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History of Reedy Creek Improvement District: Part 2



In 1966, just a few month prior to his death, Walt Disney was named “Showman for the World” by  NATO (Not the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. But — rather — the National Association of Theater Owners).

Of course, while he was putting in an appearance at NATO’s annual convention to accept this award, Walt was asked “Why don’t you make a sequel to your studio’s biggest hit?” Which — at that time — was “Mary Poppins.” Which had been released to theaters back in August of 1964.

Walt Disney and New Worlds to Conquer

You’ve probably heard a few select quotes from Walt’s response to this question in the past. Which Disney employees have then cherry-picked to support whatever project they were working on at the time. What follows is Walt’s full response. Which may give you some idea what direction Walt Disney Productions was actually headed in just prior to Walt’s untimely passing in December of 1966:

Many people have asked, “Why don’t you make another Mary Poppins?” Well, by nature, I’m a born experimenter. To this day, I don’t believe in sequels. I can’t follow popular cycles. I have to move on to new things — there are many new worlds to conquer.

Credit: Vanity Fair

As a matter of fact, people have been asking us to make sequels ever since Mickey Mouse first became a star. We have bowed only on one occasion to the cry to repeat ourselves. Back in the ‘30’s, “The Three Little Pigs” was an enormous hit, and the cry went up “Give us more pigs.” I could not see how we could possibly top pigs with pigs. But we tried, and I doubt that any of you can name the other cartoons in which the pigs appeared.

We didn’t make the same mistake with “Snow White.” When it was a huge hit, the shout went up for more dwarfs. Top dwarfs with dwarfs? Why try?

Right now, we’re not thinking about making another “Mary Poppins.” We never will. Perhaps there will be other ventures with equal critical and financial success. But we know that we can not hit a home run with the bases loaded every time we go to the plate. We also know that the only way we can even get to First Base is by constantly going to bat and continuing to swing.

So we’re always looking for new ideas and new stories, hoping that somehow we’ll come up with a different kind of “Mary Poppins” … or even a different kind of Disneyland.

As 1967 begins, we have high hopes that some of our current projects may measure up to this exciting challenge. Perhaps it will be a motion picture like “The Happiest Millionaire.” Perhaps it will be our so-called “Disney World” in Florida. Or perhaps it will be our year-round recreation facility in the High Sierra of California, Mineral King.

“… our so-called ‘Disney World’ in Florida”

You gotta love Walt describing “Project Florida” as “ … our so-called ‘Disney World’ in Florida.” As in: Seriously? That’s the best name that you could come up with for this thing? Try again.”

But look at how Walt describes Mineral King: “ … our year-round recreation facility in the High Sierra of California.” Care to guess which one Walt was most excited about? “ … our so-called ‘Disney World’ in Florida” or “ … our year-round recreation facility in the High Sierra of California” ?

Remember the press conference which was held at the Cherry Tree Plaza Hotel in Orlando back in November of 1965. More importantly, Walt’s private meeting with 750 of Florida’s most powerful politicians and business leaders just prior to this press conference.

It was while Walt was speaking with the press & those politicians that the public got its first inkling of what the construction timetable for “Project Florida” might be. Here’s what Walt said at that time:

Based on preliminary estimates that WED had done, it would take “… at least a year and a half to design” the vacation kingdom portion of Disney World and then “ … at least another year-and-a-half to (actually) build” the thing.“

Again, that was revealed back in November of 1965. And since that time, Florida’s politicians and business leaders had been patiently waited on word as to what Walt’s “so-called ‘Disney World’ “ would entail.

But as 1966 drew to a close, word came out of California that Walt Disney Productions was finally ready to reveal what exactly they wanted to build out on those 27,443 acres that the Company acquired out in the swamps of Central Florida.

Here’s the crucial part of that announcement:

“Preliminary plans for Disney World — and a review of local legislation necessary to make the project a reality — will be revealed at a public hearing called by the Central Florida legislative delegation during the first week of February, 1967.”

Which isn’t to say that — while the Imagineers were back in Glendale, designing Disney World’s  “Vacation Kingdom” — that there was no work going on on-site on those 27,443 acres.

