The Strange History of Disney’s “LiMOUSEine”
Ever since the opening of Disneyland in 1955, Disney has been no stranger to attention-grabbing forms of promotion for their parks. From billboards and TV commercials to converting a monorail train into a street-legal rocket car, Disney has found innovative and often strange ways to increase park attendance. This is the story of the strange history behind one of those promotions: the “LiMOUSEine.”
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The story of the LiMOUSEine
In May of 1989, Disney opened its latest theme park in California. The ambitious Disney-MGM Studios was a celebration of the history of moviemaking, and Disney spared no expense in promoting it. In addition to TV specials and star-studded red carpet events, the company also introduced a new and eye-catching vehicle to the park.
The vehicle, a 40-foot long, bright red limousine, made its debut during the park’s opening celebrations. Dubbed the ‘LiMOUSEine,” the vehicle participated in everything from parades to press events. In addition to its red paint job, the limo also sported a golden Mickey silhouette on its grille. Costumed characters like Minnie Mouse, Roger Rabbit, and Mickey himself emerged from the vehicle’s multiple sunroofs to wave at guests.
Although few guests ever got to look inside the LiMOUSEine, the elongated cabin was truly a sight to behold. The vehicle, promoted as Mickey’s “home away from home,” was fully decked out in Mickey-themed merchandise and equipped with everything from satellite-enabled TVs, a bedroom, a soda fountain, and both ice cream and popcorn machines.
All in all, Disney dropped a whopping $300,000 on the limo. And they were determined to put it to good use.
A Barbie makeover
After helping to open Disney-MGM studios, the LiMOUSEine embarked on a 37-state tour to promote the park. After this, the vehicle spent a year touring with various auto shows. However, Disney had no intention of letting their expensive limo out of their sight for long.
Three years after being “retired” to on-display status in the Disney Village in 1991, the company decided to dust the limo off for a new event. 1994 saw one of the strangest collaborations in Disney park history: Florida’s EPCOT Center became the new home of Barbie. For over a year, Barbie and her plastic friends took over the park, promoting the legendary Mattel toy line. And Barbie’s vehicle of choice was a repainted LiMOUSEine.
Now stripped of its Mickey merch and painted bright pink, the limo moved to EPCOT to participate in Disney’s Magical World of Barbie. The vehicle would transport a cast member playing Barbie around the park to interact with guests. Most onlookers had no idea that Barbie’s ride was, in a sense, stolen from Mickey Mouse.
The Barbie event ended in 1995, but Disney wasn’t done with the LiMOUSEine just yet. In 1996, the vehicle was given yet another paint job and used to promote Walt Disney World’s 25th anniversary. After another year of parades and pageantry, the limo — now stripped of both Mickey and Barbie paraphernalia — disappeared for five years before making one final promotional appearance in Philadelphia in 2001.
A mysterious end
Exactly what happened to Disney’s $300,000 limousine after 2001 is not entirely known. Most reports claim that it was retired to Disney’s infamous “boneyard,” a site where old props, animatronics, and vehicle were left to bake under the harsh Florida sun. However, no photos or videos showing the limo in the boneyard have ever surfaced. When the boneyard was eventually closed, the abandoned props were either archived or destroyed. Rumor has it that the LiMOUSEine fell into the latter category, and was allegedly scrapped in 2011.
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Did you ever get a chance to see the LiMOUSEine in one of its many incarnations? Let us know in the comments below.
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