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Robert Niles
Editor

Talking Mickey Mouse debuts at Disneyland

Published: May 6, 2010 at 12:09 PM

Disney's now released its own video of the talking Mickey Mouse walk-around character at Disneyland:

This comes after a tourist posted a YouTube video of the previously unannounced test:

Disney in recent years has been developing voice interaction with its guests, as seen in attractions such as Turtle Talk with Crush and the Monsters Inc. Laugh Floor. But a talking Mickey's the ultimate for Disney, and the initial tests look impressive.

So far, the talking Mickey is available only in Mickey's House in Toontown, and at selected, unannounced times. And if you do luck out and see the talking Mickey, Disneyland's now making visitors sign "no filming" waivers first, too.

Replies (45)

Joshua Counsil

Published: May 6, 2010 at 12:37 PM

I'm a little shocked at the length of time it took to implement this. It seems like such a given. You'd think that immediately after the validation case ("Crush") they would have began introducing this.

Also, it might be wise of them not to announce it, but rather slowly phase out the inanimate character faces.

Adam Dodds

Published: May 6, 2010 at 12:49 PM

Oh man guys, this is just a small part of Nextgen. There's so much planned for the interactive program (with the cost of 1.5 billion). Not just the park characters but so many elements will be interactive. Once Nextgen is completely implemented, the theme park experience will forever be revolutionized. THink of a Disney World of Warcraft in person....
Phil B.

Published: May 6, 2010 at 1:00 PM

Exceptional! This is the type of tech implemented in Disney parks that seperates them from all other competition. This is a game changer for sure.
Steve Alcorn
Writer

Published: May 6, 2010 at 1:29 PM

I was afraid this might seem creepy, but it actually has turned out great.
TH Creative
Writer

Published: May 6, 2010 at 2:18 PM

I'm not certain that Adam is correct. I think the person doing the talking is behind the mirror making it more of a 'Crush' thing than a NextGen thing. The real question is whether or not the voice is generated by a keyboard and software.

For example if Mickey were to say "Hi Robert Niles" would the keyboardist press one key (call it Function One) to ask a name and then when little Robert says his name the keyboardist would type in the name and then Function 2.

Comments like "I like you princess shirt" would be generic enough that the keyboardist could point and click with a mouse.

That seems so much easier than the NextGen bracelet.

And don't get me wrong, Adam. The NextGen bracelets will probably trip the video cams in the room to record the event. And you are correct that it will revolutionize the theme park experience.

But I think that mirror (one way glass) is an indicator that this is a guest to "live-ware" experience.

Anthony Murphy
Writer

Published: May 6, 2010 at 2:24 PM

I am getting on a plane NOW!
Rod Whitenack

Published: May 6, 2010 at 2:33 PM

That--is--Adorable! Nice job, Disney! The kids will LOVE this. I think this will make the characters more approachable to the wee ones. Meeting silent Micky seemed somewhat majestic and mysterious, but might seem a little intimidating and creepy to a small child.
Robert Niles
Editor

Published: May 6, 2010 at 2:55 PM

Based on how TH believes they are doing this (and I agree), this isn't something that could be done for a character walking around the park, but it could be pulled off with characters in a stationary position, provided the park creates the right set-up. (Most Disney characters only walk to and from their positions these days, anyway. Unless they are in a parade.)
luis gonzalez

Published: May 6, 2010 at 3:25 PM

this has to be one of the best things i've ever seen disney do. only disney could make a cartoon character literally come to life. kids today dont know how good they have it. CRAZY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

word to the anthropomorphic mouse!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

TH Creative
Writer

Published: May 6, 2010 at 3:27 PM

And everyone please understand, I'm just guessing about the details. But the placement of that mirror makes me believe that someone is watching.

Unlike Crush, Mickey has physical contact with the guests and is responding to their non-verbal cues.

And, incidently, this effect unbelievably charming and the inevitable parade of You Tube clips is just gonna blow this thing up.

