Hidden Mickeys at Walt Disney World
Steve Barrett liked them so much he wrote a book
Friday, April 16, 2004
by Mike Scopa, staff writer
When you bring your family to Walt Disney World and first enter a theme
park, I'm sure that attractions are right at the top of your list, as
they should be. For Steve Barrett, however, his top priority is looking
for something that you may not notice at firstHe's looking for a
In this session, we look at the world of Hidden Mickeys at Walt Disney
World, and visit with Barrett, who has single-handedly enlightened us
with the joy of looking for those special images that appear to resemble
the shape of a very popular mouse.
For years, Barrett was an academic emergency medicine professor and researcher
at the University of Oklahoma. During that time he published articles,
letters, book chapters, and did original research in medical literature.
Regarding Walt Disney World, Barrett says, Initially, WDW was a
great stress relief for me from the rigors of emergency room work. Eventually,
my love of writing, research, and WDW merged into a desire to write about
the place I enjoy the most. Not to mention the fun of it; experiencing
and writing about WDW is much more fun for me than working in emergency
Barrett's fascination with Walt Disney World began in the late 1980s.
I lived in Oklahoma at the time, and I would travel to WDW to medical
conferences whenever I could, said Barrett. For casual reading
at home, I would read every book I could find about WDW.
Barrett would visit WDW twice a year, but that wasn't enough for him.
In 1998, Barrett moved to Florida and found employment near Orlando. I
was in heaven! he said. Since my magical move to Florida,
I visit WDW almost weekly. My publisher asked me recently if I ever tire
of WDW. I answered a resounding 'No!' In fact, whenever I'm on Disney
World property, I feel recharged, like I never want to leave.
Pretty soon, the frequent visits to WDW added not only to Barrett's love
for WDW, but also to his knowledge of the resort. And he was becoming
quite the expert. Barrett said, Because of my fervent interest in
WDW, my family and friends began turning to me for advice about the attractions,
restaurants, and touring the parks. He says he is still dismayed
when he notices a visitor who is not having a good time at WDW, and notes
that it's often because they have made some wrong decisions.
Birth of a book
Barrett decided that he wanted to help the visitor experience. I
decided to write a book that would serve as a personal touring guide,
he said. Such a book could be studied or picked up on the way to the resort
without any preparation, guiding visitors through various touring plans
that provided steps around the parks with minimal waits in lines. Barrett
said he wanted to write the most detailed touring plans in print. WDW
presents the visitor with an overwhelming number of options. The key to
a magical vacation is making the right decisions at any given time,
The book Barrett wrote is The Hassle-Free Walt Disney World Vacation,
2003 (Intrepid Traveler:2003. ISBN: 1-887140-43-3). The hassle-free
book took form in 1998, and after constant research and revision, it was
first published in 2001 and has had updates every year.
Book II: Hidden Mickeys
Hidden Mickeys had been around for a while. Barrett first discovered
them in the mid-'90s thanks to a few cast members. "Two of the early Hidden
Mickeys I recall marveling over (pointed out to me by cast members): the
one in the mural above the entrance to Body Wars in the Wonders of Life
Pavilion at Epcot and the one in the hanging vine above the giraffes in
the Africa room of the 'it's a small world' ride in the Magic Kingdom.
I decided to write about Hidden Mickeys that I could find and that I expect
others could find as well, with help from clues (sketchy descriptions
for a challenge) and hints (more complete descriptions if you need help)
for each Hidden Mickey.
Before he knew it, Barrett had the makings of another book, Hidden
Mickeys: A Field Guide to Walt Disney World's Best Kept Secrets (Intrepid
Traveler: 2003. ISBN: 1887140441). The Hidden Mickeys book was a
natural follow-up to the Hassle-Free Guide, since the touring plans I
developed for the attractions were easily transformed into efficient Hidden
Mickey scavenger hunts, said Barrett. I researched and wrote
the Hidden Mickeys book over a seven-month period in early 2002.
