From Disney Studios Paris: Animagique

Friday, September 04, 2009

When I was a kid, Speed Racer was the most awesome, emotionally complex, engaging show I’d ever seen. For years I remembered it as a masterpiece of drama, what with the whole Racer X thing and all. But when I picked up a couple episodes on DVD a year or two back, I discovered that, well, the animation kinda sucked, and there was essentially no character development. I didn’t even care anymore about whether Racer X was actually Speed’s brother in disguise. Who knew that my 6-year-old critical sensibilities would have failed me?

Well, when I went to see Animagique at Walt Disney Studios, Disneyland Paris last month, I was a bit worried it would be déjà vu all over again. I’d seen the show once, four years ago, and absolutely loved it. I’d raved about it, both by blog and podcast, calling it my favorite show in Disney Parks worldwide (not including “nighttime spectaculars” such as Fantasmic, mind you). But was it as good as I’d thought it was? And would it hold up after multiple viewings?

Mickey and Donald in AnimagiqueIn a word, yes! Animagique is a charming 20-minute show similar in many respects to the Voyage of the Little Mermaid show in its use of black light and glowing puppets. Catering to an international audience, it relies very little on language, and primarily on music and dance. The show opens with Mickey and Donald working on artistic sketches right outside the Walt Disney Studios Cinematic Vault. The real action begins when Donald steals Mickey’s key to the Vault, and ventures into a magical medley of traditionally crowd-pleasing musical scenes from The Jungle Book, Dumbo, The Lion King, and The Little Mermaid. The songs are performed alternately in English and French. My personal favorite? Pink Elephants on Parade is lovely, where Donald dances with glowing pink elephants, and a giant elephant head bobs back and forth at the back of the stage.

Unlike Mickey’s Philharmagic at Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom, where Mickey scolds Donald for his hat-stealing misbehavior, Mickey seems far more amused than irritated when he discovers Donald’s unlocked the vault (perhaps showing a slightly more European sensibility?). Instead, the show wraps up with Mickey, Donald, Balou, Rafiki, and King Louie in the eponymous dance number, Animagique, which I promise will be your earworm for the rest of the day (shaking out even that sticky “it’s a small world” if necessary).

While I can’t say Animagique is still my favorite Disney Parks show (Finding Nemo: The Musical stole that spot the first time I saw it), I’d still say it’s a charming and crowd-pleasing show. In fact, I’d argue that it belongs in Disney’s Hollywood Studios as well, with the simple tweak of switching up the French parts to English. Say, any word on when they might retire Sounds Dangerous? Seems to me Animagique would be a good replacement.