Mark Fairleigh

Published: May 6, 2010 at 3:42 PM

Wow, just wow. Disney is truly king.
Tim W
Writer

Published: May 6, 2010 at 5:22 PM

Its a little creepy to see his mouth moving, but its amazing what technology has done!!
Eric G

Published: May 6, 2010 at 6:54 PM

TH Creative I’m going to say that you're wrong with your assumption that someone is behind the mirror or hidden and let me simply explain why.

Watch both of those videos and closely examine the timing of the interaction. Look at how the character interacts, and how timely some of the questions and responses are. Look at the movement of the mouth, hands and head.

If there were a second hidden party directing this, then essentially the character would be a human puppet. However, it would be IMPOSSIBLE for someone to react in such a precise timely manner via voice instructions from another.

The first poster is also wrong since Turtle Talk with Crush is an actor and the voice varies greatly based on who is performing.

This is not a voice actor. This is a computer-generated voice, not an actor’s and I believe the character inside the costume is actually talking.

I suspect there is a wireless microphone inside the costume that the character uses. That input is sent wirelessly to a computer that does the voice translation and it is then output to a speaker that is probably in the room, not actually on the costume. However, it could be on the costume.

If the sound is loud enough then they’ll eliminate the chance of the person inside the costume being heard. With this set-up it would be entirely possible for characters to speak in designated environments within the park.

There may be some limitations on words, but maybe not. Knowing Disney though there is likely an approved script.

luis gonzalez

Published: May 6, 2010 at 7:56 PM

i actually just got off the phone with someone from disney and they told me that the voice is controlled by the cast member in the costume. the cast member has a jack implanted in the back of their head and through that intercranial interface their thoughts are translated by a small computer and then vocalized by a speaker hidden in the mickey ears. this is why the project cost a billion dollars!

WORD to the "MICKTRIX"

Robert Niles
Editor

Published: May 6, 2010 at 8:40 PM

The mouth is moving, too. So let's not forget that there needs to be a mechanism in there to do that, and in coordination with the speech.

I'm assuming that there's a speaker in the head, too, and that the "voice" isn't coming from speakers in the room. (Can't tell for certain only from watching a video.)

Deidre Dennis

Published: May 6, 2010 at 8:42 PM

Why are they making people sign a no video taping waiver?
Stacey VanDyke

Published: May 6, 2010 at 10:18 PM

I would hate to show this to my son and then get there to see Mickey and him not talk. This would be a huge disappointment for even the youngest child. Depending on when you go to the Magic Kingdom this could also effect the rest of your trip.
65.184.233.253

Published: May 7, 2010 at 12:42 AM

Wow, I am seriously impressed... but I can't help think that this is gonna terrify kids to no end.

The only way that I can see this working as it appears to be is that the individual castmember in the suit is doing the talking... its too dynamic and interactive for there to be a keyed-up pre-programmed response or someone else doing it. Mickey seamlessly gestures and speaks in a simultaneous and spontaneous manner, choreographing such antics would be pretty much impossible.

TH Creative
Writer

Published: May 7, 2010 at 2:06 AM

Eric G writes: However, it would be IMPOSSIBLE for someone to react in such a precise timely manner via voice instructions from another.

I Respond: He doesn't need "voice instructions." A microphone on the costume would allow the person behind the mirror listen and respond.

Eric G writes: This is not a voice actor. This is a computer-generated voice, not an actor’s.

I respond: Which is what I said in my first post on the thread.

92.40.114.95

Published: May 7, 2010 at 2:51 AM

WOW that is awesome, im actually pretty surprised they've never done it before!! i cant wait for a talking Stitch!
99.250.40.26

Published: May 7, 2010 at 4:13 AM

I think it is a live voice (modulated)and the eyes and mouth respond to the sound. It is a common Halloween effect for cheap talking sculls. At first I thought it was a taking trash can but the hand movements are too close.
TH Creative
Writer

Published: May 7, 2010 at 4:16 AM

LA Times: "Imagineering officials said if the tests prove successful, the new talking meet-and-greet characters will probably not show up in Disney parks for another few years."
Scott B

Published: May 7, 2010 at 5:23 AM

Wow, color me impressed. I was firmly in the camp that was assuming that this would be creeeeepy. But I have to give Disney props, it looks really cool and convincing.