Barrett accumulates information about potential Hidden Mickey sightings
from the Internet and from official Disney material, especially the Disney
Magazine. He also tries to spot new Hidden Mickeys whenever he visits
WDW, either by himself or with family or friends. Even his neighbor, son,
and sister have all discovered new Hidden Mickeys.
Barrett frequently ask cast members about Hidden Mickeys in their areas,
and they don't always know. He also often rides attractions many times
to verify the sightings. It took many runs through the Jungle Cruise
in the Magic Kingdom for me to accept the Hidden Mickey chipped out of
the brick toward the end of the dark temple section), he said.
When Barrett discovers a new Hidden Mickey, Disney does not validate
According to Barrett, the official Disney Hidden Mickey list is sketchy
and incomplete, with Hidden Mickey lore filtering up from the public,
and Disney participating benevolently from the sidelines.
The placement and cataloguing of Hidden Mickeys is not an exact
science, so some latitude, and confusion, exists, Barrett said.
For example, some cast members in the Haunted Mansion and on the
Magic Kingdom Backstage Tours have claimed for years that the Hidden Mickey
plate and saucers on the ghostly banquet table is not 'official,' that
the Imagineers' original design for the table settings did not include
this Hidden Mickey, and that cast members place it there whenever they
feel the urgewhich is almost always, thank goodness. It is
thus interesting, Barrett says, that it is listed on the official
Disney Hidden Mickey list.
The bottom line is that Disney probably didn't predict the surge
of interest in Hidden Mickeys and so didn't apply its considerable prowess
to define and catalogue the little gems, Barrett said. He noted
that Disney benefits from the sport because it brings more interest (and
more people) to WDW. So Disney gently encourages our interest in
Hidden Mickeys, and I appreciate the absence of Disney heavy-handedness
in this wonderful game, he said.
The unofficial official history of Hidden Mickeys
The Disney official history goes like this: Hidden Mickeys started
in the late 1980s in Epcot as an inside joke among the Imagineers. Hiding
Mickey around WDW was just plain fun, Barrett said. I suspect
that Mickey Mouse designs that were previously in place in WDW (and Disneyland)
also became known as Hidden Mickeys. Because of the popularity of Hidden
Mickeys, Imagineers are encouraged to place them in new construction.
Some of Barrett's more memorable Hidden Mickeys include:
- In the riverboat scene near the end of the Splash Mountain ride is
the cloud Hidden Mickey (lying on his back) on the wall to the right.
This was one of the first Hidden Mickeys that made a big impression
on me, and it's quite unique, Barrett said.
- In the large mural at the Maelstrom loading dock in the Norway pavilion
is the side profile of Mickey's face in the creases of the woman flight
attendant's shirt to the left of the top of her clipboard. This
Hidden Mickey is slightly distorted, but it's there and it's really
- The stretched out Mickey Mouse watchband on the ground among the
conical-shaped trees in front of the Contemporary Resort, easily spotted
from the upper floors and from the window of the California Grill restaurant
on the top floor. Barrett calls this one awesome.
Barrett has a Top Ten list and an Honorable Mention list in the book
for his 20 favorite Hidden Mickeys at WDW. His favorite Hidden Mickey
is the full body image of Mickey painted in the mural (in the green broccoli-like
tissue) above the entrance to Body Wars at Epcot. The one that surprised
me the most is number three of the Top Ten: The amazing sight of the top
part of Mickey's head and his fingers as he peeks over the wall behind
the D-Zertz shop at Pleasure Island, he said.
Barrett said that most debates about Hidden Mickeys involve the classic
three-circle forms. Barrett's definition of a true three-circle
Hidden Mickey is rather strictthe circles must touch and be in the
right position and proportions. However, there are distorted three-circle
Mickeys that are not positioned or proportioned correctly but are so accepted
among cast members and the public that I include them as Hidden Mickeys,
he said. For example, the Hidden Mickey gear wheels on the ground
to the right near the end of the Big Thunder Mountain Railroad track in
the Magic Kingdom and the various lock Hidden Mickeys, such as the lock
on the jail cell door near the end of the Pirates of the Caribbean boat
ride. Neither of the above Hidden Mickeys is proportioned quite right.
