Prior to this attraction, there had been several proposals for a ride based around Mickey Mouse. In 1976, as part of the proposed Dumbo's Circus Land expansion of Disneyland's Fantasyland, an attraction called Mickey's Madhouse was developed by Ward Kimball. This would be a wild mouse style rollercoaster dark ride through the world of early black and white Mickey shorts. Later versions of this concept would be called Mickey's Movieland and Mickey's Studio Tour and would feature a madcap Disney studio tour featuring numerous characters and set pieces.
The ride was announced at the 2017 D23 Expo in Anaheim, California, and was described as featuring "2 1/2 D" technology (no glasses required). Disney Imagineer Kevin Rafferty stated: "This is one of the boldest...most impossible things I’ve ever worked on in almost 40 years of being an Imagineer. And you know what? That’s what I love about it. Well, that, and Mickey," [...] “This is not going to be a small attraction, it’s going to be game-changing.”
Furthermore, the Disney Television Animation team responsible for the Paul Rudish helmed Mickey Mouse shorts collaborated with the Disney theme park division and its Imagineers to bring the attraction to life. Sound design for the attraction utilized the original sound effects machines constructed by Jimmy MacDonald and other sound producers during the early years of Disney animation. The whistles used for the steamwhistle in Steamboat Willie were used to create the whistling sounds of the train.
The premise of the ride is where guests are invited inside the theater to watch the premiere of a brand new Mickey Mouse cartoon, Perfect Picnic.
For the Disney's Hollywood Studios version, guests enter through a recreation of the Grauman's Chinese Theatre and wind through the lobby a series of posters of Mickey Mouse shorts that might have previously premiered here before entering the auditorium.
In the upcoming Disneyland version, a new building will be constructed for the ride in Mickey's Toontown called the El CapiTOON Theater, which is a riff of the El Capitan Theatre in Hollywood. The queue for this version will featured a special exhibit put together by the Toontown Historical Society, showcasing costumes and props from the toon world.
The guests then enter the auditorium where the short, Perfect Picnic will be premiering. Once the doors close, the cartoon begins on the movie screen. The short begins with Mickey, Minnie, and Pluto set out for a picnic at the Runamuck Park, singing "Nothing Can Stop Us Now" while packing Mickey's car for a picnic. Minnie accidentally packs Pluto and the picnic basket in the trunk. The duo make their way to the park. Along the way, Mickey and Minnie drive by Goofy, who is conducting the Runamuck Railroad train that surrounds the park. Mickey and Minnie pull forward and hit a bump on the railroad crossing. The trunk pops open, releasing Pluto and the picnic basket into the air, which Pluto quickly manages to save the picnic basket. However, a pie from the picnic basket, fall out and landed on top of the train’s smokestack. With the pie clogging the smokestack, the train picks up speed. Goofy panics as the train pulls into a railroad barn. An explosion occurs, ripping a large hole in the movie screen, literally breaking the fourth wall. When the smoke clears, Goofy lands on a loose board on the outside of the barn. Seeing the guests, Goofy offers them to take a ride on the train. He then asks a nearby cast member help the guests step inside the cartoon while he goes back to the barn to fix the train. Upon walking through the movie screen, the guests find themselves inside the cartoon railroad station, and they make their way to the loading station where the train arrives.
Once the train stops at the loading station, guests board one of four cars behind the locomotive. The train then departs the station, traveling through a tranquil sunny day in the park with a cheery song and a chirping bird named Chuuby, while Mickey and Minnie are driving around in the distance. The train makes a left turn entering the tunnel. Once inside the tunnel, Goofy opens the back window and asks the guests if they are ready for a tour around the park. Mickey and Minnie in their car pull up next to Goofy and exchange greetings. Mickey parks next to a railroad switch and asks Goofy to take care of the guests. Goofy proudly exclaims, "Gosh, they're with me, what can possibly go wrong?" Right after Goofy closes his window, the switch falls, causing the train to separate with Goofy's engine making a left turn while the cars with the guests heading to the right. As the train then derails, Mickey and Minnie set off to catch the train and save the day.
