The LiMOUSEine Storyby Jim Korkis, contributing writer
As I traveled around the United States this last year doing various Disney-themed presentations, the question I was most frequently asked was when I was going to do a sequel to my book, The Vault of Walt. I would always smile and say, "I am working on it."
I love books, and I have always found it troubling when a book was announced and then, for whatever reasons, it gets postponed or worse, cancelled. So, I delay announcing my books until they are actually available to be ordered.
I am very happy to announce that The Vault of Walt: Volume 2 is available.
Just like the first edition, this volume is divided into four sections with seven stories about Walt, seven about Disney films, seven about the Disney theme parks and seven miscellaneous tales. With a bright yellow cover and a large number "2," you can instantly see it is a different edition.
One of my favorite authors and Disney historians, Jeff Kurtti, was kind enough to write a blurb for the book:
"Jim Korkis is my favorite kind of Disney historian. He's not a dull statistician or a fussy chronologist, or a pursuer of trivial factual minutiae. Jim Korkis is a skilled storyteller. He not only delivers the goods in interestig anecdote and rich history, he imbues his writings with personality and context so his readers may appreciate his subjects with a satisfying comprehension."
That's a lot to live up to and I definitely tried to make the book worthy of such praise.
With so many outstanding Disney books out there, I hope you will consider adding The Vault of Walt: Volume 2 to your holiday list for you or your friends. If the book sells as well as the first volume did, then a year from now, maybe Volume 3 will be joining the series.
Oh, and make sure you come back and check out this column in a few weeks when I will have an announcement of a incredible project that only six people know about at this time.
However, no matter how much I want to revel in the release of my new book or the upcoming project, there is still the responsibility for a new column this week and, once again, I want to do something Mickey Mouse-oriented, since Mickey's birthday is right around the corner.
This column may include a lot of technical data, but I've tried to break it up into mouse-sized bites because I think it is important to record this information for current Disney fans and for future researchers.
A lot of this information was never recorded, or at least not easily accessible to Disney fans who might be interested.
At worst, just be amazed at how the Disney Company used to do things back in the day. In fact, some of you might have seen this iconic car and have some stories to share about it as well.
Twenty years ago, before gas prices soared to impossible levels, Mickey Mouse used to travel around the East Coast in style in his specially made "LiMouseine."
In the spring of 1989, to promote the May 1 opening of the Disney-MGM Studios, the "LimMouseine" with a costumed Mickey Mouse and Walt Disney World Ambassador Kathleen Sullivan, departed Orlando on March 5, 1989, for an almost-40 city East Coast tour, beginning in Indianapolis, that would last for roughly four months.
The unique burgundy stretch limo made its official public debut a few days earlier on February 27, where Walt Disney World President Dick Nunis and Mickey Mouse picked up then-Mayor Bill Frederick at the Orlando City Hall for a ride to the Disney-MGM Studios.
It rolled through the streets of Orlando, attracting the attention of residents and motorists.
During those days before the official tour, there were photo opportunities with the distinctive car at Disney's Grand Floridian Resort and and Mickey's Birthdayland at the Magic Kingdom.
The driver was Bill Marable, a former Disney bus driver, who often had to manuever through narrow and awkward turns during the trip.
The 9,000 pound, six-wheeled vehicle that was 40-feet long was loaded with high technology, since it was supposed to represent Mickey's "home away from home".
The weight was really about 7,980 pounds, but the electronics added approximately 1,000 pounds. Overall length was 40 feet with overall width being 79.5 inches. The height was 65 inches with a wheelbase of 331 inches.
This five-door vehicle sat 12 passengers comfortably, but was placed low to the floor to accommodate the size of the costumed Disney characters that sometimes included Minnie Mouse and Roger Rabbit (the unofficial mascot of Disney-MGM Studios at its opening), as well as Mickey. The interior was done in a maroon color on the curtains, carpets, and upholstery.
There were yards of windows and four oversized glass sunroofs with sliding shades, large enough for the characters to stand up and wave to guests.
This super limo, billed as "the longest fixed-frame vehicle that can be driven legally on U.S. roads," included electronic gear (much of it donated by Sony and considered top-of-the-line at the time).
The car sported a Wayfarer satellite tracking system (Sony RDSS Wayfarer Mobile Communication System), using the Geostar satellite, which was in a 22,300-mile-high stationary orbit. This system allowed the driver to pinpoint the car's position on a video-screen road map.
Wayfarer, used by transport companies to track entire fleets of big trucks throughout the United States, relayed the limo's whereabouts to Walt Disney World computers and permitted keyboard communications between the driver and home base so he could type text messages. It was not a massive-sized inclusion. Roughly, it had a lunch-pail-size main unit, keyboard and two antennas.
An entertainment center with AM-FM stereo cassette player, CD player, 20 speakers, 8mm videocassette player, a half-inch Beta videocassette player and two eight-inch Trinitron color monitors with wireless remote. Passengers could watch television programs received by antenna or watch videos. Of course, there was also a radio in the car and the entire audio system could be remotely controlled from four locations inside the limo. A changer for 10 compact discs and a stack of high-capacity amplifiers were in the trunk.
High-fidelity digital reproduction was delivered through 20 loudspeakers arranged in a tri-amp configuration and using 1,600 watts of power.
Two cellular telephones with separate lines could be used from four different locations in the car.
A rear-mounted television camera (Sony Automotive Watchcam) with dashboard monitor aided the driver in backing up the car, which was nearly 2.5 times the length of a Cadillac Sedan de Ville. The driver also also kept tabs on the interior of the car via a second camera and talked with rear passengers through an intercom system.
