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Exploring WDW’s Grand Floridian Resort Hotel

Mouseketrips’ Scott Liljenquist wraps up his debut JHM series by taking us on a tour of Disney World’s flagship resort, the Grand Flo.



Facts and Figures

The flagship resort of all Disney properties is the 867-room Grand Floridian Resort & Spa. Completed in 1988 as the fifth Disney resort, it ushered in Michael Eisner’s “Disney Decade” of building and expansions at Walt Disney World. Inspired by the Hotel de Coronado in San Diego, the Grand Floridian recalls the grand opulence of Victorian-era structures. Its brilliant white exterior, red clay tile roof and extensive Victorian architectural details recall the elegant hotels of the past. It has received AAA and Mobil 4-star ratings, and has been regularly voted one of the top 50 hotels in the world by readers of Conde Nast travel magazine.

As elegant as the Grand Floridian is, however, one has to wonder what would have happened had the Imagineers actually built the resort originally intended for the Grand Floridian’s current site. You see, in the original plans for Walt Disney World there were to have been five resort hotels in the Magic Kingdom area – the Contemporary (which, up until the early 80s, was always intended to be the flagship WDW resort), the Polynesian, the Venetian (to have been located on the shore of Seven Seas lagoon between the Contemporary and the site now occupied by the Ticket and Transportation Center), the Persian (to have been located north of the Polynesian and east of the Magic Kingdom on the northwestern shore of Bay Lake), and the Asian. It was the Asian resort that had been planned, designed, and was almost constructed on the land where the Grand Floridian now resides.

Visitors to the Magic Kingdom from opening day in 1971 to the early 1980s often wondered what that perfectly square, flat, barren, and obviously man-made piece of ground was for that jutted out into Seven Seas lagoon from the western shore. So close was the Asian resort to realization that this prime piece of land was actually cleared and prepared during the initial construction of the Magic Kingdom. In fact, in its annual report for 1972, Disney announced that preparations would begin immediately for construction of the Asian resort, with the resort to have been completed in 1974. Those of you with good memories will even recall that the road on the western side of the Walt Disney World property was originally called Asian way until being renamed Floridian Way upon completion of the Grand Floridian.

So what did we miss out on? Well, the Asian was to have been mainly Thai in theming. A ring of perimeter lodging buildings would have been built on the three sides of the property that adjoined Seven Seas lagoon. Similar in construction to the Polynesian’s longhouses, these accommodations would have featured Asian-style architecture and a majority of water-view rooms. In the central courtyard formed by these buildings would have been a large swimming pool and the focal point of the resort – a central tower building reaching more than 150 feet tall. This square-shaped tower building, with huge A-shaped windows on all four sides, would have housed the lobby, shops, and a signature restaurant with unparalleled views and nightly entertainment.

This all sounds great, you’re thinking to yourself, so what happened? Why aren’t we enjoying nights in Asia now as we do nights in Polynesia or the hotel of the future? Most theories point to an event in the early 70s which had nearly as devastating effect on the Disney company and the travel industry in general as did the events of September 11th. The Arab oil embargo, which created a nationwide energy crisis in 1973, severely curtailed the travel habits of most of WDW’s visitors. Serious declines in visitation led to frequent vacancies at the existing Contemporary and Polynesian resorts. Left without demand for its lodging, Disney had no choice but to put off construction of the Asian. It was not until Michael Eisner and Frank Wells took the reins of the Disney Company in 1984 and realized how underutilized the Florida property was that resort building once again became a priority. Unfortunately, the proposal for an elegant, luxurious, Victorian-style 5-star resort eventually won out over the long-mothballed plans for the Asian, and the site so long intended for a bit of Asia in the World now houses the Grand Floridian Resort and Spa.

All is not lost, however, as the Grand Floridian is a wonderful resort. As the premier destination at Walt Disney World, touches of elegance, luxury, and charm abound at the Grand Floridian. The resort consists of the main building containing the lobby, restaurants, lounges, and shops, 5 outer buildings containing various types of lodging, a large convention and conference center, the spa and health club building, and the wedding pavilion. Each structure is carefully detailed with gabled rooflines, dormers, towers, cupolas, and gingerbread features. The Grand Floridian features a world-class health club and spa, tennis courts, marina, unique shops, convention center, and its own wedding pavilion.


