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More Big Changes at WDW

With just weeks ’til Disney World officially unveils its latest additions, JHM columnist Seth Kubersky heads over to EPCOT to check out the new rides, shows & exhibits there.



With the imminent celebration of Disneyland’s 50th, Florida’s Walt Disney World resort is seeing its biggest expansion since Animal Kingdom opened. Last month I reported on some of the new additions to the Magic Kingdom and the Disney/MGM Studios. This week, we head over to Epcot to see what’s new there.

Soarin’ at The Land

For the past couple weeks, “Soarin'” has been the best-kept secret at Epcot. When this clone of the hit California Adventure attraction officially opens in May, you can be sure that long lines will fill its elegant queue. But the lucky few who knew to line up near the service gate behind “Imagination!” during the afternoons this past week were treated to a guided tour of the soon-to-open attraction, including a mostly wait-free ride. The ride is now closed to the public, but I was able to get in a few rides, which was enough for me to know I’ll be returning again and again, full queue or no. Soarin’ will be a major hit, and deservedly so.

Our tour started with a visit to the backstage area behind “Imagination” and “The Land.” Braving the sulfurous aroma in the air, we were given a brief introduction to the attraction by a cast member in an electric blue blazer. The new costumes are “inspired” by airline flight crews, and the queue takes its cue from airports like Chicago’s O’Hare, Paris’ Charles DeGaulle, and Orlando International (I detect a touch of Orlando’s upscale new Mall at Millenia, as well).

Photo by Seth Kubersky

After passing a circular reception desk (also home of the greenhouse guided tours) and the FastPass and “Single Flyer” lines, we wound through the beautiful steel and wood-appointed atrium. The ceiling rises to 5 five stories, and the largest wall is dominated by enormous backlit images of the Earth’s various environments – desert, tropical, mountain, forest, and arctic. Beneath each is a video screen displaying trivia questions. Though the overall design is tastefully ultra-modern, something about the inspiring music, curved neon lights, and polyestertastic costumes give the whole thing a wonderfully retro old-EPCOT feel.

The line splits, directing us to one of two “bays”, each serving up to 89 guests per show. Guests at each bay are dived into 3 sections, and then subdivided into 3 rows of 10 each (one row has 9, for accessibility I believe). Before entering the ride proper, there is a brief safety video featuring Patrick Warburton (“The Tick,” “The Emperor’s New Groove“) as a flight attendant. The safety briefing is standard-issue, but Warburton’s ironic dumb-lug persona makes it amusing (for the first couple viewings).

Upon entering the show bay, you are directed to one of the 9 long benches suspended from above. The seats are made of springy webbing, like a high-end office chair, and there are seatbelts instead of lap bars or harnesses. Once everyone is strapped in, the lights dim and you are hoisted up and over the railing to hang over what’s our guide billed as “the largest curved IMAX screen in the world”.

I don’t know that it’s really that much bigger than the screen at Universal’s “Back to the Future,” but the proximity and lack of obstruction below you makes it almost completely fill your field of view. The first time I rode I was in the middle row, and found the legs of the people above me a little distracting (but not fatally). Later, I rode from the front, and if you’re not bothered by the extra height, it’s the only way to go. No matter where you sit, when the film begins and you soar above the Golden Gate Bridge, the effect is absolutely stunning.

For the next four and a half minutes, you glide over the visual highlights of California. From the mountains and forests to the desert to nighttime L.A., the scenery is absolutely breathtaking. There are surprising and humorous moments, like when you narrowly miss a golf ball, and others that inspire simple joy, like skimming over a wave breaking in the Pacific surf. What really struck me is how gentle the ride is. It makes the subtlest of movements, mildly dipping and banking without ever feeling jerky or aggressive. The feeling of dramatic yet graceful flight is greatly enhanced by the wind effects. This is truly a simulator your grandmother would ride (provided she’s not scared of heights).

I found this hyper-evolved Circlevision travelogue to be thrilling and beautiful. It gives a feeling of freedom and exhilaration that is unique among simulator rides, and I look forward to riding it for years to come. There are however some minor criticisms. While I don’t mind the lack of plot or narration, I would like some way of knowing where the beautiful locations featured are. The orange scent sprayed as you glide over the citrus groves made me pleasantly nostalgic for “Horizons,” but the rotting Pinesol odor gives Stitch’s chili breath a run for its money as “worse attraction smell ever.”