A clear, plastic, canopied disc-jockey booth at the rear of the car was used by DJs in the cities visited. Included were a boom microphone and a professional mixer that permitted people outside the car to hear broadcasts or discussions from the radio personalities.
Two air conditioners made things fairly pleasant inside the LiMOUSEine, with the notable exception of that plastic disc-jockey booth, which turned out to get so warm that it had to be tinted and furnished with curtains before the trip began to make it more comfortable for visiting disc jockeys.
Entering the booth required crawling over the rear wheel hump and descending into a small, carpeted, square compartment with a swiveling chair and counters upholstered in dark-red vinyl. Larger disc jockeys found it a very tight fit.
Some high-tech features of the LiMOUSEine were not readily apparent to casual observers. More noticeable were the the formidable dimensions and ritzy exterior decor of the car that included perched atop the grille, and looking remarkably (but not intentionally, a Disney spokesman insisted, because that would violate intellectual property rights) like a version of the Rolls-Royce ''Spirit of Ecstasy'' hood ornament was a 24-karat gold-plated Tinker Bell figure with her wings stretched behind her.
The interior wasn't just devoted to tech, but to the comforts of the Mouse. There was a single bed with matching end tables, overstuffed furniture (like the kind found in Mickey's house in Mickey's Birthdayland, couches and a chair), curtains with silhouette cutouts of characters, and miniature chase lights.
Of course, there was a tiled refreshment area with soda and ice cream fountain, popcorn machine, sink and cookie jar and a cheese tray stand for the cheeses in the cabinet. In addition, the interior was decorated with Disney books and Disney ceramic figures.
The Rolls-Royce front end with gold-plated radiator shell and trim had a 24-karat Mickey three-circled head shape. There were custom-built Mickey ears over front wheel wells, sparkling shooting-star effects on both front doors, 12 external parade speakers for parades and drive-up fanfares (with 1,200 watts of amplifier), red carpet and hook-ups for external power when parked with engine off.
Illuminated, gold-painted stars on the sides of the vehicle provided a sparkling effect at night and badges and wheel covers bore fancy Mickey Mouse monograms. The Disney-MGM Studio Theme Park connection was spelled out in large, gold-toned crests on the car's back doors and 22-karat gold-leaf logos along the sides.
An enlarged black-and-gold painted representation of motion-picture film ran over the rear edge of the roof and had small lights that blink sequentially in plastic trim along its edges. Rear turn signals feature Mickey Mouse silhouettes running and pointing in the direction of the turn.
Designed by Disney artist Tom Tripodi, at a cost of more than $100,000, the LiMOUSEine was built by Ultra LiMOUSEine Corp., of Brea, California, from a potpourri of car parts.
Why did Disney choose Ultra?
Ultra was renown for building limos for celebrities, including Elvis, Liberace, Clint Eastwood, Farrah Fawcett, Sylvester Stallone, and Larry Hagman, among others.
It was also noted for such automotive accomplishments as making the world's smallest limo (based on a subcompact) and the world's largest limo, a 102-foot creation with 16 wheels, a spa, and a swimming pool. That limo, unlike Mickey's LiMOUSEine, was articulated, or hinged, like a tractor-trailer or long fire truck, so it could turn corners.
The base vehicle for the LiMOUSEine was a Lincoln Town Car cut in half, and stretched more than 20 feet on a beefed-up frame.
Supporting the car were six wheels shod with T235/75R15 Goodyear Wrangler truck tires (six tires on three axles) packing 80 pounds per square inch air pressure. Among other manufacturers whose vehicles supplied parts during the 10-week-long construction of the LiMOUSEine were Chrysler, Rolls-Royce, and General Motors.
A 302-cubic-inch, 195-horsepower Ford V-8 engine (using super unleaded gasoline) and automatic transmission provided a more leisurely than exciting ride. Fuel efficiency was estimated at about 8 miles per gallon, which is one of the reasons it wouldn't be cost effective today to have the car touring around.
An extra-capacity 12-volt alternator and extra batteries helped supply the car's high power needs. Hookups for external power and a battery recharging system when the engine was off were installed as well.
What happened to this fabled vehicle after its multicity tour?
It appeared in the Citrus Bowl Parade in Florida on January 1, 1990, with Mickey Mouse, Minnie Mouse and Roger Rabbit standing up and waving through individual sun roofs.
It was repainted and used for the "Magical World of Barbie" show at Epcot's World Showcase in 1994, which definitely deserves a column of its own.
Barbie was the "Ambassador of Friendship" and a video tape with excerpts from her 20-minute stage show at the American Gardens Theater in front of the American Adventure could be purchased from Mattel for a penny with the purchase of specially marked Barbie dolls.
Barbie arrived at her show in the LiMOUSEine that was painted pink with metallic sparkles and included Barbie memorabilia inside. Devoted fans could meet both Ken and Barbie and have their pictures taken with them outside the car.
The show ended May 11, 1995, and was replaced by what Disney publicity called "flextainment", flexible entertainment with street performers that supposedly fit in more appropriately with the area's image.
With another paint job, the limo reappeared driving down Main Street U.S.A. at the Magic Kingdom for Walt Disney World's 25th anniversary in 1996.
It then ended up in the "boneyard" of Disney-MGM Studios Backlot Tour for awhile and was eventually placed in storage.
I have no idea if it still exists or where it is today. I am grateful I did get to see it in its prime, although I didn't get a chance to closely examine it.
Perhaps some MousePlanet readers have some memories to share in the comment section about this fabulous limo.