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Finding Mickey Mouse at Disney World

As a special weekend treat for JimHillMedia.com readers, Wade Sampson shares a special gift from JHM’s old pal, Jim Korkis. Which is the ultimate Mouse scavenger hunt for Florida-bound Disneyana fans.

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Was anyone else as disappointed as I was that the 75 statues celebrating Mickey Mouse which were supposed to be on display at Walt Disney World through April got pulled early for the Disney stockholder’s meeting? I had planned to visit Walt Disney World over Spring Break and take some photos since I am a big Mickey Mouse fan (Even though cast members told me that not all of the statues were on display at the Magic Kingdom. Apparently, some did not survive the trip to hot and humid Orlando well and were backstage being touched up.)

Actually, there were 77 statues made. “We created two additional statues to substitute for the official 75 in case something terrible happened to them,” said Maria Gladowski, spokesperson for Disney Consumer Products. Those two extra were “Circle Vision” by Luis Fernandez, an employee of Disney Consumer Products, and “Chocolate Mouse” by Randi S. Johnson, president of TivoliToo which was the company that was involved in creating the statues. So when there was the Janet Jackson controversy and her Mickey statue, “Rhythm Nation 1928”, got pulled, it was easy to substitute “Circle Vision”.

These 700-pound, 6-foot-tall Mickey statues kicked off an eighteen month celebration honoring Mickey Mouse’s 75th Anniversary and they are now touring the country to be reunited at Disneyland for a Sotheby’s auction in 2005.

So I postponed my trip to Walt Disney World and last week I was listening to KOST radio out here in Los Angeles when they were broadcasting from the Disney/MGM Studios and to my surprise they interviewed Disney historian Jim Korkis, who always manages to be charming and informative even when he has to be “Disney correct/” That interview reminded me that over the Christmas holidays, several cast members at Walt Disney World had sent me a scavenger hunt designed by Jim for cast members that I was going to take with me on my trip.

To celebrate the 100 Years of Magic, Jim put together a hunt entitled “Where in the World is Walt?” which is archived elsewhere at this site. Jim found Walt photos and references at the various theme parks at Walt Disney World and put together this hunt so that cast members (and their family and friends) could re-discover the magic in the parks even if they had been there hundreds of time. This last December, to celebrate Mickey Mouse’s birthday, he put together a version entitled “Where in the World is Mickey?” So for all those Disney fans like myself who lost out on the chance to see all the Mickey statues, here is another way to celebrate Mickey’s 75th birthday. I’m sure Jim won’t mind it appearing here since he loves promoting the parks and having people re-discover all the details and this encourages guests to pay that higher admission price to find these secrets hidden in plain sight.

Where in the World is Mickey?
A Special Disney Heritage Adventure
created by Jim Korkis

Magic Kingdom

1. In 1929, one of the earliest of the Mickey Mouse black and white cartoons was released: “Mickey’s Choo-Choo,” which featured Mickey as the engineer on a small town railroad. In fact, he is still wearing his engineer’s cap and checkered shirt when he posed for this photo with Walt Disney who is also wearing a checkered shirt. What is the number on the train engine? (Main Street)

2. There are certainly a lot of “Steamboat Willie” images throughout the parks since this was the first Mickey Mouse cartoon theatrically released but this is the only color reproduction of a “Steamboat Willie” anywhere in the WDW theme parks. In fact, in the small lettering at the bottom of this reproduction, it is listed as a limited edition celebrating what number anniversary? (Main Street)

3. “Canine Caddy” with Mickey & Pluto playing golf was released in 1941 and featured a Mickey Mouse with two-tone ears in an attempt by animator Freddy Moore to make Mickey’s ears more three-dimensional. This short-lived experiment only lasted for two cartoons. While the short is in color, you can view a black and white version of it at this location. What is the title that flashes on the screen immediately after this Mickey Mouse short? (Main Street)

4. “The Cactus Kid” and “Two Gun Mickey” were popular black and white Mickey Mouse cartoons with Mickey as a cowboy. However, this seems to be the only location where guests can purchase an image of Cowboy Mickey in his ten gallon hat and holding a six shooter in his left hand. Of course, you can’t see the rest of his body. Where exactly would you be able to purchase this image? (Frontierland)

5. The picture to the left of the picture of Clarabelle Cow being wooed by a suitor with a flower shows a special outfit for Mickey Mouse for one of his cartoons that was nominated for an Academy Award but lost that year to “Ferdinand the Bull.” On the picture it says “Suit For Gentry”. What is the other two word phrase on that picture? (Fantasyland)

6. Mickey Mouse’s space adventures were primarily limited to his comic book appearances but here a three-dimensional Mickey Mouse dressed in a silver space suit stands proudly behind a flashing light as he looks at Minnie. What is the color of the light? (Tomorrowland)