Early Construction at Walt Disney World – Introducing General Joe Potter

There were huge pieces of heavy earth-moving equipment moving under the guidance of General Joe Potter AKA William Everett Potter. Walt had first met General Joe when he was working with Robert Moses on the 1964 – 1965 New York World’s Fair. This is when Walt Disney learned about Potter’s work history:

  • Mr. Potter has supervised the Army Corps of Engineers as they tackled a $100 million project to control the Missouri River
  • General Joe followed that challenging work assignment with a 5 year stint as the governor of the Panama Canal Zone.

When Walt learned about General Joe’s work experience when it came to guiding genuinely massive water control projects to completion, Disney quietly pulled Potter aside and said “Have I go a job for you.”

Walt Disney, General Joe Potter, & Roy O. Disney

So throughout 1966, General Joe and his team began wrestling with the swamps of Central Florida. With the end goal here getting this twice-the-size-of-the-Island-of-Manhattan wetland ready for construction.

Reedy Creek Drainage District and “Joe’s Ditches”

Now before Potter could begin working onsite, Disney — with the help of state & county officials in Florida — formed the Reedy Creek Drainage District (that name sounds familiar for some reason). The purpose of the Reedy Creek Drainage District was … Well, this was a legal entity that then made it possible for the Company to begin reclaiming and preparing all of the property that it had acquired on-the-sly in 1964 & 1965 for subsequent development.

Now Potter had a lot of plates to spin here as he began working on this project. First and foremost, there was the fact that headwaters of the Everglades actually start in the Orlando area and then flow on through to the Kissimmee chain of lakes. Of which Bay Lake at Walt Disney World is one of the key bodies of water within this ecosystem.

Credit: Orlando Sentinel

So General Joe had to make sure that — not matter what he was doing on property — water had to continue to flow on through from Bay Lake down on towards the Everglades. While — of course — trying to keep the water table at select sites around Disney World low so that they could then support construction of the Vacation Kingdom.

This meant that Walt Disney Production needed to criss-cross its 27,443 acres of land in Central Florida with miles & miles of new drainage canals. Which Walt — not entirely affectionately — began referring to as “Joe’s ditches.”

Potter oversaw the construction of the Walt Disney World Resort’s entire infrastructure. He supervised the building and operation of the underground utilities and sewer, power, and water treatment plants that were considered revolutionary at the time. Among his achievements, Potter was well-known for the development of drainage canals for the entire property, which were known affectionately as “Joe’s ditches” and kept the water table constant.

Another Disney World Joe – Admiral Joe Fowler

Admiral Joe Fowler was the WWII vet that Walt roped in back in the Summer of 1954 to help turn that orange grove in Anaheim, CA into the Happiest Place on Earth. Fowler had then stayed on with the Disney organization to help build projects-of-size.

So as not to confuse these two men:

  • General Joe Potter got the swampland that Walt bought ready for the actual construction of his vacation kingdom.
  • Whereas Admiral Joe Potter was the one who then went on to supervise the construction of the Magic Kingdom, the themed resort hotels, World Drive. You get the idea.
Admiral Joe Fowler (left), General Joe Potter (right)

Anyway, Admiral Joe Fowler recalled in an interview in the late 1980s:

The first canal Joe Potter laid out ran straight as an arrow from Bay Lake to the south part of the property. I was with Walt when he first saw it. Walt didn’t raise his voice. The only way you could tell he was angry was when he raised his right eyebrow. He raised it and said, ‘Look, Joe. I don’t want any more of those Corps of Engineers canals.’

From then on, at much greater expense, the canals that General Joe Potter had dug on property  were deliberately laid out in a meandering pattern to resemble natural rivers.

More to the point, WDW’s water control system was laid out in such a way that — when Central Florida experienced a heavy rain storm (which used to happen virtually every afternoon at around 2 o’clock) — that a system of automatic gates would then open & close. Preventing key portions of the property (the ones that had been designated as construction sites for the theme park, the golf courses and the hotels) from flooding.

Vacation Kingdom or Valuable Real Estate for Sale?

