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Live Active Cultures

Once inside, there’s an even bigger interactive upgrade at the end of the ride. For 40 years, a trio of hitchhiking ghosts have followed you home with a primitive but effective mirror trick. That finale has been replaced with a new computerized image-recognition system that allowed Gus (the prisoner ghost) to pull off his beard and stick it on my chin. Around me, I saw other guests get decapitated and have their heads switched or blown up like balloons. Although I was concerned about tampering with traditions, these additions happily turned out well enough to induce me to ride twice in a row.

More worrisome was word that, following the demolition of his Toontown home, Mickey was holed up on Main Street USA with a harem of Disney Princesses, and Fastpasses could be used for the first time to gain entry to a character meet-and-greet.b>Now that the new Town Square Theater is open (in a space that once showed the Walt Disney Story), it turns out that this is the most pain-free way to meet the Mouse. I picked up a Fastpass ticket, showed up hours past my appointed time and got in with no problem, despite rumors that missing your appointment meant missing Mickey.

My intimate moment with Mickey,b>who was dressed in a magician’s tuxedo in keeping with the turn-of-the-century theater theme, was a bit too brief. And I wish the exit gift shop kept the theme going by carrying actual magic tricks. Mostly, I miss the days when you could just randomly bump into the characters as you walked around, but that’s been done in Orlando for a decade; you have to go to Disneyland for that delight. In a few years Disney’s age-old switchback queue will fade away, and timed reservations and interactive holding pens will become the new normal. If Haunted Mansion and Town Square Theater are previews of Disney future, we can only hope the rest are as well done.

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