Picture this: It's the Fall of 1990. And after a highly
successful summer (with attendance levels at the Happiest Place on Earth
reaching record highs thanks to this theme park's 35th anniversary
celebration as well as the popularity of the Party Gras Parade), Disneyland
management is now facing a very serious problem.
According to this theme park's construction schedules (which
has the Imagination River Spectacular - later renamed Fantasmic! -- premiering
in May of 1992 and Mickeyland - later renamed Mickey's Toontown -- opening in January of 1993), Disneyland
will have nothing of size opening in 1990.
Concept art for Disneyland's
Mickeyland. Please note that the version of Roger Rabbit's Car Toon Spin
depicted here would have sent Lenny the Cab outside to drive across the
rooftops of Toontown. Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved
And given that the Happiest Place on Earth enjoyed record
revenues for the past five years thanks to the attendance surges that came on
the heels of the June 1985 opening of Videopolis, the September 1986 premiere
of Captain EO, the January 1987 opening of Star Tours and the June 1989 opening
of Splash Mountain ... The suits are just not looking forward to an attendance
dip next summer all because Disneyland happens to be between projects in 1991.
But then they notice that "The Disney Afternoon" - the first-ever
daily two-hour block of syndicated programming for children - has just premiered
nationally. And two of the shows that make up this block - "TaleSpin" and "Chip 'N Dale Rescue Rangers" - are consistently
ranked as the No. 1 and 2-rated animated children's series for the 1990 - 1991 television
Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved
Which got the folks at Disneyland thinking: What if they
were to take a part of that theme park and then do a "Disney Afternoon" -themed
overlay there? Give the Guests a place where they could meet with the stars of "DuckTales," "Adventures of the Gummi Bears," "Chip 'N Dale Rescue
Rangers" and "TaleSpin." Would that really be enough to get Southern
California locals to come on out to this theme park in 1991?
Well, as it turns out ... Yes, it was. "Disney Afternoon - Live!"
(which stretched from Disneyland's Motor Boat Cruise all the way back to the very edge
of Mickey's Toontown's construction site) turned this backmost portion of
Fantasyland into Afternoon Avenue.
Photo by Jim Hill
Disneyland Guests entered through a kiddie-sized version of
Duckburg U.S.A. ...
... where they then interact with walk-around character versions
of their favorite "Disney Afternoon" characters like Scrooge McDuck ...
... and/or get their picture taken inside of cleverly designed,
three-dimensional "Disney Afternoon" -themed photo spots.
And speaking of photos ... If you headed down to Stage One ...
... and then went backstage ...
... Baloo the Bear (AKA Papa Bear from "TaleSpin") was there
in his dressing room, waiting to meet with his fans.
Here's an intriguing bit of trivia for all of you Disney
theme park history buffs: This "Meet-Baloo-in-his-Dressing-Room" character encounter
was actually kind of a dry-run for the type of Guest experience that the
Imagineers would be trying to create inside of Mickey's Movie Barn in a year or
so later. So WDI and Disneyland's Zoo Crew did a lot of testing with this Baloo's-dressing-room
set-up. As they tried to get a handle on basic issues like how to you handle
Guest flow in a situation like this and how much time is too much with the
characters. But I digress ...
Anyway ... Wherever you went in this part of Fantasyland, you'd
find attractions that had been re-imagined as "Disney Afternoon" -themed adventures.
Be it the Motor Boat Cruise, which had now been rethemed as a fanciful float
through Gummi Glen ...
... or the Fantasyland Autopia, which had just been renamed as
Chip 'N Dale Rescue Ranger Raceway.
Another popular component of Disneyland's "Disney Afternoon -
Live!" was the Videocade Game Center. Which was where park visitors could then
try their hand at the new "Chip 'N Dale Rescuer Rangers" and "DuckTale" video
Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc.
All rights reserved
Though - to be honest - what the Guests really seemed to enjoy
the most about Afternoon Avenue was that
they then got the chance to interact & play with walk-around versions of
their favorite "Disney Afternoon" stars. Which - given how hugely popular "DuckTales,"
"TaleSpin" et al were back then - was a very big deal. If you happened to be
under the age of 10, that is.
