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Review: Mixmaster Mickey Mouse makes a mixed debut in Disney California Adventure show

November 02, 2010|By Brady MacDonald | Los Angeles Times Staff Writer

If the employees at the Disney Archives have a time capsule, they'll want to file the Disney Dance Crew under "The Way We Were" circa 2010. Decades from now, the archivists will want to pull out the video of Mixmaster Mickey Mouse hip-hop dancing to mash-ups of urban street sounds and familiar Disney songs as yet another example of Disney's never-ending desire to stay current with pop culture.

Years from now, we'll laugh, cringe and marvel at Disney's valiant but vain efforts to remain contemporary with bad fashion, bad puns and bad ideas. At the moment, we can only ask, "What were they thinking?"

On the whole, the Disney California Adventure show, which made its official debut Oct. 22 after a soft opening few days before, left me torn when I viewed it last week. I was amazed by the animatronic advances made by Walt Disney Imagineering yet befuddled by Disney's foolhardy decision to turn the company's renowned icon into Gangsta Mickey.

Disney's Dance Crew represents the main public debut in one of Disney's California theme parks of the revolutionary "talking" Mickey Mouse whose articulated mouth moves as he talks. Adding to the awe-inspiring technological feat are the fleet-footed dance moves that the new Mickey unleashes on the dance floor that make him look like a cross between Fred Astaire and Justin Timberlake.

On the flip side, and overpowering the progress made on the technical side, is Disney's never-ending quest to keep the timeless Mickey Mouse modern and fashionable despite his advancing age.

The octogenarian mouse, now old enough to be a great-grandfather, wears his baseball cap backward, sports gold bling around his neck and spouts slang such as "rock the street," "kick it" and "in the house" during the 13-minute Disney Dance Crew show.

To demonstrate Mickey's perpetual youth, the dancers rip off his "old school" tuxedo and bow tie to reveal his hip-hop sweat suit in a stunt begging for a Janet Jackson-style wardrobe malfunction.

Throughout the show, Mickey interacts with a rapper/DJ who sprinkles his pronouncements with words such as "rollin'," "slammin'," and "bustin'" while spinning songs with lyrics such as "Drink up you gangstas, yo ho" (in an hommage to "Pirates of the Caribbean"). The storyline follows the pose-striking, hip-thrusting Mickey Mouse as he plays the peacemaker between rival dance crews in a "West Side Story"-style dance-off.

Over the years, Disney has done an excellent job of keeping Mickey relevant to new generations. This time it has lost its way. Disney Dance Crew leaves me feeling uneasy and embarrassed for Mickey, emotions that I don't usually associate with the beloved mouse.

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