What with all of the excitement associated with the Fantasy Forest project, Disneyana fans seem to have overlooked one important aspect of this Magic Kingdom expansion. As in: Given that Mickey's Toontown Fair is going to be flattened to make way for new Dumbo Circus & Disney Fairies-themed areas, where are Mickey & Minnie going to live now?
When the Imagineers who were associated with this $300 million-plus project were quizzed about this matter at the D23 EXPO, they immediately got cagey. Saying things like "Don't worry. We've got plans for Minnie & Mickey." But now that rumors have begun to fly that Toontown Fair could close for dismantling as early as the first of the year, Mickey fans are now growing quite concerned. They just don't like the idea of Disney's Big Cheese becoming homeless.
Not to worry, though. The guys at WDI really do have a plan. Which involves Mickey changing from a country mouse to a city mouse.
Photo by Jim Hill
To be specific, Mickey will be giving up his quaint country home in Duckburg USA and moving into the Town Square Exhibition Hall. Where -- in air conditioned comfort -- Mickey, Minnie and all of his Toontown pals will soon be able to greet Magic Kingdom visitors from the moment this theme park opens in the morning right up until the last guest heads out for the night.
Under the current plan, the Town Square Exhibition Hall (which was last overhauled in 2001 for WDW's "100 Years of Magic" promotion) will receive a fairly significant makeover. With all of that display space that's currently celebrates the early days of the motion picture industry being ripped out and then replaced with character-friendly photo-op environments.
Now before the Disney diehards start squawking ... Anyone who's ever walked through Town Square will have to acknowledge that this is already an area where the characters regularly pose for photographs & sign autographs. And given that setting up a new place to meet Mickey & friends towards the front of the Magic Kingdom will make things a whole lot more convenvient for the Guests (Not to mention making things a whole lot easier for those in charge of WDW's Zoo Crew. What with these friends-of-Mickey now being about to work inside in air conditioning, out of the weather and away from the heat & humidity), this seems like a win-win from an Operational standpoint.
Besides, it's not like all of Mickey's Toontown Fair is actually going to be flattened. The Barnstormer at Goofy's Wiseacre Farm is expected to remain in place. Though -- once the Fantasy Forest project is completed -- this kiddie coaster will most likely have a brand-new theme.
Given that the Barnstormer (where it stands now) is so close to where the new Dumbo Circus area is supposed to be built, the Imagineers (for a time, anyway) toyed with retheming this coaster as the Casey Jr. Circus Train. The only problem with that idea is that ... Well, in order to be recognized as the Casey Jr. Circus Train, the front car of this roller coaster would have to resemble the character as seen in that 1941 Walt Disney Studios animated feature. And given that the Casey Jr. Circus Train has this very distinctive, rather tall smokestack, that meant that WDI was suddenly dealing with all sorts of clearance issues at Wiseacre Farm. Which led one wag at 1401 Flower Street to reportedly say: "Couldn't we just shortened the smokestack and call this the Casey Jr. Jr. Circus Train."
So -- for the moment, anyway -- the Casey Jr. Circus Train-based retheming of the Barnstormer at Goofy's Wiseacre Farm is supposedly off the table. Though I hear that the Imagineers are still reviewing some Dumbo-inspired ideas from the redo of this Mickey's Toontown Fair kiddie coaster. One of which would send Guests zooming down Clown Alley, where they narrowly avoid getting pies thrown at their faces and/or seltzer squirted in their hair.
So what do you folks think? If it would mean that Fantasyland would then get this hyper-themed 5-acre expansion, could you live with Toontown Fair closing, Mickey moving to Main Street USA and Wiseacre Farm becoming overrun by clowns? Or would you prefer that things remain just as they are right now?
I think it's a shame we are losing Toontown Fair. I even made a video about it:
(warning, it has some language but is very funny)
My family won't miss Toontown Fair. We skipped that area entirely on our last trip.
I agree, Toontown Fair cost about $100 for Eisner to build to boost attendance, just a bunch of ugly tents. I'm glad they're demolishing it.
In a forest related note, Universal have gone a bit quiet about the forest in their new Harry Potter land.