Anywho ... It was 20 years ago this week that Disneyland
management finally pulled the plug on "Disney Afternoon - Live!" And though
this in-park happening may have been one of the Anaheim theme park's more
short-lived extravaganzas, it is still fondly remembered by many Walt Disney
Television Animation fans.
So how many of you got to go to the Happiest Place on Earth between
March 15th & November 10th, 1991? And - if so - what do
you remember about Disneyland's "Disney Afternoon - Live!"
Editor's note: The text of this article was modified on November 15, 2011 to make a necessary correction / fold in additional information.
This is great! I have a TON of pictures of my sisters and I in Afternoon Avenue but nobody ever seems to remember what it was. Most of the pictures are in front of the little street facades they had out. Awesome.
I very much remember this!!! The part that sticks out to me was the show they had with baloo and the other Tale Spin characters. Somewhere we still have it on video from my dad filming it. What a fun memory. :)
Wow! I've never been to Disneyland (only WDW) but now I wish I had back then! What I would give to see walk around versions of the Gummi Bears...
Do you have any more photos of the Gummi Bears from this short lived experience?
I loved this addition to the park! I remember spending a ton of time at the video games area (I can still vividly recall playing the newest Disney NES games while the Disneyland Railroad chugged right past). The overlays of the Autopia and Motor Boat Cruise were fun too. The "Plane Crazy" show was neat as well, and I as was just becoming a Disney nerd back then, I remember thinking the title was a nice nod to the Mickey short.
But I have to say that my first ever negative experience with a Cast Member happened here. They had these cool maps of the Disney Afternoon Avenue that had stamp locations on it, and as you'd walk around the area you'd find these stamps of the Disney Afternoon characters you could stamp on certain spots to collect them all. I remember quite vividly going up the booth that handed out the maps. I asked for one and the CM looked me up and down (I was quite tall for my age) and asked, "how old are you?" "Twelve," I responded. Then the CM got this really smug smile across her face and said, "I'm sorry, it's only for kids eleven and under." I was stunned. It was the first time that I'd ever had a less than great interaction with a CM, and a little bit of the Disney magic went away that moment. I walked away and never got one of those cool maps (which I'd probably still have today tucked away in a keepsake drawer). I was too old by one year! What, were the maps coming out of her salary or something?!
ME ME ME!!! I did, and have still have some trinkets and some of the same pics... Fun Times
Great photos! I remember visiting this & hearing the all that Toontown construction noise in Baloo's Dressing Room meet & great area. I believe it was the Fantasyland Autopia that received the Rescue Rangers over-lay (back when Disneyland still had two Autopias), not the Tomorrowland Autopia.
The fact that they did an overlay this extensive was great, even if it was a tad on the tacky side. At least it matched small world mall and then-Videopolis. But what you didn't mention at all, and what I personally feel was THE best offering of 1991 altogether, was the very creative and clever Celebration USA parade. Not only did it feature 5 separately-themed, full size units with ORIGINAL music, but it had true dance choreography (unlike most of today's lawyer-safe parade dance) and the patriotic theme tied in perfectly with Desert Storm. It was one I'll never forget, but that I feel is underappreciated by most.
great article, quick clarifying question, wasnt it the fantasyland autopia that was part of Afternoon Ave and not Tommorowland? I still miss the Motor Boats
RE: Christian & Jeff / Fantasyland Autopia versus Tomorrowland Autopia
You guys are right. Thanks for pointing out my error. I've made the necessary correction.
RE: Spectroman / Disneyland's Celebration USA parade
I've actually got some shots of that parade from this same trip to Disneyland back in July of 1991. Let me do some research and see if I can't pull together a story to go with those images
I was three years old, and it was my very first trip to Disneyland. I have so many fond memories of these shows and this overlay. I know a lot of people think it was tacky, but to a little kid, it was paradise. And to Derek: I'm sorry to hear about your negative experience. I got one of those maps and I still have it carefully tucked away with all the little stamps.
