Mickey Mouse paid a visit to Kansas City this weekend, Walt Disney’s hometown, as he celebrated the unveiling of a traveling art exhibit that pays homage to Walt’s lifelong love of trains. He also unveiled the latest Mickey Mouse-inspired toy train set, Mickey’s Magic Choo Choo, releasing in time for the holidays. Local preschoolers along with Kansas City officials and hundreds of fans saw Mickey off as he kicked off his virtual train tour departing Union Station for Los Angeles, where he will arrive just in time for a viewing party showcasing the upcoming Disney Channel primetime special, Mickey Mouse Clubhouse: Choo Choo Express airing Sunday, October 25th (7:00-7:45 p.m. ET/PT).

© Copyright Disney

© Copyright Disney

Families and their kids can track Mickey’s travels online at www.YouTube.com/Disneyliving, where they can now view the debut of “Mickey’s Evolution,” a video retrospective that reminds us why Mickey Mouse is a bona fide global icon. Fans can also follow Mickey’s virtual train tour on www.Twitter.com/DisneyLiving, and on www.Facebook.com/DisneyLiving, as he makes his way to the Travel Town Railroad Museum in Los Angeles.

The Art Exhibit

The exhibit captures the history of Walt’s and Mickey’s love of trains with a nod to life on the railroad in the early 20th century. Introducing visitors to rare animation sketches and cells, historic photography and some of Walt’s personal train-related artifacts, the gallery tells the story of a simpler time when Mickey and friends traveled by rail and Walt himself was building one-of-a-kind miniature railroads in his backyard for friends and family. Including photographs of Walt riding the “Lilly Belle” or Mickey rushing to catch a train in an early animation sketch from Mr. Mouse Takes A Trip, this unique art collection comprised of nearly two dozen pieces, will be on display at Union Station from October 10-14, 2009; select images will then move to the Travel Town Railroad Museum in Los Angeles, Calif.

Mickey Mouse’s Virtual Train Tour

© Copyright Disney

© Copyright Disney

Mickey Mouse’s virtual train tour will take him from Kansas City through the Rocky Mountains, to the Grand Canyon, through Hollywood, and finally, to Los Angeles’ Union Station, where he will arrive to Travel Town Railroad Museum in time for a viewing party with local preschoolers to celebrate the premiere of, Mickey Mouse Clubhouse: Choo Choo Express. The train-themed special which debuts Sunday, October 25 (7:00-7:45 p.m., ET/PT) on Disney Channel, stars Mickey Mouse, Minnie Mouse, Goofy, Donald, Daisy and Pluto as they climb aboard the Clubhouse Choo Choo Train for a snow-filled adventure.

Mickey’s Magic Choo Choo toy train set

The latest toy celebrating the company’s rich train history, Mickey’s Magic Choo Choo is a delightful train set for preschoolers from Disney Consumer Products (DCP) and Fisher Price. It lays its own tracks as it moves and comes with a Mickey figure, features Mickey’s voice, plays fun music and makes train-like sound effects (SRP $49.99, available at Disney Storewww.DisneyStore.com and retailers nationwide). The toy is inspired by Disney’s 1929 animated short, Mickey’s Choo Choo, as well as the forthcoming primetime episode on the popular Disney Channel’s #1 Playhouse Disney preschool series Mickey Mouse Clubhouse.

Holiday Giving

Representatives from the United States Marines will be on hand at Mickey’s farewell in Kansas City’s Union Station and at his arrival to the Travel Town Museum event in Los Angeles to help Mickey kick off Disney’s annual Toys for Tots campaign as guests collect and sort toys for distribution to needy families this holiday season. Additionally, DCP’s Disney Toys will contribute $10,000 worth of toys to Toys for Tots bringing smiles to thousands of families across the country. Walt Disney’s involvement with Toys for Tots dates back to 1947, when he designed the original Toys for Tots logo, a train on its way to deliver gifts for children.

Press Background

Since his debut on November 18, 1928, in Steamboat Willie, Mickey Mouse has been the most recognizable figure at The Walt Disney Company. Mickey became the first licensed character for Disney when, in 1929, he appeared on a writing tablet.

Mickey Mouse Facts:

1929 – Mickey’s Choo-Choo (an animated Mickey Mouse short) debuts.

1935 – First Disney train toy introduced

Lionel is the first company to acquire a license for producing a railway toy featuring Mickey Mouse. The pump-style handcar was an instant success. It came with a circle track and was priced at 90 cents.

June 1949 – The Disney family purchases the five acre hilltop property on Carolwood Dr.

Walt bought the property with the intention of creating his own working train. The site would eventually become Walt Disney’s Carolwood Pacific Railroad.

December 1949 – The first portion of the Carolwood Pacific Railroad’s track is laid.

By May 1950, the track was complete. The completed layout for the Carolwood Pacific Railroad included 2,615 ft. of track, 11 switches, and an “s” curve tunnel that ran under Lilly Disney’s flower garden.

May 1950 – Delivery of locomotive Lilly Belle.

On March 15, 1950, the first freight car to be completed was transported via a studio truck to Walt’s Carolwood home. Shortly after, Lilly Belle a 20-lb steam engine named for Lillian Disney was delivered to Walt’s home.

1955 – The steam locomotives at Disneyland begin operation.

The E.P. Ripley and C.K. Holliday began service in the park on July 17, 1955. Since then, additional steam trains have been added.

Walt Disney was born in Chicago in 1901, the family moved to Marceline when he was a small child, and then they moved to Kansas City in 1911, when he was 10 years old. They stayed in Kansas City until 1917 when the family moved to Chicago, but Walt went back to Kansas City again just two years later, in 1919, to begin his artistic career. He moved to Hollywood years later.

Mickey Mouse has appeared in more than 120 different cartoons, a handful of television series, and appears on thousands of items of merchandise. He inspired the world’s most famous Theme Parks and continues to fulfill his role as the muse for everything Disney

Mickey Mouse Clubhouse airs daily during Disney Channel’s Playhouse Disney programming block for preschoolers. Since its May 2006 launch, the series has consistently ranked in the top 10 among all broadcast and basic cable series with kids 2-5, and continues to rank as the #1 series on Playhouse Disney and among the top 5 of all series on TV for FY09. *

Globally, “Mickey Mouse Clubhouse” reached over 120 million unduplicated viewers worldwide in over 140 countries and 25 languages.*

Source: Nielsen Media Research, FY09-to-date 9/29/08 thru 8/9/09. *Based on 2Q09 data.

Wrapping it Up

Funny thing, ironic, synchronicity, whatever you want to call it, but it is no secret that I am a former castmember (like so many artists here in Central Florida). A lesser known item is that I also worked for Hallmark in Kansas City and my offices were located in Union Station. The picture above, of Mickey Standing in front of the station, shows the front of the station; our offices were located on the top floor of the left side of the building in the shot.

It is a nice gesture that Mickey was in KC for the event – home to Walt’s first studios and in desperate need of this type of media attention.