Mickey's Kitchen: Disney's Failed Attempt At Fast Food

Disney World bills itself as "The Happiest Place on Earth," a place of magic, wonder, and imagination. This isn't just some fancy PR talk or slogan either — Disney has gone to extreme lengths to turn its park into the most cutting-edge and fantastical theme park ever seen. The level of dedication is so intense that even the food you find served at the restaurants and vendors have been carefully crafted to better "enhance the magic."

As CNBC reports, Disney's culinary endeavors have resulted in some admittedly impressive dishes, each designed to reflect or add to the general theme of a certain attraction or district. If you were to go into the "Star Wars Galactic Starcruiser" attraction, for example, you would find yourself dining on everything from bao buns, "bubble waffle" grilled cheese sandwiches, and bento boxes alongside colorful and elaborate drinks like "blue milk" and Hoth-themed martinis. Even the foods you find outside of the blockbuster attractions are key staples in preserving the "magic" of visiting Disney, such as the beloved and even celebrated Dole Whip frozen treat (via Disney Parks Blog). Food is part of the atmosphere after all, and Disney has done a lot of work to get even the smallest cup of ice cream just right.

But not everything the Mouse lays his gloved hands upon is going to be a massive success. Perhaps the most notable example of this, while we're on the subject of food, is Disney's attempt to enter the fast food market.

Mickey's Kitchen was Disney's foray into fast food

Chances are that when you think of "magic," "imagination," and "Mickey Mouse," you're not thinking about the hot and greasy world of fast food. Back in the 1990s, however, Disney saw some potential in the world of convenience meals and opened up "Mickey's Kitchen" to explore this new market.

As Midway to Main Street explains, the 1980s and 1990s found Disney in a transition from a simple film studio and theme park to an enormous cultural juggernaut. With the smash success of Disney Stores in the late 1980s, Disney found itself with a lot of confidence in its products and its characters. And like any person or business ready to take on the world with lots of renewed confidence, Disney decided to step into the fast food market, betting that if people loved Disney enough to buy shirts and toys from them, they would no doubt love to buy food from them, too. People could buy some Disney merch in the Disney store and then walk over to the restaurant for some lunch or vice-versa.

In 1990, UPI reports, Disney opened the first Mickey's Kitchen fast food outlet in California's Montclair Plaza shopping center alongside a new Disney Store, before opening a second location in 1991 at the Woodfield Mall in Illinois. If early reports are to be believed, there was actually some optimism about Mickey's Kitchen's success. But if that was the case, how could this Disney-branded business fail?

Mickey's Kitchen couldn't compete with mainstream fast food

As The Tampa Bay Times reports, Mickey's Kitchen found itself competing with larger, veteran fast food companies such as McDonald's, which was already very well-established by the 1990s. Although Mickey's Kitchen offered such meals as "Pinocchio Pizza," and a "Meatless Mickey Burger," Mickey's Kitchen still faced some pretty tough competition. After all, would you trust the new restaurant run by a movie company or the tried-and-true reliability of McDonald's?

Mouse Planet reports that Mickey's Kitchen not only had a very "unique" menu of Disney-themed foods but also tried to act like a miniature Disney Park, right down to having staff members follow the same practices they would at Disney parks to separating the restaurant into four themed areas. Combine this with the struggle to keep up with other fast food companies and it would be clear that Mickey's Kitchen took on a bit more than it could chew. In 1992, Disney shut down both of its Mickey's Kitchen locations, deciding to focus more on promoting the much more successful Disney Stores and wisely leaving the fast food game to more veteran players.

While Mickey's Kitchen still technically exists in the form of the Chef Mickey restaurant in Disney's Contemporary Resort, Disney never looked back into the world of fast food outside of promotions and collaborations. Though with how expensive the food's getting at Disney World right now, maybe bringing back some cheap fast food wouldn't be too bad an idea.