7. This is an interesting picture because even though it is supposed to suggest that it is Minnie Mouse’s father, it is actually based on a drawing done by famed Mickey Mouse comic strip artist Floyd Gottfredson in 1948 for a popular magazine to show what Mickey Mouse would look like in his old age. (Gottfredson’s version had Mickey holding a box of checkers and a checker board.) Anyway, the aged mouse in this picture holds a cane in right hand, wears reading glasses and holds a newspaper in his left hand. What is the name of the newspaper? (Toontown)

8. There is a color picture of Mickey Mouse as a construction worker with a hard hat outside his bedroom. That exact same picture appears in another location in Toontown. When you find that second location, the picture has a number with a fraction. What is the number and the fraction? (Toontown)

9. In Mickey’s letter to Donald and Goofy, what does he write after he says “It sure looks different all right”? (Toontown)

10. Where exactly can you find Mickey Mouse’s big yellow mailbox with his full name in big red letters? (Toontown)

Epcot

11. When you find the location that has five arrows by each wheel, look up to the top and you will find a classic Mickey Mouse image with his left hand holding how many objects? (World Showcase)

12. This is odd. This is the only country pavilion where one of the pennies in the penny press machine does not have the country name on it. It is also the only one where the image of Mickey Mouse has the classic pie-cut eyes. In what country can you find this unusual penny souvenir? (World Showcase)

13. Mickey is comfortably sitting on his suitcase with a beret on his head and a camera tucked under his right arm. That famous structure in the background was designed by the same man who did the interior structure of the Statue of Liberty. But what is Mickey Mouse holding in his left hand? (World Showcase)

14. Mickey sure looks happy on these signs in his bright yellow shirt but Chip’n’Dale seem to be paying attention to something else. What color buttons are on Mickey’s clothes on these signs? (Nope, not yellow.) (Future World)

15. As you stand in the front of Epcot, looking at SpaceShip Earth, in which hand is Mickey holding his sorcerer’s wand? (It reverses on the other side and by the way, that’s the little finger that is sticking out in the air.) (Future World)

16. This Mickey Mouse phone on the counter is always available for guests to use and has been ever since this air-conditioned location opened. Are Mickey’s feet straddling the phone or are his feet flat on the ground to one side of the dial or is the right foot raised or is the left foot raised? (Maybe if you are nice, the cast members here will point out what they suspect is a Hidden Mickey on the floor carpet.) (Future World)

17. There are two locations in Future World where there are photos of Walt Disney pretending to draw Mickey Mouse as “Steamboat Willie”. Where are those two locations? (Future World)

18. Smiling before the ABC-TV camera, Walt clutches a Charlotte Clark designed Mickey Mouse doll and what other Disney cartoon character dolls also designed by Miss Clark? (Future World)

19. These three dials were obviously meant to resemble Mickey Mouse’s head. Both of Mickey’s ear gauges seem to register approximately “90” on the scale. But the gauge representing Mickey’s head registers just short of what number? (Future World) (Don’t be confused by the dials in another area that register between 120-130!)

20. Mickey’s outline is on a large green gear that twirls periodically between the gears of the outlines of what two other Disney animated characters? (Future World)

Disney – MGM Studios

21. The Carthay Circle Theater was one of only two theaters fitted with Fantasound for the premiere of “Fantasia” featuring Mickey Mouse in 1940. This theater on San Vicente was torn down in 1969 because it was not earthquake safe. In one of the display windows is a reproduction of a poster for the cartoon short, Mickey’s Good Deed.” This exact same poster reproduction is proudly displayed at what other location at the Disney/MGM Studios? (Hollywood Boulevard)

22. What is anatomically incorrect with the big three-dimensional statue of Mickey Mouse as “Steamboat Willie”? The other two statues in the same location are fine. They even got the colors right on the middle one and that doesn’t always happen. (Hollywood Boulevard)

23. What is the word in orange lettering and white neon that is underneath the face of one of the largest Mickey Mouse wristwatches you will ever see? (Hollywood Boulevard)

24. When this star made a lasting impression with his hands (and his nose!), he also wrote “Happy Birthday, Mick!” on 6-26-88. What is the name of that star? (Next time you ride the “Great Movie Ride,” look immediately to your left when you see James Cagney and see if you can find a Hidden Mickey that is not three circles but a body part.) (Hollywood Boulevard)

25. Right between the photo of Walt pretending to draw Bambi and the photo of him being very animated in a pair of suspenders as he acts out in front of the “Pinocchio” storyboard is a photo of Walt reading a book. What is the full title of that book? (Animation Courtyard)

26. “Mickey’s Polo Team” was a 1936 short cartoon inspired by Walt Disney’s love of the game of polo. He had organized a team at the studio and arranged games between some of the other Hollywood celebrities. Unfortunately he had to stop when an accident crushed four of his cervical vertebrae, contributing to an arthritic condition that plagued him the rest of his life. This location features three publicity drawings from that cartoon and in one of the drawings, a helmeted Mickey Mouse is followed by which Disney character carrying Mickey’s bag of polo mallets? (Sunset Boulevard)

