Hidden Mickey: Secrets Hiding in Plain Sight at Disney World
Maybe you've been to Disney World once, twice or even 30 times. You're standing in line for a ride, a Dole Whip or just grabbing a bite in one of the many restaurants. You notice a father and daughter walking around with a small book, pointing at random locations. They look excited, they snap a few pictures and run off in another direction. The behavior looks strange and you wonder if you're missing out on some secret. The answer is, "Yes."
Disney World has its own secret world. It's a treasure hunt with no treasure to hold in your hands. The "loot" is hidden in plain sight, and that's kind of the point. This is the world of the Hidden Mickey. The creators of Disney World, commonly referred to as Imagineers, hid plenty of images of Mickey around the parks. Some are hiding in plain sight, needing only a little bit of detective work to locate. Others are extremely abstract, maybe even open to debate as to whether they're even a "true" Hidden Mickey.
TPG recently spent a day hunting (and finding!) Hidden Mickeys with one of the world's foremost experts: Kevin Neary. He's a longtime Imagineer and co-author of "The Hidden Mickeys of Walt Disney World," with Susan Neary -- the definitive guide on where to find the most popular and some of the most difficult Hidden Mickeys located throughout the parks. Kevin should know, he designed many of the Hidden Mickeys in Disney World himself. Check out the video to see if you can spot some of the Hidden Mickeys yourself!
There aren't a whole lot of rules to hunting for Hidden Mickeys, but the ones that do exist are basic: You're looking for a collection of three circles in the shape of our favorite mouse's head. One bigger circle in the center as the head with two smaller circles that represent Mickey's ears. Most of the time, those smaller circles are attached to the bigger circle. Occasionally, you'll find a profile of Mickey's head or a full outline of his body. Those are more rare. What you will find, literally hundreds of times over if you look closely enough, are those three circles in the shape of Mickey's head.
Hunting for Hidden Mickeys
Our one-day journey with Kevin started in the Magic Kingdom and took us to all four theme parks with a brief stop in Disney Springs. Kevin drew our attention to a piano in a display window on at the front of the Magic Kingdom on Main Street USA where the logo had been transformed into a Hidden Mickey. From there, the hunt was on. We found a Hidden Mickey on the way into Adventureland, hiding in plain sight. Some hidden Mickeys are easy to find without a whole lot of sleuthing, while others can baffle you for hours, even with a book.
In Epcot, the Italy Pavilion is a great place to find traditional and abstract Hidden Mickeys. Enoteca Castello houses a classic Hidden Mickey hiding right underneath your glass of wine, carved into the decorative trim on the bar.
If you step outside to the Neptune fountain, you'll have to keep your eyes peeled to find the Mickey carved into the stone backdrop of the fountain.
Related: Best Credit Cards for Theme Parks
What's the Point?
You might be asking why people run around looking for these hidden signs left by the Imagineers. Or how a book containing hints to finding many of the Hidden Mickeys can continue to be popular years after publication. The hunt for Mickey is a completely different way to look at Disney World. Disney does not have to be all about how many rides you can get on in a day. Taking the time to enjoy the smaller details can be just as fun.
When you really get into Hidden Mickeys, it can make you want to take the longer standby line on a ride instead of opting for FastPass (only if you're a true Hidden Mickey nut). In other cases, the Mickey hunt can just be a nice break from hustling around the park.
The pavilion outside Mission: Space is a great place for parents to sit and rest their legs while boys and girls conduct the whimsical hunt for a tough Hidden Mickey made of colorful stones in the concrete. After that, where better to look for a Hidden Mickey in space other than the backside of the moon? The Imagineers' sole job is to use their imagination to create memories. A set of ears disguised as a crater on the moon certainly fits the bill.
At Animal Kingdom, even the plumbing gets into the game with some well-placed stones in the concrete -- that's what makes the game fun in a maddening sort of way. After all, Disney World parks are virtually always busy. Stopping in the middle of a busy thoroughfare at Disney World to look at the ground should be done at your own risk.
Enzo's Hideaway, an Italian restaurant at Disney Springs, is a good place to grab some pretty decent Italian food while visiting Mickey. On top of a good meal, it serves up both easy and difficult Hidden Mickeys. In fairness, both of the Hidden Mickeys we found (with Kevin's help) were on the more difficult side. A flashlight was required for the one we found in the entryway of the restaurant. We also got lucky that nobody was sitting at the table where Kevin thought another Mickey was hiding. He knew where it was and it still took him almost 10 minutes of scouring the wall to find it. We won't give you away the entire secret. Hopefully you'll enjoy the hunt!
The vast majority of people who visit Disney World have no idea there's a whole world of Hidden Mickeys all around them. Most of those people are also probably fine with being blissfully ignorant to that next level of fun. But, if you're just a little curious, there's indeed a hidden world just waiting to be discovered all around. Now that our kids have been educated on Hidden Mickeys, they've found a whole bunch that don't even appear in the book. Plus, some are always magically appearing -- even in the new Toy Story Land. While we're standing in line waiting for a ride, our kids are happy to let their eyes wander to see if they can find the handiwork of an Imagineer.
And, as with most things Disney-related, there's a special level of craziness when it comes to Hidden Mickeys. We've heard a rumor of a special Hidden Mickey that only appears for about 10 minutes on one special day of the year and only if the weather is just right. We won't spill all the beans on that one. But if you end up on the slippery slope of a Hidden Mickey obsession, we might just see you there.
Don't miss these other Disney resources:
- TPG Guide to Visiting Walt Disney World
- How to Save Money Buying Discounted Disney Gift Cards
- How a Disney World Annual Pass Can Save Your Family Money
- Price Bridging: A Way to Save Money on Disney World Annual Passes
- Pay More to Wait Less: Disney’s Toy Story Land Early Morning Magic
- The Top 5 Tips for Disney World First-Timers
Edward Pizzarello covers family travel for TPG Family and also blogs at Pizza in Motion. You can find him podcasting at Miles to Go and eating doughnuts on Twitter and Instagram.