Follow the Disco Mice of the New Mickey Mouse Club as they visit America’s favorite vacation spot, Walt Disney World!
Gods bless whoever at Disney decided that the Disney+ version of this should feature the original commercials from the show. It really completes the 1977 experience, not that I have any memories myself of the 1977 experience; this aired on The Wonderful World of Disney about two weeks before my first birthday. But there’s something about commercials for Gainesburgers and Tonka toy vans complete with real carpet and solid metal construction that puts you fully in the mood for a special featuring Ronnie Schell, Jo Anne Worley, and the Mouseketeers incarnation to spawn basically no one you’ve ever heard of. Though Courtney Love apparently auditioned by reading a Sylvia Plath poem and somehow didn’t make it in.
The Mouseketeers are, as per title, going to Walt Disney World, itself only six years old at the time. They’re there to do interviews and a concert, but they’re also going to have time to spend at the resort as well and are mostly looking it as a free vacation. They’re being chaperoned by Mr. Brown (Schell), and they rapidly meet up with a reporter from I assume a fictional magazine, one Colleen Osborne (Worley), who doesn’t believe the Mouseketeers really like each other and also is attracted to Brown. She ends up becoming part of their group, including going camping with them overnight at Fort Wilderness.
Possibly the most dated thing about this is not the costuming, hair, or slang. It’s that a group of twelve children, seven of whom are girls, have one official chaperone—and a male one at that. The kids go all over the extant portions of the parks together, and they do not always have adult supervision. Now, I, in my ’80s and ’90s childhood, had the same sort of freedom, and indeed I went around Disneyland without adult supervision at their age! But I don’t think people do that sort of thing anymore, and even in those days, I went on a weekend trip with six other kids for school and we were legally required to have two chaperones for the seven of us.
We don’t see enough of these kids for me to have an opinion about their talent, and the only one I’m familiar with at all is Lisa Whelchel, who would go on to be Blair on The Facts of Life. They do some singing and dancing, and they’re fine. No better or worse than a lot of other child actors of their generation. I’m really not sure why none of them seem to have made much of a go of things in the entertainment industry beyond their Mickey Mouse Club days. It’s simply what happened with these kids.
Possibly the most bewildering moment, and there are several, is when they first get there and two of the girls (I think including Lisa) say how much they’re looking forward to playing tennis. Like, okay, maybe you really like tennis. But you go to Walt Disney World, and that’s what you’re thinking? On my own last Disney vacation, I did spent a little time in the pool, but it happened to be while Graham was taking a nap in the middle of the (very hot) afternoon, not a planned-for and exciting part of the trip, and anyway the kind of pool they have is a lot more elaborate than anything around here, and tennis courts are by definition very similar to one another.
And, okay, I’m sure there are people whose Disney thought is “and we’ll go camping at a Walt Disney World campsite and go into the theme park for the day.” Fort Wilderness is still operating, so there must be. But it doesn’t seem like my ideal vacation, and I have to say I agree with the frustration of the kids when Nita DiGiampaolo is told to tie the tents down to something sturdy and walks past some trees to tie it to the back of someone else’s RV. I’m not much of a camper, but I know better than that! This is literally why tent stakes exist.
I’m pretty sure “The Pooh Polka,” and a worse name for a polka I’m not sure I’ve ever heard, was intended to appeal to younger kids, but my three-year-old didn’t really care. What fascinated her was the glimpses we saw of Space Mountain. And surely, surely that’s the real point in filming in a Disney park, to show the things you’d only get at a Disney park and the reasons to go to one. To have someone’s favourite ride be the Skyway feels . . . like it misses something somehow.
This is also, of course, from that era where everything was determinedly multicultural. Real effort was expended to make the Mouseketeers ethnically diverse—sure, we have two blonde girls, but we also have black kids and Asian kids and so forth. Both in the Mouseketeers and in the audience for their garish musical number about friendship at the end. I believe it’s Shawnte who has her hair tied in at least one scene in a way that a lot of the black girls I knew from elementary school wore theirs. This makes it even more disappointing that the only ones whose pictures appear on their IMDb pages are the blonde girls.