Barrett said that he has never come across any information about the
oldest Hidden Mickey. The story goes that Hidden Mickeys began in
Epcot in the late 1980s, he said. I believe that is when the
term 'Hidden Mickey' was accepted. According to Barrett, however,
Mickey images existed before the late 1980s. One example, according to
Disney cast members, is the movie Impressions de France, which
has not been updated since it premiered in 1982 in the France pavilion
at Epcot. Barrett notes that the film contains a head-and-ears Hidden
Mickey, on the center screen in a second-floor window of the house in
the background of the outdoor wedding scene. The answer to the 'oldest
Hidden Mickey' question may be lost in antiquity, he said.
When it comes to such things as rehabs, there may be something brewing.
According to Barrett, Hidden Mickeys are definitely added during some
rehabs (like when the high-tech living room and kitchen were added,
along with some Hidden Mickeys, to the Carousel of Progress attraction
in the Magic Kingdom). Hidden Mickeys are also lost during rehabs,
such as when three Hidden Mickeys disappeared from Old Port Royale in
the Caribbean Beach Resort when the food court area was remodeled. I
mourn lost Hidden Mickeys the same way some folks mourn discontinued attractions,
Although there is no master list, Barrett said there is an official list
of sorts. No one kept a master list of Hidden Mickeys. Sightings
began to accumulate in the late 1980s, and interested guests posted on
Hidden Mickey Web sites, waiting for verification. Disney has an 'official'
list, but it's incomplete. For example, the wonderful 'grim reaper' Hidden
Mickey in the Haunted Mansion at the Magic Kingdom is not mentioned by
Disney, he said. Consider that this list includes only 21 Hidden
Mickeys in the Magic Kingdom, while Barrett has documented 76 in the Magic
Kingdom for his book.
According to Barrett, the only way to know that a Hidden Mickey is purposeful
is if an Imagineer admits to it, such as whenan Imagineer recently showed
him a Hidden Mickey in the post-show area of Mission: SPACE, or if the
Hidden Mickey is clearly not accidental, such as with the Hidden Mickey
in the mural behind the fern at the Garden Grill restaurant at Epcot.
No way is that Mickey accidental, he said. Only a few Imagineers
have admitted to placing specific Hidden Mickeys, however. I think
it makes the Hidden Mickey game more challenging, don't you think?
Barrett continues to search for new Hidden Mickeys, and says that he
is constantly busy scouting for new Hidden Mickeys and verifying Hidden
Mickey sightings that people question him about.
For more information on Hidden Mickeys visit Steve Barrett at The
Thoughts, questions, or comments? Contact Mike here.
Mike Scopa first visited Walt Disney World almost 30 years ago. Planning a trip was simple back in the 1970s, with only the Magic Kingdom and a few Disney-owned resorts in Orlando.
Over the past 11 years, Mike has been perfecting his WDW trip-planning skills as he has hosted chats and bulletin boards about Disney for a Fortune 100 company.
Mike brings his experience to MousePlanet in a series of lessons to help you with all the phases of planning a WDW trip.
Mike pays special attention to all the details that ensure your family has the best possible time at the Happiest Place on Earth.
You can contact Mike here.
Here are trip reports that Mike has written that are part of MousePlanet's archives:
Michael Scopa -- August 1999 -- Walt Disney World (CSR)
Michael J. Scopa -- July 1997 -- Walt Disney World (WL/CBR)
Mike Scopa -- July 1994 -- Walt Disney World (WL / CBR)
Also, don't miss Lani Teshima's column, The Trip Planner for more travel planning information.
Get the latest info about the resort at Park Update: Walt Disney World.