Bing sings but Walt Disney, goes the old punchline. Tom Lappin tried to forget he’d ever heard that joke, and took a sneak preview of the Walt Disney World On Ice show coming to Ingliston on Christmas Eve.
The cavernous Dublin hall is crammed with closely-packed plastic seats. The air is tinged with the sickly sweet smell of tartrazine. toffee and Coke. The kids that aren‘t clutching glow-in-the dark plastic swords are dripping multi-coloured ice-cream all over their parents. Eight million tons of popcorn have been shifted and one of those dark-brown deep American voices throbs from the PA. ‘Ladeez and gennelmen. boys and girls. Walt Disney‘s World On Ice will begin in five minutes.‘
It's a tense moment. as we await the onset ofa celebratory ice-rink tribute to Mickey. the mouse that became a symbol of the US of A. the big-cared. grinning embodiment ofbig-bueks entertainment. the finest example of the selling power of bland loveableness. the showbiz legend who made his first film appearance in Steamboat Willie in 1928. and his last in Mickey 's Christmas Carol in 1983. With a record like that ‘t’s a miracle he hasn‘t stood for President. Yet. .
Let‘s take a little pause here. and consider who the hell Mickey Mouse thinks he is. Personally I‘ve never understood the appeal of the smoothy. preferring his mate Donald Duck (although his diction always proved beyond comprehension) or the hapless Goofy (ditto). In these days of more contemporary heroes like Bart Simpson and those Turtles who actually speak in 905 vernacular and make some concessions to reality. Mickey remains stuck in the 30s. despite the glitzy outfits. He lives in a far-off world ofdeceney and love. where he seems to be shacked up with Minnie. but the patter ofoffspring's feet is distinctly unlikely. Never the most charismatic ofcreatures in the first place. the jovial rodent has survived 60-plus years in showbusiness to become animation‘s answer to Bob Hope. He doesn‘t actually do very much but. resting on his laurels. he‘s an institution. a legend. and still a healthy moneyspinner. If he took up golf he’d have the lot.
I was expecting the adults in the audience to be more impressed with Mickey when he made his much-heralded appearance. and their offspring to be disappointed that it wasn‘t She-Ra or some such
up there on the ice. Not so. The tecnies screamed their recognition. confirming that the Mickey aura has infected another generation. The five-year-old sitting in my row waved ecstatically every time Mickey came within range. He waved back of course and a lifelong fan was made. The Walt
‘The live-year-old sitting in my row waved ecstatically every time Mickey came within range. He waved back of course.’
Disney World On Ice Tribute To Mickey Mouse is an outstanding kids show. packing in spectacular visuals. emotional involvement and some remarkable daredevil stunts. For someone
Handy hints in a Jack and the Beanstalk sequence l
expecting an exploitative and dated display of schmaltz. it was an eye-opener.
Taking for its storyboard some of Mickey‘s best-known films. from Steamboat Willie through the classic Sorcerer's Apprentice to Mickey And The Beanstalk. the show concentrates on ﬂashin choreographed ice-dancing interspersed with virtuoso juggling and regular appearances from the favourite characters. The dancers are sensational. although it is somewhat poignant to watch the Soviet duo Svetlana Konechenko and husband Dmitri. After training at the Leningrad Institute of Sports and Physical Education and performing with the Leningrad Ballet on Ice. it seems somehow rather tragic that they should end up touring the world in a tribute to Mickey Mouse. that icon of Western commercialism.
It‘s easy to be tempted into such cynical asides. for after the novelty of the visual spectacle wears off. this is definitely a show for the kids. It culminates in a quasi-fascistic salute to the immortal Mickey as the entire cast march around on the ice waving flags bearing the mouse‘s profile. As a climax. it was outlandisth blatant and the kids screamed their approval. For them Disney is still king and his blandest creation an object of passionate adoration. What the hell. maybe I‘ll get some popcorn and one of those ice-crean concoctions after all. Bart Simpson can go eat his shorts. Mickey Mouse is in town.
Walt Disney ’3 World On Ice is at Edinburgh Exhibition and Trade Centre. In gliston from Tuesday 24 December to Sunday 29 December. except Christmas Day.
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The List 2(lDecembcr l99l — leanuary 199215