Guest rooms at the Grand Floridian are located in one of six buildings on the 39-acre resort site. The main building is five stories tall, and the other buildings range in size from three to five stories. Each of the buildings offers its own benefits and drawbacks, with some buildings nearer some resort features and destinations than others. All buildings have a mix of garden view and water view rooms, with the water view rooms being the most popular and, of course, the most expensive.

Several different room types are available at the Grand Floridian. Standard rooms are about average size for Walt Disney World resorts. Dormer rooms are located on the top floors of the buildings, and feature vaulted ceilings and dormer windows (easily identified from the exterior of the building). Lodge tower rooms are located in the main building in the semi-circular tower-type structures at the corners of the buildings. In addition to the standard size room, the lodge tower room features an additional sitting area in the semi-circular portion of the room which includes a sofa and second television. Honeymoon suites are available with or without Jacuzzi baths in the main building, and several suites of varying sizes and opulence are also located in the main building.

Rooms in the main building are closest to the restaurants, shops, and monorail station. The convention center is most easily accessed from the main and Sago Cay buildings. Nearest the marina are Sugarloaf Key and Conch Key buildings. Access to the boat launch ramp is closest to Conch Key and Boca Chica buildings. Boca Chica and Big Pine Key buildings are closest to the quiet pool, and Big Pine Key and the Main building are nearest the new Beach pool and spa & health club building. Most of the suites and concierge service rooms are located in the main building. Some concierge services are now also being offered in the Sugarloaf Key building.


Dining at the Grand Floridian is one of the highlights of the resort, with several different options for all tastes and budgets. The only restaurant at Walt Disney World to require formal attire is Victoria & Albert’s in the main building of the resort. The premier dining experience at the Grand Floridian, Victoria & Albert’s nightly serves a full, custom-designed 5 course menu specially selected by the chef. Reservations are required, and they mean it: no-shows are charged cancellation fees. The award-winning cuisine and accompanying wines are hand-selected nightly and prepared to order. Very, very expensive, but well worth doing at least once to see how the upper crust dine.

Not quite as fancy, but still an upscale restaurant is Citrico’s, located in the main building. Citrico’s serves Mediterranean-inspired salads, seafood, pasta, and meat dishes. The food here is quite good, but I have found the service to be somewhat spotty.

Narcoossee’s, located in its own building on the shores of Seven Seas lagoon next to the Conch Key building, is the Grand Floridian’s fine steak house. This restaurant, which has a wonderful atmosphere (especially when it’s warm and the windows are open to the outside) is noted for its steak, chicken, and seafood.

1900 Park Fare, located on the first floor of the main building, is the location of the Grand Floridian’s buffet. A daily character breakfast is found here, with visits from Mary Poppins, Alice in Wonderland, and other Disney characters. A Disney character dinner buffet with Pooh and Friends is also offered.

The Grand Floridian Café, also located on the first floor of the main building, is a more casual dining experience featuring American-style dishes of chicken, salad, pasta, hamburgers, sandwiches, and seafood. While still not inexpensive, this is a great place to catch a quick breakfast or lunch.

Gasparilla Grill & Games is the Grand Floridian’s counter-service restaurant, and can be accessed only from the outside of the main building. It’s undoubtedly the best of the WDW counter service restaurants, and I have found the food here to be consistently better than that found at any other resort. The usual fare of hamburgers, hot dogs, and pizza can be found, along with deli sandwiches, fresh salads, and fresh bakery items.


Monorail service is offered from the monorail station located on the second floor of the main building. The resort monorail departs from this station for the Magic Kingdom, and then continues on to the Contemporary, the Ticket and Transportation Center, and the Polynesian. Epcot is accessible by riding the resort monorail to the Ticket and Transportation Center and switching there to the Epcot monorail.

Bus transportation to Disney-MGM Studios, Animal Kingdom, Downtown Disney, and the Ticket and Transportation center is available from bus stops located just outside of the main building entrance.