I am trying to figure out though if my three year old daughter would be less scared to see Mickey talking or more scared. Hmmmmm.....

Phil B.

Published: May 7, 2010 at 6:26 AM

I'm with Eric G. I lean more to this being a completely self contained system operated by the actor in the costume. During the interactions with the guest you can see Mickey instantaneously responding to comments, changing the inflection and volume of his voice as he interacts, and gesticulating in perfect coordination with whatever he is saying at that moment. Unless it's a completely controlled environment where all of the guest are scripted too, I don't see this as a two man show, the interaction is far too organic in nature.

This is really a super extension of the live character initiative, and an ingenious incorporation of Disney’s existing technology taken to the next level. Culminating in the finest free moving, highly interactive character meet and greet, which deservedly has been bestowed upon the mouse himself. I can't help but wonder how amazed and delighted Uncle Walt would be to see this.

Don Neal

Published: May 7, 2010 at 8:02 AM

I would be interested to see how they did it but regardless I am impressed. This is taking things up a notch and way overdue. Kudos to them for pulling it off. It will be truly impressive when this gets rolled out in a few years.
Joe Brown

Published: May 7, 2010 at 8:13 AM

Cool! My son's favorite part of our Universal trip when he was 5 was the interaction with Donkey. Can't say that I felt the same since Donkey picked on me alot. :)
This will go over huge with the kids though some may be a little scared at first.
24.13.68.43

Published: May 7, 2010 at 10:32 AM

Its about time!!! We are huge Disney world fans and I have always wished the kids couls actually talk with Mickey
Bob Miller

Published: May 7, 2010 at 10:41 AM

I sort of agree with Phil and Eric, with it being a one person show. After watching the videos several times and working with electronic all my life, one person could operate the costume.

Tiny servos operate the eyes and mouth, with a sensor near the persons own eye and mouth. When the actor blinks, Mickey's eyes blink and when the actor moves their mouth, Mickey's mouth moves. That's why Mickey's mouth moves almost in sinc with the voice.

The voice is reproduced by a computer, picked up by a mike in the costume head. As the actor speaks softly, the mike transmits it to the computer, which converts it into Mickey's voice and instantly transmits it back to the speaker inside the head, making it look like Mickey's actually saying the words. That's why Mickey can interact so quickly with a guest, because it's the actor responsible for all the movements and voice.

Right now they want to use it in a control environment, because of needing the computer to pick up the transmission. Once they solve the problem of outside interference, they should be able to use Mickey anywhere. This is only a guess on my part, but it explains how everything could work.

64.252.38.56

Published: May 7, 2010 at 12:28 PM

This looks great, but I wonder what happens when the actor/actress inside sneezes?
TH Creative
Writer

Published: May 7, 2010 at 12:53 PM

No way .... ABSOLUTELY NO WAY ... the CM in the suit is providing the audio.
Phil B.

Published: May 7, 2010 at 1:23 PM

Yesterday you were only guessing at the tech involved, today you are definite. Why is that?
98.154.124.15

Published: May 7, 2010 at 2:13 PM

Impressive..
70.50.56.101

Published: May 7, 2010 at 4:31 PM

Well having seen several on-stage shows, particularly the one "Celebrate You" one at the foot of Cinderella's castle throughout the days and Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party with the fully articulate head pieces I guess it was only a matter of time to see this come to life. I've seen the Turtle Talk shows on numerous occasions and it's always a huge hit with the kids and those with kids still inside them. Can't wait for this to become a staple of the parks. Not sure I approve of the non-video rule, BUT that could be only during the testing phases to prevent system glitches and such from hitting youtube...Perhaps once the bugs are ironed out this may not be a consideration. OR perhaps there will be a Disney Videographer there to record it one way or another, because this would be too precious not to have a momento of. You Rock Disney!!
Anthony Murphy
Writer

Published: May 7, 2010 at 5:06 PM

I do not think it's the cast member in the suit. The movements of Mickey seem very general as well.