But — again — remember, officials from Walt Disney Productions kept describing those 24,773 acres of land that they’d acquired back in 1964 & 1965 as “ … a major and important real estate acquisition.” A chunk of property that had significantly increased in value since Disney had acquired this parcel.

So all of the time & money that Walt Disney Productions was plowing into the creation of all of those canals criss-crossing Central Florida’s swamps didn’t actually mean that they were really going to go forward with the construction of …

Well, here’s the language that Disney PR flacks put out in 1966 as part of the Company’s annual report:

“ … a recreation and entertainment complex whose impact on the quality of urban life will be measured for generations to come.”

More to the point:

“ … a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for everyone who participates.”

And the whole time that Disney Officials are meeting with folks who are high up in the legislative branches of the State of Florida as they plan out all of the roads, off-ramps & interchanges that will then provide access to the more-than-6,000,000 visitors who are expected to come flooding into the Central Florida area during Disney World’s first year of operation, they’re saying things like:

“Well, Walt hasn’t completely committed yet to building Disney World. I mean, he likes Project Florida and all. But he’s also excited about that ski area the Company looking to build up in the High Sierra. And the Department of the Interior and the State of California are really eager to work with him on Mineral King. They’re already talking about funding the construction of an all-weather road that will take Guests straight to that property.”

With the very unsubtle message here being … If you want us to actually build this vacation kingdom in the swamps of Central Florida, the State and Federal Government are going to have to cover the cost of construction of all these roads, off-ramps & interchanges that will then get Guests to Disney World.

Playing Hardball with Mickey Mouse – Disney and Florida Legislature

That whole year of 1966, Disney Company representatives worked closely with state and county officials, trying to identify key legal issues that would then serve as road blacks to Project Florida. With the idea here being:

  • In February of 1967, Walt Disney Productions would first present its plans for the Vacation Kingdom.
  • And then — in the months that follow — the Florida Legislature would then vote on a bill (or a package of bills) that would then clear a path for this $100 million project.

Whenever the folks in Orange & Osceola County (or — for that matter — officials up in Tallahassee) would start to complain about the terms & conditions that Walt Disney Productions execs were lying out, how the supposedly family-friendly Mouse was playing hardball here, Disney officials would then drop disturbing little tidbits of information. Like:

  • California Governor Ronald Reagan has already gone on record as saying he supports the Mineral King project and that he hopes construction of this “ … year-round recreation facility in the High Sierras” goes forward
  • Or that the National Forest Service has just given its okay to construct an all-weather road through a previously preserved section of Sequoias. Which will now provide necessary access to the Mineral King construction.

Long story short: This was a high stakes game of poker that the State of Florida found itself. And if it actually wanted to come out on top here, have Walt Disney Productions move beyond installing just drainage canals on site at the 24,773 acres that it acquired in Central Florida in 1964 & 1965 and then build … Well, not just a theme park & some hotels. But “… a recreation and entertainment complex whose impact on the quality of urban life will be measured for generations to come.”

They had to put up.

Death of Walt Disney – Selling Off Disney?

Then — to add further pressure to the whole situation — Walt Disney died on December 15, 1966. And — for a brief window of time — everyone holds their breath as there are rumors of Roy O. Disney selling off the entire company to RCA and both Project Florida & Mineral King being cancelled.

We’ll get to that part of the story — as well as the actual Reedy Creek Improvement District legislation — in the next installment of this series.

If you missed Part 1 of The History of Reedy Creek Improvement District, be sure to take a look at our coverage of Project Florida and the Epcot film.

If you’d like to learn more about Mineral King, Daniel P. Selmi has written a book about this never-built project, “Dawn at Mineral King Valley: The Sierra Club, the Disney Company, and the Rise of Environmental Law.” This 344-page hardcover is being published by the University of Chicago Press on July 7th of this year. Amazon is currently offering it for $30, $38.50 for the Kindle version.

This article is based on research for The Disney Dish Podcast “Episode 370”, published on April 18, 2022. The Disney Dish Podcast is part of the Jim Hill Media Podcast Network.

This post contains references to products from one or more of our advertisers. We may receive compensation when you click on links to those products.

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.

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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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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