My biggest gripe is with the editing. Scenes cut abruptly from one scene to the next, momentarily jarring your suspension of disbelief. I wish that cleverer editing and/or CGI could have been used to make it a seamless flight. Hopefully an upgraded film will address that in the future; Epcot’s 25th birthday isn’t far off, and would be the perfect occasion for a less California-centric ride film.

Mostly, I just worry if “Soarin'” has the capacity to handle the huge crowds it will justifiably draw. With approximately 178 people cycling every 7 to 10 minutes, they’ll be pressed to push through 1200 people an hour. California Adventure, where the original was the park headliner until Tower of Terror was imported, only gets a fraction of the crowds that Epcot does. Be prepared to work those FastPass and single rider systems, because “Soarin'” is certain to be mobbed all summer long.

Turtle Talk with Crush at The Living Seas

For many years, “The Living Seas” was the phantom pavilion for me. Between the interminable preshow film, the cheesy Hydrolators, the broken SeaCabs, and the creaky exhibits, I found no reason to pay a visit. But recently, “The Living Seas” has seen a bit of a resurrection, thanks to some CGI talking fish. The stars of Pixar’s much-loved “Finding Nemo” are gradually being added to SeaBase Alpha, with mixed results. The first few additions were simple museum displays, themed around Bruce the Shark and the like, that are barely worth a single visit. But the newest addition is a technological and creative wonder that once again makes this pavilion a must-see.

As a child, one of my favorite places was “The Land of Make Believe“, a small family amusement park still operating in Hope, NJ . While I loved the roller coaster and was terrified of the haunted house, what fascinated me most was Cornel Corn, the “famous” talking scarecrow. As a young kid, I didn’t figure out that it was just stuffed shirt rigged with a microphone and camera, and an operator hiding nearby. I was enthralled by the idea of an inanimate object that interacted with me like a living person. My current favorite expression of this concept is the Enchanted Fountain outside the Sinbad stadium at Universal’s Islands of Adventure. The combination of an abusively sarcastic actor and high pressure water jets can keep me entertained for hours.

“Turtle Talk with Crush” is the major new step in the evolution of interactive characters. Small groups of guests are loaded into a theatre (adults on low benches, kids on the floor down front). Jim wrote an excellent article on the show last year so I won’t repeat it. I’ll just point out that for all the amazing technology used, the real magic is in the actor pulling the strings. From the spot-on vocal impersonation to the ability to wink at the parents without being condescending to their kids, this is a performance that deserves a standing ovation.

Hong Kong Disneyland Preview Center at the China pavilion

Tucked into a small exhibit room attached to the “Temple of Heaven” lobby is a preview of the new Disneyland park being built in Hong Kong. The Chinese park, opening this September, has been criticized for being under-built, in the not-so-grand tradition of Disney Studios Paris and California Adventure. Disney’s counter-argument is that the Chinese prefer picture taking and sightseeing over thrill rides, so the deficit of E-Ticket attractions is culturally appropriate. I can’t speak to the cultural issue. But — to my eyes — the preview makes the park look pleasant but underwhelming.

As previously reported, there are only 4 lands, and each has only a handful of attractions. Anyone looking for Big Thunder or Splash Mountain, Pirates, Haunted Mansion, or most other classic E-Tickets will be disappointed. Space Mountain is there, a clone of the track currently being installed in California. The highlight of the park looks to be the Jungle Cruise, which dominates an enlarged Adventureland. In addition to the classic scenes from the original, the ride features a climactic battle between the Tiki gods of fire and water. The rest of the park is filled by clones of minor rides like Dumbo, Teacups, and the Oribitron. The clone of Pooh is rumored to be weaker than the Florida version, the Buzz Lightyear better, and Philharmagic should be the same.

Photo by Seth Kubersky

The only unique attraction seems to be the Fantasy Gardens, which is simply a landscaped area with 5 gazebos where guests can take pictures of costumed character. More or less the same as the character trail in Camp Minnie-Mickey at Animal Kingdom. There appears to be good attention being paid to detail in the design and landscaping, and there are some pleasant touches like the Snow White Grotto. The adjacent hotels are beautiful, connected by a promenade with a character-filled performing fountain. The integration with Hong Kong’s mass transit makes me wish Orlando would finally build its long-proposed light rail. But overall the park is decidedly on the small size (good thing there’s room for it to grow).

Likewise, the preview center is equally underwhelming, with nothing but simple static displays. A video of construction footage or Imagineering rendering would go a long way towards livening it up. Still, it’s worth a visit for Disney diehards, if you’re in the park already. And with all the other great new additions, you know you will be!

Seth Kubersky

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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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