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January 11, 2014

Hidden Mickey Culture

Many people wonder how I can go to Walt Disney World so frequently and not get sick of it. Aside from the fact that I am not afraid to explore beyond the theme parks, I have also learned to get creative. Character-capture challenges, photo scavenger hunts... there's so much more to do on WDW property than just ride and eat! One of my very favorite Disney routines is the hunt for Hidden Mickeys!


What is a Hidden Mickey, you might ask. I'm not referring to the ever-visible, costumed fellow posing for pictures and autographs. (Note, I said "hidden"!) The elusive Hidden Mickey is Disney-style folklore that serves as a sort of Disney addict's secret handshake, if you will. They started out as 'calling cards' of the Disney Imagineers - their own unique touches to the attractions they brought to life. They'd leave deliberate designs of the familiar tri-circle shaped head of Mickey Mouse carefully staged among props and d├ęcor throughout the Disney parks and resorts, just waiting for observant eyes to find them. However, the existence of these tributes has never really been officially acknowledged by Disney themselves.
The first documented Hidden Mickey sighting appeared in a 1989 article written by Arlen Miller for "Eyes and Ears", the weekly WDW Cast Member publication. From there, it took off, and became a culture of its own. While Arlen Miller may be crediting with launching this scavenger phenomenon into high gear, we have a new guru who has taken the ears to guide Mickey-seekers on our quest. His name is Steven M. Barrett, also known as the "Hidden Mickey Guy". Steven discovered his first Hidden Mickey in the early 1990s, and he's been on the hunt ever since. In fact, he has taken his mission SO seriously that he has gathered his findings into what any true Disneyphile considers the ultimate guide map to these hidden gems. Hands down, Steven is the authority. A Cast Member could point out a Hidden Mickey, and most of us wouldn't consider it confirmed without checking his list (or at least seeking his personal seal of approval on the find). Be sure to stop by Steven's site, and most definitely arm yourself with his book. The book breaks everything down so well. There is a section with more vague locations of Hidden Mickeys, for those who desire a greater challenge; as well as one with more elaborate details for a little extra help. Each find has a point value assigned and a handy checklist to keep track. You can even split up your group for dueling missions if you wish to make it a competition!  

Some of Steven's shared finds:
The book covers hotels too, and I've found that Cast Members around the hotels love to help you hunt. It's less chaotic there than at the parks, so they can afford to spare a moment for fun here and there with the guests. An extra-challenging Hidden Mickey at Animal Kingdom Lodge had me staring at a building for so long, I eventually had two CMs and another family stopping to help out. You never know what you'll find or who you'll meet on your hunt!
The "stumper" at Animal Kingdom Lodge. Can you find it?
Since the hunt for Hidden Mickeys is not a coordinated, organized event by Disney per se, there is some debate regarding exactly what constitutes a true Hidden Mickey. While there is no harm in seeking out what you see as Mickey, and taking personal pride in your find, some seekers have very strict regulations regarding authentic discoveries. The original (or classic) and most common Hidden Mickey comes in the form of the tri-circle, forward-facing Mickey head, with two equal(-ish) circles atop a larger one. Other Hidden Mickeys come in the form of Mickey's head in profile. There are also known to be hidden versions of Donald, Minnie, Goofy and other beloved favorites, though in lesser supply. General rules of thumb -
  • If your imagination has to strain to see the "Mickey" in it, rule it out.
  • If it's dancing out obvious and larger-than-life in your face, it's decorative (not hidden).
  • Just because you see multiple circular shapes, this does not mean it is an intentional Hidden Mickey.
While many say "if it's not Disney, it's not a Hidden Mickey", I prefer to dismiss that. I say - anywhere you can find Mickey, enjoy it! While it may not be "official", I love to see the telltale signs that Walt and his geniuses are still around and joyfully playing with our obsession. You just never know where you may catch a glimpse! Enjoy a few photos below of the various ways people have found our beloved little mouse! See how many you can spot. Some are "official", some are just fun!
Some of my favorite finds:
Mickey's Philharmagic stage right

Fort Wilderness Campgrounds - Trail's End Restaurant

Some Hidden Mickeys are randomly staged by playful Cast Members, like this one at the Contemporary boat dock.
Animal Kingdom Lodge

Polynesian Resort

Animal Kingdom Lodge

Disney Studios has holiday Mickeys!!

Don't forget to look UP!!

Epcot is taking this rather far in The Land pavilion! :)

Mickey is often rearranged in The Seas aquariums... a moving hidden Mickey!

This deserves sarcasm, but I'll refrain.

Floors and carpets are popular spots for Hidden Mickeys at the resorts.

Polynesian Entry
Some of my favorite Pinterest finds:






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