Located in Epcot’s Innoventions Plaza, “Mouse Gear” is the park’s largest retail store. When using the entrance to the shop closest to “Spaceship Earth,” the smiling face of Mickey Mouse is right there to greet you as you’re walking in. This display echoes the familiar image of Mickey’s face as it appeared as part on the titles in front of so many of his classic animated shorts, albeit with a more industrial athletic to fit in with the Future Word theme. However, this was not a sight you would have seen when Epcot opened in 1982.
The Walt Disney Company’s vision of EPCOT Center at opening was that it would be a different and more grown-up type of Disney experience than the Magic Kingdom. In an attempt to create its own unique identity, the decision was made that none of Disney’s animated characters would be featured inside the park. The public, however, was puzzled and sometimes even frustrated at the concept not being able to find Mickey Mouse in a Disney theme park. Two years later, the company’s newly appointed management team, lead by CEO Michael Eisner, also couldn’t fathom why Disney’s most iconic (and most profitable) intellectual properties weren’t being utilized in its most recent expansion.
Slowly, Disney’s stable of cartoon characters were incorporated into Epcot, and by the time “Mouse Gear” opened in 1999, they were a common sight around the park. With a new ride based on “Frozen” opening at the park next year, that trend shows no signs of slowing down.