Boat service is available from the water launch dock next to Narcoossee’s with service to the Magic Kingdom and Polynesian.


There are two swimming pools at the Grand Floridian. A large, free-form quiet pool is located in the central courtyard between the Boca Chica, Big Pine Key, and Sugar Loaf Key buildings. There is ample patio space here and an abundance of lounge chairs for those inclined to sunbathe. Completed in 2001, the Beach pool is located at the southern end of the resort between the main building and the wedding pavilion. This new pool features a zero-entry area from the beach of Seven Seas lagoon, a man-made mountain, waterfall and waterslide.

True to its name, the Grand Floridian Resort and Spa features a world class spa located to the south of the main building near the new Beach pool. A fitness facility includes the very latest in fitness machines and equipment, and personal trainers are available to assist you in designing your ultimate workout. A wide variety of spa treatments is also available, including facials, massages, full-body skin treatments, water therapies, manicures, pedicures, and more. If you really want to make points with that significant other, gentlemen, schedule a whole or half day spa treatment with a sampling of several spa services. Trust me, it works!

An arcade is located in Gasparilla Grill & Games in the main building. Somewhat on the small side, this arcade features a fairly limited selection of video games, arcade games, and air hockey tables.

The Grand Floridian’s marina is located at the north end of the property and offers rentals of pontoon boats, sailboats, canopy boats and the ubiquitous water mice. In addition, the Grand Floridian offers for charter their 44-foot yacht Grand 1. It can be hired by groups of 2 to 12 people, and includes a captain and deckhand. Bring your wallet – the yacht goes for $350 per hour.

Two clay-court tennis courts are located adjacent to the health club and spa building. Tennis equipment can be rented at the health club, and professional instruction is available by appointment.

Two great activities are available for kids at the Grand Floridian. Disney’s Pirate Adventure departs from the marina every Monday, Wednesday, and Thursday. This fun-filled program, just for children ages 4-10, takes kids on a treasure hunt around seven seas lagoon. Each child is given a pirate hat (complete with Mickey ears, of course) after which they board a boat, complete with pirate flag, and cruise to the different resort marinas around Seven Seas lagoon and Bay Lake hunting for pirate treasure. The two-hour adventure includes lunch.

The Wonderland Tea Party is held Monday through Friday at 1:30 pm in the main building for children ages 3-10. Parents are not invited. Characters from Alice in Wonderland, including Alice herself, host a tea party for the kids complete with snacks, games, songs, crafts, and, of course, tea with Alice and her friends. Tea lasts for approximately one hour.

Not to be left out, adults too can enjoy tea at the Grand Floridian. Afternoon tea is served daily from 3pm- 6pm in the Garden View lounge. Tea is accompanied by a wonderful selection of pastries and fresh fruit.

Finally, if you’re really bored, why don’t you take the afternoon off and get married? The Grand Floridian has its very own Fairytale Wedding Pavilion located on a peninsula extending into the Seven Seas lagoon. From this extremely picturesque spot, you can exchange vows with Cinderella Castle in the background. Full-service wedding planning and coordination services are available.

Insider’s Tips and Tricks

As mentioned before, the Grand Floridian’s 44-foot yacht, the Grand 1 is available for hire. If you can get a large enough group together to split the cost, charter the boat for the evening and enjoy a gourmet dinner aboard, and then watch the Magic Kingdom’s fireworks show while floating in the middle of Seven Seas lagoon. The fireworks look even more brilliant when they are reflected back from the water.

If you have a lagoon-view room booked, be sure to request a dormer room. These rooms are located on the top floor of all the buildings and feature vaulted ceilings inside. Although the rooms are not any larger than the standard rooms, they seem quite a bit larger and, in my opinion, more comfortable with the high ceilings. In addition, dormer rooms are the only standard-level rooms with private balconies. Non-dormer rooms on the lower floors all have shared balconies.

If you need a little extra room, book a lodge tower room. These rooms have an additional sitting/living area that extends into the round tower-type structures on the main building. This additional room is great to have if you need to squeeze in an additional person or just want to stretch out a little bit.