Anyway no interactive character has ever been the physical entity but somebody off to the side. Check out push the can revealed on YouTube . Very sneaky! Also Mr TH likely has a pretty good source on this kind of things like this. I know he has been right before. TH is a true insider!

Blake Nieman

Published: May 7, 2010 at 6:25 PM

TH Creative says: "No way .... ABSOLUTELY NO WAY ... the CM in the suit is providing the audio."

I'd have to disagree. You have to take into account the timing between the voice and the interaction. Especially look at the second video, on the line, "Just don't tell Minnie" and when he's arranging them to take the picture. There's no way a behind the scenes voice could time that right.

My thoughts mirror Bob Miller's (above) that the voice is replicated by a computer (think auto-tune, Mickey style) fed by the in-suit CM. That's the most likely scenario, and the most replicable option.

However, surely they could have found ONE cast member out of thousands that could emulate Mickey's voice--and in that case, it would just be the facial animations and speaker for the suit. The suit would be easily made again, but finding that cast member for other parks...not so much. That's why I'm leaning on the first option.

The voice and movement are way too in-sync for the voice to come from somewhere else.

Rod Whitenack

Published: May 7, 2010 at 8:08 PM

Are you guys nuts? That's a T-Maus-A-Million! A Terminator! Fuzzy foam exterior over titanium metal endoskeleton! Its CPU is a neuronet processor; a learning computer! That kid should run, because he'll be back!
Anthony Murphy
Writer

Published: May 7, 2010 at 8:09 PM

I am not kidding! I think TH Is right cough cough!
72.208.126.240

Published: May 7, 2010 at 8:13 PM

This is the coolest thing ever...
JL Salaz

Published: May 7, 2010 at 8:14 PM

Greatest thing ever!
69.19.14.37

Published: May 7, 2010 at 8:39 PM

seems like a step up from the robotic moving/talking trashcan in california adventure. kids really liked it. would like to see disney resort go to the talking micky doll like they have at disney world that tells wait time, pardes/event and fun facts
Eric G

Published: May 7, 2010 at 8:50 PM

TH Creative, two things. You weren't the one that suggested that it was a voice actor. Like I said, it was the first poster (Joshua) who mentioned Crush.

Also, I don't like it when people say "ABSOLUTELY NO WAY" and they don't back up their statement with some explanation. Convince us that you're right, because I think there is "ABSOLUTELY NO WAY" it isn't the cast member in the costume.

It would be such a dead giveaway in the videos if someone else were doing the talking and directing. The movement from the costumed character would not be entirely in sync.

In response to others comments, I'd also like to add that if the speaker is in the costume there would be no worry about having to talk quietly. The time required to alter the voice should be almost instantaneous, so the speaker would overpower the cast member talking. It's also super easy to soundproof the costume.

Has anyone here checked out the Auto-Tune app from T-Pain for the iPhone? If some mediocre rapper can make that garbage app work, then Disney can certainly accomplish this task. I even use voice recognition software for typing and it's amazing how well it works. Talk and it types it out.

Robert Niles
Editor

Published: May 7, 2010 at 9:41 PM

Now I want to hear the T-Pain Mickey. Betcha Imagineering busts that out for laughs one night when no one else is around.
64.129.84.194

Published: May 8, 2010 at 9:49 AM

I am sorry, but that is creepy. I also don't like how Mickey winds up giving directions for the photo op. I love the talking characters in shows, but this is a bit too much for me.
TH Creative
Writer

Published: May 8, 2010 at 12:05 PM

Thanks Anthony!
M. Ryan Traylor

Published: May 9, 2010 at 8:32 PM

As much as I respect TH, I'm going to have go with the train of thought that with every great illusion, the simplest way to create the effect is the way it's done.

I'm going with the cast member in the suit speaks and is converted to Mickey voice. The syncing of actions and mouth with dialogue is too accurate for a wizard behind a curtain.

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