Yes, it was made on fly, in a hurry, for next to nothing in park standards. And everybody is always saying it's just a bunch of tents. But it isn't just tents. I'm gonna miss the houses. They are there, kids see it, it's like walking into a cartoon. The fact that you can walk inside is a bonus. I wish they could recreate Toontown somewhere else. Maybe the Studios.
I blogged an idea a couple weeks ago that would save the Toontown concept, or at least Mickey & Minnie's houses. Check it out at: http://grumpyfan.wordpress.com/2009/09/14/fantasyland-2-0/
While the idea in its entirety may be a bit ambitious, I think that eventually, it would be something worth consideration.
I do like the idea of someday having a dedicated 'park-ette' themed to Toon Town, a place that's not for the Princesses, but for the classic characters.
I took my 2 year daughter and 4 year old son to WDW in August. They are avid watchers of Mickey Mouse Clubhouse. Anyone care to guess what our two biggest problems/complaints from children were about? That's right: 1) Where's the Clubhouse & 2) Why aren't they all together? (Even though the kiddies know "The Sensational Six" the Disney corp can't wrap their heads around including Daisy to the "Fab Five" venues/events.)
Kill two multiple birds with one stone: build the Clubhouse. Set it in the wooded area to the east of the Tomorrowland Raceway (Yes, I know it crosses the railroad tracks. That can be dealt with.) As soon as you cross the tracks, have a store that you have to pass through to continue. Theme it to Pete and have a character station for him. Continue on with a winding path to the Clubhouse, done up just like the colored paths in the show. The Clubhouse itself should be an indoor/outdoor play area with a meet & greet room for all six characters. You can even have the side characters make semi-regular appearances to really plus the show.
There. With one concept, two buildings, you've permananetly replaced the meet & greet area, not lost a play area (and gained an indoor one), retained a shop, added character opportunities (i.e. more PhotoPass sales), added an area that can be expanded on, and fufilled a legit fantasy of millions and millions of children who dream of visiting the clubhouse.
Or, you could just slap Mickey and Minnie in Town Square. It's cheap, easy, and the WDW way.
No matter how you slice it, it becomes Mickey and Minnie got evicted and the smashed their houses. Not so cool. The rest of Toontown fair really should go, it is a waste. What would be terrific would be to just put improved version of their houses in the Exhibition space. Maybe even use some of the suggestion of Mickey's Clubhouse as well. I'm glad Mickey and the gang will have a new space, but losing the houses is really a shame. I hope they can do something about that in the new space.
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So, Mickey gets to get lost in the back of Town Square Exhibition Hall. That place is never busy and no one knows about it. They really should build a small side street to Main Steet and rebuild the houses for Mickey, Minnie, Goofy, Donald, and Daisy. Pluto can be in Mickey's house. I also like the idea for the Clubhouse posted above. Mickey and the gang deserve to have a better place to meet everybody. They really should just extend beyond the railroad tracks and put Dumbo over there and fix up Toon Town Fair.
I can't say I'm really going to miss Toontown Fair - having been to Mickey's Toontown in Anaheim and Tokyo, it always felt like "Toontown Lite" to me (although in a park that has a "Pirates Lite" and an "it's a small world lite", that's somehow appropriate).
Putting Mr. and Ms. Mouse in Exposition Hall puts a lot of underused space to better use, but I agree that a longer term solution would be to create a new Toontown (full-size this time, please) somewhere else in the MK.
Toontown Fair is awful. I like the idea of the one true Toontown being located in California, the one true home of the Classic Disney Characters. I will miss the houses a little bit, but this will cut down on the number of new resort guests with small children who get lost looking for Toontown and keep asking everyone where they can meet Mickey Mouse.
Yeah, I'm not a fan of Toontown fair either. It always seemed sort of half-assed, like the Pooh ride. I really like the idea of having the characters at the Town Square Hall. The Town Square is the heart of town and Mickey and co. are the heart of Disney. And it'll make them easier to find, thus pleasing tourists. A good idea all around.
I now regret that I didn't get to the Toontown Fair on my recent visit. Really, though, all I wanted to see was the statue of Cornelius Coot. I've learned its Barksian origin since the last time I visited the Fair and would have liked to have seen it again with a new appreciation for its history.