If you have booked a water view room and want to obtain a view of the Magic Kingdom, Cinderella Castle, and the MK fireworks, your best bet is to ask for accommodations in the Boca Chica building. All of the rooms on the east side of this building have fantastic views of the Magic Kingdom and Seven Seas lagoon. In addition, the Electric Water Parade will stop right outside your window for its nightly performance. However, if you’re feeling really lucky and a view of the MK is of paramount importance to you, request a north-end room in either the Conch Key or Sago Cay buildings. These rooms have by far the best view of the Magic Kingdom and the Castle, but there aren’t very many of them, and they are in high demand and very difficult to get.

Sign your kids up for the Pirate Adventure and Wonderland Tea Party. Both of these programs are absolutely fantastic and earn rave reviews. In addition to giving you an hour or two for sunning, sleep, or spa treatments, the kids will have a ball and will most likely point to this experience as one of the high points of their vacation. The staff is well-trained and enthusiastic, and really have a good time interacting with each child to make sure they have a great time.

Be sure to experience the afternoon tea. It’s a cultural thing you’ll be glad you did at least once in your life, and you may find that you’ll be wanting to go back. The food served at tea is fantastic, with delicious fresh pastry and fruit. Well worth an hour of your afternoon.

Don’t fret if you can’t afford a water view room. Although a view of the lagoon is desirable, there really are only a few rooms in the whole resort with really rotten views. Most garden view rooms look out on to the impeccably maintained landscaping and provide excellent views. I do not mind a garden view room at the Grand Floridian near as much as I do at other resorts.

A meal at Victoria & Albert’s is a don’t miss. While I would not recommend it for every visit, it’s an experience that is unlike any other. The food and drink are absolutely wonderful, and the service is what you’d expect for a premier dining location. You’ll never feel so pampered and well-served as you do during your meal here.

The new Beach pool is a real gem and is often overlooked on the list of great WDW pools. That’s good for you, because it means that it’s usually not all that crowded. The fact that not many people know about it, coupled with the fact that the Grand Floridian attracts a more adult clientele, means that an enjoyable and fairly uncrowded afternoon can be spend riding the waterslide and splashing in the waterfall.

Another great fireworks-watching location is from your table at Narcoossee’s. Book a priority seating for a late dinner or maybe just for dessert, and enjoy a good meal with an outstanding view of the Magic Kingdom, the boat traffic on Seven Seas lagoon, and the fireworks show.

Scott Liljenquist

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The Evolution and History of Mickey’s ToonTown



Disneyland in Anaheim, California, holds a special place in the hearts of Disney fans worldwide, I mean heck, it’s where the magic began after all.  Over the years it’s become a place that people visit in search of memorable experiences. One fan favorite area of the park is Mickey’s Toontown, a unique land that lets guests step right into the colorful, “Toony” world of Disney animation. With the recent reimagining of the land and the introduction of Micky and Minnies Runaway Railway, have you ever wondered how this land came to be?

There is a fascinating backstory of how Mickey’s Toontown came into existence. It’s a tale of strategic vision, the influence of Disney executives, and a commitment to meeting the needs of Disney’s valued guests.

The Beginning: Mickey’s Birthdayland

The story of Mickey’s Toontown starts with Mickey’s Birthdayland at Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom. Opened in 1988 to celebrate Mickey Mouse’s 60th birthday, this temporary attraction was met with such overwhelming popularity that it inspired Disney executives to think bigger. The idea was to create a permanent, immersive land where guests could step into the animated world of Mickey Mouse and his friends.

In the early ’90s, Disneyland was in need of a refresh. Michael Eisner, the visionary leader of The Walt Disney Company at the time, had an audacious idea: create a brand-new land in Disneyland that would celebrate Disney characters in a whole new way. This was the birth of Mickey’s Toontown.

Initially, Disney’s creative minds toyed with various concepts, including the idea of crafting a 100-Acre Woods or a land inspired by the Muppets. However, the turning point came when they considered the success of “Who Framed Roger Rabbit.” This film’s popularity and the desire to capitalize on contemporary trends set the stage for Toontown’s creation.