27. In the Disneyland ferris wheel, the design of each of the individual cars has Mickey Mouse sharing his ride with Pluto and what other Disney animated character? (Nope, it is not Minnie.) (Sunset Boulevard)

28. Mickey Mouse’s very own red director’s chair has a very battered and probably collectible marionette clinging to one of the arms. Who is that marionette character? (Nope, it is not Pinocchio.) (Sunset Boulevard)

29. So many things have changed in the park since it opened but thank heavens this yellow map with a red banner proclaiming: “Los Angeles and Vicinity Freeways” still hangs where it did when this area first opened. In fact, there is a little red square to identify the location of Disneyland. However, immediately to the upper left is another red square almost directly above the green San Diego Freeway sign that identifies something that helped out the opening of Disneyland. What popular location is the little red square representing? (Look at the little black arrow above the square as well.)? (New York Street)

30. This magazine has what is known as an “infinity cover” which means the cover is repeated on progressively smaller covers to infinity. Mickey is smiling on this color cover and while he is celebrating 75 years today, when this magazine came out, it proclaimed the 75th anniversary of what other achievement? (One Man’s Dream)

Don’t LOOK! Here are the Answers! WARNING!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Magic Kingdom

1. 2 (Two). This photo is in the locker area at the front of the park between lockers B255-295.

2. 70th. This small reproduction is in the first display case in the Kodak Exposition Hall near the “Puttin’ on the Ritz” sheet music.

3. “Hockey Hijinks.” Several sports related cartoons are shown on the big screen in the back of the Main Street Athletic Club.

4. The Penny Press Machine in the lobby of “Country Bear Jamboree.”

5. “Giant Savings.” This picture is in the display window of “Sir Mickey’s” and the phrase is a reference to Mickey as a giant killer in “Brave Little Tailor.”

6. Blue. This is in the center of the “Mickey’s Star Traders” shop.

7.The Cheese Report. This picture is on the mantle of the living room in Minnie Mouse’s house.

8. 23 and 3/15. The picture with the number is on the cover of “Minnie’s Cartoon Country Living” which hangs on the wall in Minnie’s house right before going in to the kitchen.

9. “Let’s Talk”. This letter appears on the counter of the remodeled kitchen in Mickey’s house.

10. On the shelf of Mickey’s garage. It is right above the license plate “MIK’N’MIN”.

Epcot

11. Three (3). This is the white pin trading cart in front of “The American Adventure.” Mickey is holding three geometric, colorful pins in his hand.

12. Morocco. This penny press machine is located in the merchandise shop near the restaurant. The penny of Mickey has him with his left hand on a globe and a suitcase behind him.

13. His passport. This image of Mickey is in the penny press machine in the “Les Halles” merchandise shop in France.

14. Orange. There are three signs for Character Dining in front of the “Garden Grill” Restaurant in “The Land” pavilion and they all feature Mickey in a yellow shirt, blue overalls and orange buttons.

15. Left hand.

16. Right foot raised. This phone is located on the counter of the Guest Relations lobby.

17. The display window of “The Art of Disney” and the south wall mural in Innoventions East.

18. Goofy, Donald, Pluto. This picture is located on the photo wall mural in Innoventions East.

19. 110. These dials are in “Mouse Gear” right underneath the silhouette picture of Scrooge McDuck in his office with Daisy Duck taking dictation.

20. Goofy and the face of Minnie Mouse. These huge gears are in the “Mouse Gear” location, north wall.

Disney – MGM Studios

21. “Sweet Success.” The poster is hanging high on the wall with other posters above the embroidering area known as Head To Toe.

22. Steamboat Willie is missing his tail. This statue is in “Mickey’s of Hollywood.”

23. Jewelry. This wristwatch is a huge sign that is on Hollywood Boulevard between the second and third entrance to Mickey’s of Hollywood.

24. Alan Alda. In the forecourt of the “Chinese Theater” on the upper left side if you are facing the theater.

25. “The Adventures of Mickey Mouse.” This photo is on a filmstrip that winds above the heads of guests in “The Studio Store.”

26. Donald Duck. This photo is on one of the north walls in the “Mouse About Town” store.

27. Donald Duck. This is one of the antique toys in the Carthay Circle merchandise shop near where the artist draws.

28. Minnie Mouse. This is one of the antique toys above one of the doors of the Carthay Circle merchandise shop.

29. Knott’s Berry Farm. This map is located on the wall in Disney’s Writer’s Stop coffee shop. Knott’s Berry Farm lent Disneyland an old rifle to be carried by Fess Parker as Davy Crockett’s “Old Betsy” when it was discovered the real one was left behind in Burbank.

30. Flight. The “Life” magazine from November 1978 is in the display case next to the standee of Roy O. Disney and celebrates “75 Years of Flight”.

Jim Korkis

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History

The Evolution and History of Mickey’s ToonTown

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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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History

Unpacking the History of the Pixar Place Hotel

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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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History

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

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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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