In what way was Baloo's dressing room was a test run for Mickey's Movie Barn? Did they have several Baloos in different rooms?
Matthew: "In what way was Balooo's dressing room a test run for Mickey's Movie Barn? Did they have several Baloos in different dressing rooms?"
If I'm remembering correctly, two dressing rooms were initially planned. But let's remember that -- just like the rest of Disneyland's "Disney Afternoon -Live!" -- this Stage One character meet-n-greet area was supposed to be temporary. So as the construction budget for this Fantasyland was tightened in late 1990 / early 1991, Baloo was cut back to a single dressing room.
Which isn't to say that the Imagineers & Disneyland's Zoo Crew didn't gain a lot of practical knowledge / good operational information by observing up-close how Southern Californians reacted to this new sort of character meet-n-greet area. You have to remember that -- while Disney World Guests had been visiting Mickey Mouse in his dressing room at the Hollywood Theater ever since Mickey's Birthdayland opened in June of 1998 -- Disneyland Guests had never seen this sort of this character meet-n-greet experience before.
And given that the Imagineers had learned the hard way back in 1971 that people who are on vacation in Central Florida do not move as quickly or even think the same way that Southern Californians do ... Well, they wanted a bit of a field test before they then locked down the look, feel and layout of the various "Meet Mickey" rooms that they'd soon be building inside of the Movie Barn.
One thing that I know for sure was changed as a direct result of operational issues that evolved with the Mickey's Birthdayland "Meet Mickey" experience as well as what the Imagineers observed during the "Disney Afternoon - Live!" Stage One field tests was dropping the whole conceit of the Guests first entering the dressing room and then finding Mickey / Baloo seated at his make-up table, primping in front of a mirror.
"And why was that dropped?," you asked. Because -- as any member of the Disney Zoo Crew will tell -- those character costumes are heavy, hard to wear and have really lousy sightlines. So to first have to pull / push themselves out of that dressing room chair every few minutes and then cross to where the Guests are standing not only put undue stress & strain on the Disney Cast Member inside of that character costume, it also created weird wear issues for the character costumes themselves.
Which is why -- when you enter the actual "Meet Mickey" portion of Mickey's Movie Barn now -- Mickey is already standing in front of his photo backdrop, ready to interact with the Guests. Staging this photo op in this way eliminates the unnecessary stress & stress on the Zoo Crew member & the costume they're wearing. And strictly from an Operational point of view, this sort of staging is so much better. Given that it allows the Guest to quickly get their picture taken, each have their little personal interaction with Mickey and then get out. Thereby increasing the overall hourly capacity of this Mickey's Toontown attraction.
Does that answer your question, Matthew? Hope so.
Considering that those 2 television shows were #1 and 2 in ratings that year, it surprises me that they don't keep more of that kind of programming around for kids today. I actually miss watching those shows with my daughter and it would be more entertaining than some of the stuff on these days...plus it would help introduce the Disney characters involved in those shows to a younger generation. Those intro songs were also very singable and I miss them.
I remember seeing a Disney Afternoon stage show at the Magic Kingdom. I think Mickey went missing and the Tale Spin characters and Darkwing Duck helped to find him. Anyone know anything about that?
MATT-- Yes I do remember it!
The version at WDW was written around the "Mickey's Birthdayland" theme, with all of the characters planning a surprise party for Mickey. Mickey turned up missing, so it was up to Darkwing and Co. to find him. Most notable about it was that it involved Roger Rabbit. (whom I love)
After the Mickey's Birthdayland transitioned to Mickey's Toontown, the show was re-written for just the Disney Afternoon crew, and with the disputes with Amblin over the character, Roger was dropped in favor of Bonkers Bobcat. (whom I hate)
I had heard rumors that the newest incarnation, the Fantasyland Circus, would involve a meet-and-greet with another famous (and very lucky) cartoon rabbit...can anyone confirm or deny this?