From Concept to Reality: The Birth of Toontown

In 1993, Mickey’s Toontown opened its gates at Disneyland, marking the first time in Disney Park history where guests could experience a fully realized, three-dimensional world of animation. This new land was not just a collection of attractions but a living, breathing community where Disney characters “lived,” worked, and played.

Building Challenges: Innovative Solutions

The design of Mickey’s Toontown broke new ground in theme park aesthetics. Imagineers were tasked with bringing the two-dimensional world of cartoons into a three-dimensional space. This led to the creation of over 2000 custom-built props and structures that embodied the ‘squash and stretch’ principle of animation, giving Toontown its distinctiveness.

And then there was also the challenge of hiding the Team Disney Anaheim building, which bore a striking resemblance to a giant hotdog. The Imagineers had to think creatively, using balloon tests and imaginative landscaping to seamlessly integrate Toontown into the larger park.

Key Attractions: Bringing Animation to Life

Mickey’s Toontown featured several groundbreaking attractions. “Roger Rabbit’s Car Toon Spin,” inspired by the movie “Who Framed Roger Rabbit,” became a staple of Toontown, offering an innovative ride experience. Gadget’s Go-Coaster, though initially conceived as a Rescue Rangers-themed ride, became a hit with younger visitors, proving that innovative design could create memorable experiences for all ages.

Another crown jewel of Toontown is Mickey’s House, a walkthrough attraction that allowed guests to explore the home of Mickey Mouse himself. This attraction was more than just a house; it was a carefully crafted piece of Disney lore. The house was designed in the American Craftsman style, reflecting the era when Mickey would have theoretically purchased his first home in Hollywood. The attention to detail was meticulous, with over 2000 hand-crafted, custom-built props, ensuring that every corner of the house was brimming with character and charm. Interestingly, the design of Mickey’s House was inspired by a real home in Wichita Falls, making it a unique blend of real-world inspiration and Disney magic.

Mickey’s House also showcased Disney’s commitment to creating interactive and engaging experiences. Guests could make themselves at home, sitting in Mickey’s chair, listening to the radio, and exploring the many mementos and references to Mickey’s animated adventures throughout the years. This approach to attraction design – where storytelling and interactivity merged seamlessly – was a defining characteristic of ToonTown’s success.

Executive Decisions: Shaping ToonTown’s Unique Attractions

The development of Mickey’s Toontown wasn’t just about creative imagination; it was significantly influenced by strategic decisions from Disney executives. One notable input came from Jeffrey Katzenberg, who suggested incorporating a Rescue Rangers-themed ride. This idea was a reflection of the broader Disney strategy to integrate popular contemporary characters and themes into the park, ensuring that the attractions remained relevant and engaging for visitors.

In addition to Katzenberg’s influence, Frank Wells, the then-President of The Walt Disney Company, played a key role in the strategic launch of Toontown’s attractions. His decision to delay the opening of “Roger Rabbit’s Car Toon Spin” until a year after Toontown’s debut was a calculated move. It was designed to maintain public interest in the park by offering new experiences over time, thereby giving guests more reasons to return to Disneyland.

These executive decisions highlight the careful planning and foresight that went into making Toontown a dynamic and continuously appealing part of Disneyland. By integrating current trends and strategically planning the rollout of attractions, Disney executives ensured that Toontown would not only capture the hearts of visitors upon its opening but would continue to draw them back for new experiences in the years to follow.

Global Influence: Toontown’s Worldwide Appeal

The concept of Mickey’s Toontown resonated so strongly that it was replicated at Tokyo Disneyland and influenced elements in Disneyland Paris and Hong Kong Disneyland. Each park’s version of Toontown maintained the core essence of the original while adapting to its cultural and logistical environment.

Evolution and Reimagining: Toontown Today

As we approach the present day, Mickey’s Toontown has recently undergone a significant reimagining to welcome “Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway” in 2023. This refurbishment aimed to enhance the land’s interactivity and appeal to a new generation of Disney fans, all while retaining the charm that has made ToonTown a beloved destination for nearly three decades.