The train exits the tunnel into the desert where Mickey and Minnie ride on horseback, trying to round up the cars, but they caught on themselves and as the vultures target them. The train then enters a Carnival featuring Donald Duck running a hot dog stand, Horace Horsecollar running a popcorn booth, Huey, Dewey and Louie among the guests looking for a good time, and Pluto still carrying the picnic basket while looking for Mickey and Minnie. The duo come floating in on balloons to try and help the train. But before they can get down, the Twister logo on the side of the carnival's wooden roller coaster comes to life and sweeps up the carnival in a storm. The tornado carries the train, Mickey, Minnie and Pluto to a tropical island where a volcanic eruption occurs. The eruption sends the train down a river and over a waterfall. After going over the falls, the train ends up underwater, where it passes a submarine and musical sea life, including a Giant Squid that plays a trumpet.
The guests find themselves sucked into a sewer pipe and emerge into the Big City. The guests see Pete working on road construction with a jackhammer powerful enough to shake the neighboring buildings (and smiling evilly when he sees what happens), while Donald can be seen again in a truck stuck in the traffic jam the train has caused (honking his horn impatiently as he does so). The guests then enter a dance studio owned by Daisy Duck, who instructs the train cars in dancing a waltz before establishing a conga line out. The dancing train cars exit out through an alley and enter a dangerous factory Mickey and Minnie try to stop the cars from being smashed by The Smasher on a conveyor belt. Mickey and Minnie successfully pull the switch which shuts the factory down and magically transforms the scenery to that of the park at night. Reversing, the train then rejoins Goofy's engine.
As the guests pass through a tunnel, Goofy concludes the tour and hopes that the guests had a good time. The train pull around the corner to find Mickey, Minnie and Pluto having a picnic singing one final rendition of "Nothing Can Stop Us Now" while fireworks go off in the sky above and over the guests. Goofy waves goodbye to the guests and closes the back window. Just before the train enter the station, Goofy finds a lever and pulls it, causing an electric jolt through the train. The train then pulls back into the barn, where Goofy thanks the guests for riding with him and asks them to come back soon. As guests leave the station, they pass through the movie screen to return to the real world, the title card saying “The End” is displayed as guests leave the theater.
The 10 posters in the Disney’s Hollywood Studios attraction’s queue were created by Disney Television Animation. While one of them is for Perfect Picnic, nine of the other posters were from existing Mickey Mouse cartoon shorts and each of them is created specifically for this attraction:
If a train ends up breaking down in the final picnic scene, the Mickey figure will actually apologize for the delay. Slowdowns during unload will also result in being able to see Mickey and Minnie harmonizing and enjoying their picnic.
One of the posters for the attraction features Huey, Dewey, and Louie with attire and physical features based on their DuckTales models. But in the actual ride, they are based on the models that appear in the Mickey Mouse shorts.
This was the last major attraction to open before all Disney Parks temporarily closed due to the Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic.
Several nods to the Great Movie Ride can be found in the attraction:
The Carnival scene features a poster for "The Great Moving Ride".
The tornado sequence is a throwback to ''The Wizard of Oz" portion of the attraction and features a mailbox reading "No Place Like Home" among the debris. The Fantasia scene in The Great Movie Ride was originally intended to be the tornado to Oz before contract disputes with MGM on how much Oz material could be used in the attraction led to it being scrapped.
The alleyway leading to the factory resembles Gangster Alley and features a shaking trashcan making the same frightened cat sound effect that was used within the sequence.
The numbers 1901 and 1928 can be found over some of Runnamuck Park's tunnels, referencing the birth year of Walt Disney and the debut of Mickey Mouse.
The roadblocks surrounding Pete are labeled as "Rafferty's Roadblocks", after Imagineer Kevin Rafferty.
The restaurant sign, Maison de Souris, is French for "House of Mouse".
A parking garage is labeled as "Retlaw Parking", or Walter backward, a common alias for Walt Disney.
The "1401 Flower Shop" in the City is a reference to Walt Disney Imagineering's address on 1401 Flower Street in Glendale. Next to it are "Carter's Cameras" named for Imagineer Charita Carter who has a photography hobby, and "Holt's Coffee Shop" after the Mickey Mouse series' art director Joseph Holt. A poster by the shops advertises the "Jolley Gallery", named for early Imagineer and Donald in Mathmagic Land art director Stan Jolley.
A dumpster in the alley is tagged with the names of various Imagineers who worked on the project.
A sign in the park at night includes a reference to "Yensid Valley", a nod to both the sorcerer and Walt Disney's Carolwood Pacific Railroad, with Yensid Valley being what Walt called the lower elevated parts of the backyard railroad.