ORLANDO, FL—A Disney World maintenance crew performing routine electrical work below Cinderella Castle last week accidentally stumbled upon a mysterious underground chamber believed to contain more than 8,000 terra-cotta Mouseketeer statues dating back to 300 B.C.

Within days of the discovery, the nation's top archaeologists had begun excavating the massive subterranean army of fresh-faced clay youths, already considered the finest collection of relics from the Early Disney Dynasty ever unearthed. The opulently decorated mausoleum—suspected to be the final resting site of Emperor Retlaw I—houses row upon row of life-sized ceramic sculptures modeled after clean-cut teenagers, their faces forever frozen in a mix of joy and wonder.

"Very little is known about the early history of the Disney civilization, so this is quite a significant find," said lead archaeologist Dr. Robert Moore, adding that it may take years to fully explore the labyrinthine system of tunnels and pits that surround the burial chamber. "By analyzing the crude markings above the doorway to the tomb, we've concluded that it was likely constructed during the Pre-Eisnerian period, one of the bloodiest and most chaotic eras in the history of the Magic Kingdom."

"These eternally wholesome soldiers stand watch over the body of their ironfisted leader, poised to ensure his reign over children's entertainment continues into the afterlife," Moore continued. "Or so the legend goes."

According to photographs surfacing from the dig site, the terra-cotta Mouseketeers are arranged according to rank, from Annette to Cubby, and appear to be marching or tap-dancing in place. On the walls of the tomb, archaeologists have discovered a large fresco that depicts thousands of the mouse-eared foot soldiers bowing before what appears to be a large reptilian figure wearing a crown. The apparent king is shown seated upon a throne of skulls and bears a striking resemblance to Walt Disney.

"The statues were placed in what was once known as 'Roll Call' formation, no doubt a fearsome sight to any intruders who foolishly opposed their spunky will," said noted Disney historian Margaret Weaver, who has written several books on the elaborate burial practices of the ancient Imagineers. "One look into their lifeless blue eyes is enough to send chills down your spine. Of course, that's only if you get past the heaped remains of thousands of costumed Goofy slaves whose bones now litter the very catacombs they constructed."

Added Weaver, "I also noticed the faintest smell of cotton candy."

Because only a few hand-drawn animated cells from the reign of Retlaw I have survived to the present day, the extensive carvings found in the necropolis will provide reams of new information about the powerful Mouseketeer army. Scholars first determined the statues were intended to accompany the dead into the next life after deciphering a tablet that read 'Akman al Luad H'Beth," or "See you real soon."

"These relics have so much to tell us about the formative years of the Disney empire," said Smithsonian head G. Wayne Clough, who has already made attempts to acquire the 13-foot jade Big Roy found inside the mausoleum. "And we can finally put an end to the ridiculous rumor that these soldiers can be awakened from their centuries-long slumber and unleashed upon the greater Orlando area to mercilessly trample their enemies underfoot and reclaim the Magic Kingdom for their immortal ruler simply by some bozo saying the phrase 'Meeska, Mooska, Mouseketeer' while holding this amulet I've got here."

While surveying the massive dig site, the expedition also uncovered the foundations of an ancient Epcot Center that accurately depicts life in the Middle Ages, and the ruins of three previous Space Mountains.