Dive Deeper into ToonTown’s Story

Want to know more about Mickey’s Toontown and hear some fascinating behind-the-scenes stories, then check out the latest episode of Disney Unpacked on Patreon @JimHillMedia. In this episode, the main Imagineer who worked on the Toontown project shares lots of interesting stories and details that you can’t find anywhere else. It’s full of great information and fun facts, so be sure to give it a listen!

Jim Hill

Jim Hill is an entertainment writer who has specialized in covering The Walt Disney Company for nearly 40 years now. Over that time, he has interviewed hundreds of animators, actors, and Imagineers -- many of whom have shared behind-the-scenes stories with Mr. Hill about how the Mouse House really works. In addition to the 4000+ articles Jim has written for the Web, he also co-hosts a trio of popular podcasts: “Disney Dish with Len Testa,” “Fine Tooning with Drew Taylor” and “Marvel US Disney with Aaron Adams.” Mr. Hill makes his home in Southern New Hampshire with his lovely wife Nancy and two obnoxious cats, Ginger & Betty.

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Unpacking the History of the Pixar Place Hotel



Pixar Place Hotel, the newly unveiled 15-story tower at the Disneyland Resort, has been making waves in the Disney community. With its unique Pixar-themed design, it promises to be a favorite among visitors.

However, before we delve into this exciting addition to the Disneyland Resort, let’s take a look at the fascinating history of this remarkable hotel.

The Emergence of the Disneyland Hotel

To truly appreciate the story of the Pixar Place Hotel, we must turn back the clock to the early days of Disneyland. While Walt Disney had the visionary ideas and funding to create the iconic theme park, he faced a challenge when it came to providing accommodations for the park’s visitors. This is where his friend Jack Wrather enters the picture.

Jack Wrather, a fellow pioneer in the television industry, stepped in to assist Walt Disney in realizing his dream. Thanks to the success of the “Lassie” TV show produced by Wrather’s company, he had the financial means to build a hotel right across from Disneyland.

The result was the Disneyland Hotel, which opened its doors in October 1955. Interestingly, the early incarnation of this hotel had more of a motel feel than a hotel, with two-story buildings reminiscent of the roadside motels popular during the 1950s. The initial Disneyland Hotel consisted of modest structures that catered to visitors looking for affordable lodging close to the park. While the rooms were basic, it marked the beginning of something extraordinary.

The Evolution: From Emerald of Anaheim to Paradise Pier

As Disneyland’s popularity continued to soar, so did the demand for expansion and improved accommodations. In 1962, the addition of an 11-story tower transformed the Disneyland Hotel, marking a significant transition from a motel to a full-fledged hotel.

The addition of the 11-story tower elevated the Disneyland Hotel into a more prominent presence on the Anaheim skyline. At the time, it was the tallest structure in all of Orange County. The hotel’s prime location across from Disneyland made it an ideal choice for visitors. With the introduction of the monorail linking the park and the hotel, accessibility became even more convenient. Unique features like the Japanese-themed reflecting pools added to the hotel’s charm, reflecting a cultural influence that extended beyond Disney’s borders.

Japanese Tourism and Its Impact

During the 1960s and 1970s, Disneyland was attracting visitors from all corners of the world, including Japan. A significant number of Japanese tourists flocked to Anaheim to experience Walt Disney’s creation. To cater to this growing market, it wasn’t just the Disneyland Hotel that aimed to capture the attention of Japanese tourists. The Japanese Village in Buena Park, inspired by a similar attraction in Nara, Japan, was another significant spot.

These attractions sought to provide a taste of Japanese culture and hospitality, showcasing elements like tea ceremonies and beautiful ponds with rare carp and black swans. However, the Japanese Village closed its doors in 1975, likely due to the highly competitive nature of the Southern California tourist market.

The Emergence of the Emerald of Anaheim

With the surge in Japanese tourism, an opportunity arose—the construction of the Emerald of Anaheim, later known as the Disneyland Pacific Hotel. In May 1984, this 15-story hotel opened its doors.

What made the Emerald unique was its ownership. It was built not by The Walt Disney Company or the Oriental Land Company (which operated Tokyo Disneyland) but by the Tokyu Group. This group of Japanese businessmen already had a pair of hotels in Hawaii and saw potential in Anaheim’s proximity to Disneyland. Thus, they decided to embark on this new venture, specifically designed to cater to Japanese tourists looking to experience Southern California.

