A decade after Mickey Mouse Clubhouse, Disney is re-vamping its most iconic characters in the new Disney Junior series Mickey and the Roadster Racers, premiering this Sunday, Jan. 15th at 9am. I spoke with producers Mark Seidenberg and Rob LaDuca about the revved-up show, including getting inspiration (and a character) from one of the most famous car aficionados of all-time.
Jackson Murphy: I went to the Fathom Events special preview in November. I was in a theater of 300 kids, parents and grandparents, and everyone loved the whole experience.
Mark Seidenberg: I love to hear that.
Rob LaDuca: Same with the theater we went to. All the kids were jumping up and down. They oohed and awed and laughing just where we hoped.
MS: We love the fact that the whole family can enjoy what we’re doing.
JM: That’s great. So, “Mickey Mouse Clubhouse” has been on the air for 10 years. And now you’ve got this new show that is gonna get boys and girls really excited. Why do you think the time was right now to start-up a new Mickey Mouse show?
MS: Well, as the audience grows, we’re growing with them, and it’s fun to put Mickey in different situations. Since Rob and I both love cars, we thought it would be fun to put Mickey and the gang in their own cars that turn into hot rods and smokin’ roadsters.
RL: We always got a good reaction during “Clubhouse” when we put the characters in cars. We got a lot of comments on that, so we thought this could be fun. We both love cars. We’re always going to car collections. I have ever since I was a kid, and I’ve loved Mickey ever since I was a kid, so it was a good thing to put them both together.
MS: What was also fun for us is that we wanted to bring Mickey into a more…modern environment. So we got the chance to develop our own town, which we call Hot Dog Hills. It expanded beyond…Mickey just having a hangout – now he has a garage and lives in a town that’s filled with places like the Hot Dog Diner and the Happy Helpers Office and the Lighthouse and the Big Ears Freeway. It was fun building a town from scratch.
RL: It gives us more ideas for stories, too, which really helps.
JM: I love seeing some of the fast-evolving, tricked-out rides you’ve created for these iconic characters.
RL: Mickey’s hot rod diggity dog roadster is based on a classic Model T hot rod – a real, classic American car for a classic American character.
MS: And Goofy’s car, of course, we wanted it to be goofy. And what better car to have than a car that has its very own bathtub with a working shower head.
RL: He could’ve had it turn it into a Maserati, but he chose a bathtub.
MS: This way he can race and take a shower at the same time. Saves a lot of time.
JM: Two in one – that’s perfect!
RL: I want that car.
MS: Donald is a sailor, so we gave him the cabin cruiser, which is basically a boat on wheels. And Daisy loves flowers, so we thought it would be cool to give her a car that has a little more power than a flower mobile. It became this dragster snapdragon, which is very sleek.
RL: Minnie’s kinda classy and feminine, and there were these beautiful cars from the 30s in France called Delahaye. When we saw them at the car show (this exhibit), we were like, “Oh my God, they look like a bow – that car”. And Minnie loves her polka dot bows – and we thought, “Well, that’s the car for Minnie.”
MS: And Rob and I visited a lot of car shows and got a lot of inspiration.
RL: But the ultimate car collection was Jay Leno’s car collection. And we thought we’d never be able to get in to see his cars. And, well, it just took a phone call to call his office, and a few weeks later he was giving us a tour personally.
RL: We were there for, like, half the day looking at all his cars. And he’s a great guy, loves Disney and loves Disney product. By the end of it we said, “We have a character named Billy Beagle who’s a race announcer.” And he went right into a voice. And we said, “You’re hired.” So, he’s now doing the voice of Billy Beagle. And we were thrilled.
JM: I know Jay a little bit. It’s great to hear his voice on the show. He must be amazing in the vocal booth with all the different expressions and the way he uses his voice.
MS: Oh, yeah. Jay’s energy is totally over-the-top, which is exactly what we wanted. And he also does a lot of ad-libs. He’s totally into the character.
RL: He knows a lot about cars, so a lot of the ad-libs have to do with cars, which is just great. He got into it immediately. And what we love about recording him is that he comes in a different time to the recording. So that’s one recording we cannot miss.
MS: One week he’ll show-up in a WWII Jeep. The next week he’ll show-up in a Model-T Ford or a ’67 Mustang.
RL: A little tiny Italian car; a little Topolino Fiat from 1939. It was just great.
JM: Did you guys make an offer on one of his cars?
MS: I would say they’re a little too expensive for us.
RL: Just a little.
MS: But he has…300 cars. He just told us recently he had to get another airport hanger to fit more of his collection because it just keeps on expanding. And he makes sure that all the cars are in working order because any day he wants to use any one of his cars it’s ready to go.
RL: And each car has posters from the time the car was bought – little trophies, little toys that were taken from the design of the car. So that helped us design the interior of Mickey’s Garage. We took a big cue from Jay’s Garage.
JM: And real-life racecar drivers Jimmie Johnson, Danica Patrick and Jeff Gordon are guest-starring as animated versions of themselves.
MS: That was a terrific opportunity for us to get them involved. And what’s really interesting is that all three of them really upped their game when they got to see what they looked like in a cartoon form. They’re basically dog-nosed beagles. And their energy and their love of what they’re doing comes right through the screen.
RL: Danica loves her dog – she’s in a lot of publicity photos with her dog (Dallas) – so we actually put the dog in the show, and she was thrilled.
MS: One of the things about our show is that the races are always different. So we thought, “What if we did just a race where it’s the owners and their pets?” So, of course, it’s Mickey racing with Pluto, and it’s Danica racing with her own dog.
JM: I love the fact that the show goes to all these different places: Hawaii and Italy – and you get to educate kids on countries and cities and places all over the globe.
RL: We’re not making up stuff when we go to those cities, we’re using real landmarks. It is educational in that way. We just finished a show in London and did a great story about Minnie and Daisy working on Big Ben. Within our show, there’s the Happy Helpers as well. Minnie and Daisy have their own little side business aside from working in the garage (where they’re the detailers, painters and designers) – they have the Happy Helpers office, so anyone in Hot Dog Hills who needs help will call. And even if they don’t really know how to do that job, they offer their help.
MS: And so what we’ll be seeing is Mickey and the gang in Italy, London, Spain, Paris. The world is ours.
JM: And I’m glad Mickey’s car is No. 28 because “Steamboat Willie” was released in 1928. Tell me a little bit about keeping the nostalgia factor with these characters that we’ve known for so long, even in this new, cool, modern setting.
MS: All of us are very steeped in the early Disney shorts with Mickey and the gang. And their characters haven’t really changed that much from those days. We feel really responsible for keeping the heritage of these characters in tact. We never want to put Mickey and the gang in situations that feel uncomfortable for us, and for what even Walt would’ve wanted. And we feel we’re doing a pretty good job really keeping to the core characters of them all.
RL: And Mickey sprang from Walt’s heart, so we’re very careful about keeping all of their characters – Goofy, Donald, Daisy, Minnie. But Walt was never really afraid to experiment with Mickey, with color and sound and putting him on television and dressing him up in different clothes. So, we don’t think Walt would be as precious even today. If there was a new technology, he would put Mickey in there and do the best with him.
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