mickeys-big-celebrationMickey Mouse’s 88th birthday is on November 18th, but that didn’t stop Disney Junior from celebrating early on Saturday, November 12th. In partnership with Fathom Events, kids and families were invited to a morning at their local movie theater to celebrate the upcoming series, Mickey and the Roadster Racers in honor of the Mouse’s upcoming birthday.

“Mickey’s Big Celebration” began with check in at the theater, where guests were given a $5 coupon to Disney Store, a sheet of temporary tattoos, and a Mickey birthday button. One of the promised goodies was a digital book download and the code was on screen during the pre-show, redeemable through Disney Story Central. The preshow featured a countdown timer in the corner as ads were played for various Disney Junior programs.

When the celebration began at 10:00, I was surprised to see a new countdown appear until the first of two episodes of the upcoming series would be played. Miles, the star of Miles From Tomorrowland, started the festivities with a couple of sing-alongs and on-screen games. Kids were encouraged to participate every step of the way and encouraged to get up and dance several times. The house lights stayed on throughout the entire event due to the nature of the activities.

mickeys-big-celebration-2Mickey and the Roadster Racers follows the two-stories-per-episode format of most Disney Junior shows and the first episode shown was called “Mickey’s Wild Tire/Sittin’ Kitty.” During the first half, Jimmie Johnson plays “Jiminy Johnson,” a racing legend coming to Hot Dog Hills. Mickey is all set to present him with a tire from his first racer as a gift, but things get tricky when Pete tries to take it from him.

Another 15-minute wait separated the first episode from the second with more sing-alongs, games and dance opportunities. Characters from The Lion Guard, Doc McStuffins, Sofia the First and Elena of Avalor joined the party to celebrate Mickey. There were also two auto-tuned and remixed songs from Mickey Mouse Clubhouse in this portion, including “Hot Dog.”

roadster-racersThe second episode is called “Race for the Rigatoni Ribbon/Roaming Around Rome.” In the first half, the sensational six are racing Pete for the Rigatoni Ribbon, a race through the streets of Italy. Minnie and Daisy get sidetracked shopping, Goofy finds the world’s biggest meatball, while Mickey and Donald learn a lesson in sportsmanship.

There is a formula established in the first two episodes where the first half is all about racing. Mickey and his friends now run a racing shop and compete all over the world. The second half shines a spotlight on Minnie and Daisy’s new business, Happy Helpers. In the first episode, they take a babysitting gig for a kitty who gives them an adventure all over town. In the second, they fill in for a sick tour guide around Rome and end up impressing a tough critic.

In a departure from Mickey Mouse Clubhouse, Mickey and the Roadster Racers loses all attempts at audience participation and instead presents plot-driven story that doesn’t require your child to get up or yell at the TV for the characters to succeed. Toodles and the clubhouse have been left behind in the move to Hot Dog Hills, where all of the citizens appear to have fallen out of Goof Troop.

The series looks like it was designed to appeal mostly to boys, but the second half of the first two episodes is a sharp contrast from the series’ racing premise. It’s akin to Garfield and Friends where after a Garfield story, you had to sit through U.S. Acres. I’m not sure if the format will be successful, but time will tell and they can easily make each side of the episodes more gender neutral the way Clubhouse was if necessary.

“Disney Junior Live at the Movies” is an ideal first-time outing to the theater with your little one. You won’t have to constantly tell them to be quiet or stay in their seat since the whole event encouraged them to use their voices and bodies throughout. Mickey and the Roadster Racers doesn’t hit the airwaves until January, so it also offered an early look at a brand new series with some timeless characters. Time will tell if it has the same cross-gender appeal as Clubhouse, but the show is fun and the event was a great way to wish Mickey a happy 88th birthday.