Financial Challenges and a Changing Landscape

The late 1980s brought about two significant financial crises in Japan—the crash of the NIKKEI stock market and the collapse of the Japanese real estate market. These crises had far-reaching effects, causing Japanese tourists to postpone or cancel their trips to the United States. As a result, reservations at the Emerald of Anaheim dwindled.

To adapt to these challenging times, the Tokyu Group merged the Emerald brand with its Pacific hotel chain, attempting to weather the storm. However, the financial turmoil took its toll on the Emerald, and changes were imminent.

The Transition to the Disneyland Pacific Hotel

In 1995, The Walt Disney Company took a significant step by purchasing the hotel formerly known as the Emerald of Anaheim for $35 million. This acquisition marked a change in the hotel’s fortunes. With Disney now in control, the hotel underwent a name change, becoming the Disneyland Pacific Hotel.

Transformation to Paradise Pier

The next phase of transformation occurred when Disney decided to rebrand the hotel as Paradise Pier Hotel. This decision aligned with Disney’s broader vision for the Disneyland Resort.

While the structural changes were limited, the hotel underwent a significant cosmetic makeover. Its exterior was painted to complement the color scheme of Paradise Pier, and wave-shaped crenellations adorned the rooftop, creating an illusion of seaside charm. This transformation was Disney’s attempt to seamlessly integrate the hotel into the Paradise Pier theme of Disney’s California Adventure Park.

Looking Beyond Paradise Pier: The Shift to Pixar Place

In 2018, Disneyland Resort rebranded Paradise Pier as Pixar Pier, a thematic area dedicated to celebrating the beloved characters and stories from Pixar Animation Studios. As a part of this transition, it became evident that the hotel formally known as the Disneyland Pacific Hotel could no longer maintain its Paradise Pier theme.

With Pixar Pier in full swing and two successful Pixar-themed hotels (Toy Story Hotels in Shanghai Disneyland and Tokyo Disneyland), Disney decided to embark on a new venture—a hotel that would celebrate the vast world of Pixar. The result is Pixar Place Hotel, a 15-story tower that embraces the characters and stories from multiple Pixar movies and shorts. This fully Pixar-themed hotel is a first of its kind in the United States.

The Future of Pixar Place and Disneyland Resort

As we look ahead to the future, the Disneyland Resort continues to evolve. The recent news of a proposed $1.9 billion expansion as part of the Disneyland Forward project indicates that the area surrounding Pixar Place is expected to see further changes. Disneyland’s rich history and innovative spirit continue to shape its destiny.

In conclusion, the history of the Pixar Place Hotel is a testament to the ever-changing landscape of Disneyland Resort. From its humble beginnings as the Disneyland Hotel to its transformation into the fully Pixar-themed Pixar Place Hotel, this establishment has undergone several iterations. As Disneyland Resort continues to grow and adapt, we can only imagine what exciting developments lie ahead for this iconic destination.

If you want to hear more stories about the History of the Pixar Place hotel, check our special edition of Disney Unpacked over on YouTube.

Stay tuned for more updates and developments as we continue to explore the fascinating world of Disney, one story at a time.

Jim Hill

Jim Hill is an entertainment writer who has specialized in covering The Walt Disney Company for nearly 40 years now. Over that time, he has interviewed hundreds of animators, actors, and Imagineers -- many of whom have shared behind-the-scenes stories with Mr. Hill about how the Mouse House really works. In addition to the 4000+ articles Jim has written for the Web, he also co-hosts a trio of popular podcasts: “Disney Dish with Len Testa,” “Fine Tooning with Drew Taylor” and “Marvel US Disney with Aaron Adams.” Mr. Hill makes his home in Southern New Hampshire with his lovely wife Nancy and two obnoxious cats, Ginger & Betty.

