portrays the Iceman. They issued statements about "company policy" barring the release of the entertainer's name and said, in effect, that they preferred that the Iceman remain the Invisible Man. One Mighty Ducks official even said he couldn't confirm or deny whether he knew the Iceman's true identity.
But even as Disney's entertainment mavens ponder whether there should be a kinder, gentler Iceman, or no Iceman at all, the Iceman spoketh.
He's an experienced musician, a grandson of Academy Award-winning actor Wallace Beery and a North Hollywood resident. At his day job, he plays keyboard for Disneyland's Tomorrowland Terrace Band. Strongly advised to keep his name and face a mystery, he asked The Times to protect his identity--not an unreasonable request given the week he has had.
If his name or face were to appear in print, "I could lose the gig," he said, referring to the Iceman job and the Tomorrowland job, which he has had for four years.
The likable, budding recording artist said that to really know the Iceman is to love him. He said people may not have warmed up to him at first, but he deserves a second chance. He blamed a slew of technical difficulties for his inauspicious debut Friday night, not the least of which was the echo of his own voice that kept bouncing off the walls of the packed arena.
Often referring to his alter-ego in the third person, he reluctantly agreed that The Iceman's gruff personality may need some "toning down."
The Iceman may need a costume change, too, a get-up that evokes a little more sympathy from the crowd, like the Mighty Duck mascot who sports a giant duck mask.
"When you've got that big thing over your head, you can get away with murder," the Iceman said.
Despite his spirited defense, the Iceman is not taking any of this personally. "It wasn't me they were booing," he offered.
The Agoura High School graduate said he hopes the Iceman returneth. But Disney and Mighty Ducks sources are saying things like, "I feel sorry for the guy" and "The Iceman's on ice."
With reviews like that from the bosses, it seems the Iceman may be getting a one-way ticket to that place where other notable Disney characters have been banished--never-never land.
Times staff writer Mark Platte contributed to this report.