Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway is a new attraction at Disney’s Hollywood Studios and will be coming to Disneyland in the next few years. This new ride takes place in the park’s icon, the Chinese Theater. Guests go on a wild ride through the world of the Mickey Mouse short films. This post will cover our thoughts on the attraction, how it fits into Hollywood Studios and some strategy on when to get on the ride.
We went into Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway blind without having read any reviews or watching any ride videos. What little information we did have came from previous announcements, knowing that the ride system would be trackless and would be based around the Mickey shorts. In general, I like going into new attractions pretty blind and would recommend it overall. To each their own, but I do think Runaway Railway is best the first time through. All of that in mind, there are some small spoilers ahead!
The outside of the Chinese Theater didn’t change much when the ride changed, which makes sense due to the Theater’s icon status. They did add a very bright neon sign to the front of the building displaying the new ride’s name, though the bright pinks and blues of the sign don’t really match the muted reds and browns of the theater.
The inside queue space didn’t change much either. Inside the main lobby, the movie posters on the wall no longer promote old classic movies, but are rotating posters of different Mickey Mouse shorts. They also took out the movie memorabilia that used to be in glass cases around the queue. Other than that, the fancy light fixtures and interesting carpets remain.
The true changes come when you enter the large theater room where a video used to play detailing how movies were made. Instead, you watch Mickey and Minnie get ready for a picnic. They run into Goofy, a train conductor. Some trouble with Pluto and a pie causes Goofy’s train to explode, and the screen bursts open to lead you into the cartoon itself!
Unfortunately, our first ride through happened mid-Covid, and the preshow was not running. I highly recommend watching the preshow on Youtube before riding for the first time if you ride it while the health and safety measures are in place, because it helps guests understand the story of the attraction.
After walking through the screen, you’re in the cartoon! Specifically you’re in a Runnamuck Railroad barn, where you’re able to board the train Goofy was driving. Each train has an engine, and behind it are four large ride cars that fit around 8 people each. One of the most surprising aspects of how this ride works is that the engine doesn’t last long. Since the ride is trackless, each car is separate from the others. Once the train ‘runs away,’ each car takes a slightly different path through the ride scenes, while the engine carrying Goofy disappears.
The trackless ride system of course is being used more and more frequently in Disney Parks. Rise Of The Resistance, also in Hollywood Studios, uses the same system to take guests through a Star Destroyer. They use it to their advantage in Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Railway, as the cars make unexpected and sharp movements that would be impossible on any sort of track.
While there are physical sets in the ride, the walls are used as screens to depict the action in many of the rooms. While I’ve never been a big fan of screens, they’re used well in the ride to keep the rider immersed in the story. They use projections on the characters to animate their faces, but do a much better job than they have in older rides. Frozen Ever After, whose animatronics have animated faces, miss the mark in our eyes.
As we’ve mentioned, our first ride through of Mickey & Minnie’s came during Covid safety measures. Missing out on that pre-show did make the plot somewhat fuzzy as jumping into the cartoon wasn’t quite as evident as it would be otherwise. You can’t really fault the attraction for that because the pre show is awesome and someday (hopefully soon) it will be back.
Once on the actual attraction, the plot moves rapidly as our train jumps from scene to scene. The first scene, with Goofy conducting the train, has Mickey and Minnie pull up beside us in their convertible that is seen in the pre-show. They are just trying to get to their nice picnic lunch before Goofy makes things go incredibly wrong.
I won’t get into much detail on the following scenes, as I’m not looking to spoil it for anyone. Describing what happens after the “everything goes wrong” moment isn’t all that hard except for the fact that I’m not sure at all of what happens. The story is confused and chaotic but this decision is purposeful. Jumping from frenetic scene to scene is reminiscent of the cartoons and there’s just enough plot to get you through.
But is that plot effectively and seamlessly told? I’d lean towards a no, despite it being a fun ride. For those that love a good attraction story (I see you) Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway isn’t going to wow you. The scenes are jumbled, which is mostly purposeful, and there are one or two that don’t fit in at all. Did the Imagineers get a little carried away with showing off the trackless system instead of making the story flow coherently? Yeah, that seems to be the case. There is definitely one scene that doesn’t belong in the attraction and Mickey & Minnie’s suffers because of it. But I don’t think that hinders the attraction as much as it would some others because of how frantic the ride is.
Like most other dark rides, the story telling is done through vignettes that our ride vehicles hop in and out of. Just this one tells the story in a more modern way, leaning heavily into screens. All of this leads to a classic Disney Fantasyland style ride with a few ‘wow’ moments and some other ‘wait, what?’ moments. Ultimately, the plot is just fine using that classic system but it is the weakest aspect of the ride.
On the other hand, a dark ride is just what the doctor ordered for Hollywood Studios. Frankly, the park could use a few more of them but I digress. Now that Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway is at Hollywood Studios there are (checks notes) two actual rides without a height limit. No, that can’t be right. (Checks notes again.) Yeah, that’s correct.
Hollywood Studios is a hodgepodge of Disney intellectual property and having something both kid friendly and uniquely Disney as the centerpiece of the park is a good move. There may be some qualms over whether the attraction belongs in the Chinese Theater but those only exist because of how perfectly The Great Movie Ride fit in there. As for fit in the whole park, the attraction doesn’t have any issue because… Everything fits in there? It’s hard to pinpoint exactly what Hollywood Studios identity is but adding this attraction certainly didn’t diminish it. In fact, I would call it an asset at this point.
As far as strategy goes, park touring strategy in the time of a pandemic is a strange thing. Hollywood Studios is near capacity (albeit a small capacity) nearly every day as of November 2020. Outside of Rise of the Resistance, which has its own unique queue system, Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway is the most popular attraction in the park. That makes the strategy simple – either get to the park super early (I’m talking at least an hour) and ride it before anything else or do it in the evening before closing. The latter is my preferred route as I think there’s better use of time in the morning as a disproportionate amount of people head to Runaway Railway. I guess that makes the advice simple here, just ride it late either after you’ve finished all of the other attractions or a little before closing if you haven’t finished everything! It is worth doing and should be prioritized over most attractions at Hollywood Studios though.
Overall, this zany addition to an already messy park is fitting, and is going to be an entertaining ride for every member of the family. While the plot may be a bit of a question mark, the confusion I think adds to the fun. This is definitely not an attraction to miss if you’re interested in the next big thing, or just a darn good time.
I would not be surprised to see this trackless ride system used more and more in theme parks throughout the world with its versatility for unique storytelling, while also having the capability to be thrilling. Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Railway is a win for Disney in our book, and we’re excited about its coming addition to the land (abomination) that is Toontown in Disneyland.
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Categories: Attraction Reviews