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From Birthday Wishes to Toontown Dreams: How Toontown Came to Be



Mickey's Birthday Land

In the latest release of Episode 4 of Disney Unpacked, Len and I return, joined as always by Disney Imagineering legend, Jim Shull. This two-part episode covers all things Mickey’s Birthday Land and how it ultimately led to the inspiration behind Disneyland’s fan-favorite land, “Toontown”. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves here. It all starts in the early days at Disneyland.

Early Challenges in Meeting Mickey

Picture this: it’s the late 1970s and early 1980s, and you’re at Disneyland. You want to meet the one and only Mickey Mouse, but there’s no clear way to make it happen. You rely on Character Guides, those daily printed sheets that point you in Mickey’s general direction. But let’s be honest, it was like finding a needle in a haystack. Sometimes, you got lucky; other times, not so much.

Mickey’s Birthdayland: A Birthday Wish that Came True

Fast forward to the late 1980s. Disney World faced a big challenge. The Disney-MGM Studios Theme Park was under construction, with the company’s marketing machine in full swing, hyping up the opening of Walt Disney World’s third theme park, MGM Studios, in the Spring of 1989. This extensive marketing meant that many people were opting to postpone their family’s next trip to Walt Disney World until the following year. Walt Disney World needed something compelling to motivate guests to visit Florida in 1988, the year before Disney MGM Studios opened.

Enter stage left, Mickey’s Birthdayland. For the first time ever, an entire land was dedicated to a single character – and not just any character, but the mouse who started it all. Meeting Mickey was no longer a game of chance; it was practically guaranteed.

The Birth of Birthdayland: Creative Brilliance Meets Practicality

In this episode, we dissect the birth of Mickey’s Birthdayland, an initiative that went beyond celebrating a birthday. It was a calculated move, driven by guest feedback and a need to address issues dating back to 1971. Imagineers faced the monumental task of designing an experience that honored Mickey while efficiently managing the crowds. This required the perfect blend of creative flair and logistical prowess – a hallmark of Disney’s approach to theme park design.

Evolution: From Birthdayland to Toontown

The success of Mickey’s Birthdayland was a real game-changer, setting the stage for the birth of Toontown – an entire land that elevated character-centric areas to monumental new heights. Toontown wasn’t merely a spot to meet characters; it was an immersive experience that brought Disney animation to life. In the episode, we explore its innovative designs, playful architecture, and how every nook and cranny tells a story.

Impact on Disney Parks and Guests

Mickey’s Birthdayland and Toontown didn’t just reshape the physical landscape of Disney parks; they transformed the very essence of the guest experience. These lands introduced groundbreaking ways for visitors to connect with their beloved characters, making their Disney vacations even more unforgettable.

Beyond Attractions: A Cultural Influence

But the influence of these lands goes beyond mere attractions. Our episode delves into how Mickey’s Birthdayland and Toontown left an indelible mark on Disney’s culture, reflecting the company’s relentless dedication to innovation and guest satisfaction. It’s a journey into how a single idea can grow into a cherished cornerstone of the Disney Park experience.

Interested in learning about Jim Shull’s original idea for a Winnie the Pooh ride? Here’s concept art of the attraction proposed for the original Toontown in Disneyland. More on [Disney Unpacked].

Unwrapping the Full Story of Mickey’s Birthdayland

Our two-part episode of Disney Unpacked is available for your viewing pleasure on our Patreon page. And for those seeking a quicker Disney fix, we’ve got a condensed version waiting for you on our YouTube channel. Thank you for being a part of our Disney Unpacked community. Stay tuned for more episodes as we continue to “Unpack” the fascinating world of Disney, one story at a time.

Jim Hill

Jim Hill is an entertainment writer who has specialized in covering The Walt Disney Company for nearly 40 years now. Over that time, he has interviewed hundreds of animators, actors, and Imagineers -- many of whom have shared behind-the-scenes stories with Mr. Hill about how the Mouse House really works. In addition to the 4000+ articles Jim has written for the Web, he also co-hosts a trio of popular podcasts: “Disney Dish with Len Testa,” “Fine Tooning with Drew Taylor” and “Marvel US Disney with Aaron Adams.” Mr. Hill makes his home in Southern New Hampshire with his lovely wife Nancy and two obnoxious cats, Ginger & Betty.

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