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Paul’s CD Bin

So how do you top a sneak peek at the “Finding Nemo” DVD? How about a new column from JHM contributor Paul Schnebelen which offers up his opinions about which CDs to pick up. PLUS an update on Paul’s progress toward his WDW marathon run.



Welcome to the first step in a new direction for me — the debut of Paul Schnebelen, music reviewer! (First Napster, now this … hasn’t the music industry got enough problems?) Today’s column is the first of what I hope will become a regular feature on called “Paul’s CD Bin,” where I’ll be reviewing new Disney-related CDs as well as looking back at some of the bits of musical magic that Disney’s previously released.

Before I get started with the reviews, let’s dispense with the obvious questions — why a music review column and why me? Well, the reason I’m starting this feature is that although there are plenty of places you can find out about Disney music and there are also plenty of places that review Disney movie, TV, and DVD releases, there aren’t a lot of places where you can find reviews of Disney music. Let’s face it, folks, you’re not going to see reviews of the latest “Disneyland Official Album” in the pages of “Rolling Stone”. I thought I’d take a shot at letting Disney music fans know what’s out there and whether it’s worth picking up.

As for what qualifies me to be a music critic, I … uh … well, I listen to a lot of Disney music and Jim’s letting me write a column. Okay, so I don’t have much in the way of credentials, but that’s never stopped a lot of media critics from stating their opinions. (Insert the name of your least favorite movie critic here.) Let’s get started!

Our first victim… uh, I mean, the first CD we’ll be reviewing today… is a special musical tribute to everybody’s favorite mouse — one that’s not available at your local record store. Not to worry, folks, I’m not going to ask you to get anything that gets you in trouble with the RIAA. In honor of Mickey’s 75th birthday, Walt Disney Records and Hallmark have released a CD called “Hallmark Celebrates 75 Years with Mickey,” a collection of songs related to the Mouse.

Although the album mainly focuses on music from the children’s albums, there’s a little bit from many periods in Mickey’s musical career; the album’s selections range from the “Steamboat Willie” recording of “Turkey in the Straw” to “Yankee Doodle Mickey” from last year’s “Sing Along With Mickey and Pals” album.

I never realized how many different musical genres the character albums released by Walt Disney Records have covered until I gave this CD a listen; this is one musically diverse Mouse, folks. Like your Disney music with a country twang? There’s Minnie singing her heart out on “Mickey’s The Mouse For Me.” Is disco more your style? Put on your leisure suit and dance the night away to “Disco Mickey Mouse.” If you’re more of a traditionalist or you’re just stuck in the 50’s, the album features the “Mickey Mouse Club March” and the “Mickey Mouse Club Alma Mater.” Kudos to Randy Thornton for putting together a compilation that gives you a good feel for what musical mayhem Mickey and pals have been up to over the years.

The best part of this album is that you can pick it up for free if you’re in the mood to buy some Hallmark ornaments; the stores are currently offering the album as a bonus gift with the purchase of 3 ornaments. (The CD is marked for retail sale at $15.95, but you may be able to get it much cheaper — my local Hallmark store had them for about 5 bucks apiece. I guess Mickey’s not exactly burning up the Billboard charts these days. ) Get your Christmas shopping done a little early and pick up a copy.

Paul’s CD Bin Rating: 3 1/2 Mouse Ears out of 5.

Several years back, Walt Disney Records released a series of about 12 albums called “Disney’s Greatest Hits;” the series did a pretty good job of putting a good selection of music from Disney movies, TV shows, and theme parks, but I guess the series starting getting a little too unwieldy, so last year Disney released a two-volume collection of its most famous music called “Disney’s Greatest.” As you might expect when you take a music catalog as large and diverse as Disney’s and try to cut it down to two albums with 20 songs apiece, there were a lot of songs that people consider Disney classics that didn’t make it onto the CDs. Apparently, Disney heard the grumbling of the music fans, because Disney has released “Disney’s Greatest, Volume 3.”

Although the CD adds some songs that definitely rank among the best that the Company has released, you have to wonder about some of the choices made here. “I’ll Try” from “Return to Neverland” is one of Disney’s greatest? “He Lives in You” from “Rhythm of the Pridelands”? And not to take anything away from Jim Cummings in “The Tigger Movie,” but how could you put “The Wonderful Thing About Tiggers” on a greatest hits album and not use the recording done by the original voice of Tigger, Paul Winchell?

Overall, though, the CD has a lot more hits than misses. in addition to some great songs that there wasn’t room for on the first two volumes like “Part of Your World” and “A Spoonful of Sugar,” there are some songs that were pretty good but weren’t the songs most people instantly think of, like “Pink Elephants on Parade” from “Dumbo.”

The “Disney’s Greatest” collection would make a great gift for someone who’s a fan of the “magical music of the Mouse” (and yes, I stole that from another website) or a great general introduction for someone who’s not all that familiar with Disney music. “Disney’s Greatest Volume 3” isn’t perfect, but it’s a very good addition to the collection. Here’s hoping that eventually see a “Disney’s Greatest, Volume 4” — there’s a lot more great music in the Disney vaults!

Paul’s CD Bin Rating: 4 1/2 Mouse Ears out of 5.

Our next CD up for review isn’t really Disney, but since you can find the stars of this CD at Disney theme parks, there’s sort of a tie-in to the Mouse! It’s hard to believe, but it’s been more than 25 years since Jim Henson brought us an inspired bit of zaniness called “The Muppet Show,” featuring our old friend from “Sesame Street” Kermit the Frog and new friends like Miss Piggy, Gonzo the Great, and Fozzie Bear.

In honor of this anniversary, Rhino Records and the Jim Henson Company have released “The Muppet Show: The 25th Anniversary Collection – Music Mayhem and More!” Rhino and Henson have done a wonderful job of capturing the spirit of the show on this compilation of music and skits from “The Muppet Show” and the 6 Muppet motion pictures.

Both casual fans of the Muppets and folks that can recite skits from “The Muppet Show” verbatim should enjoy this CD; there’s a nice selection of old favorites, plus a few fun songs that you might not be that familiar with. I’m glad to see that a lot of my favorite songs from “The Muppet Movie” are finally available again, and it was a lot of fun to listen to songs from some of the Muppet films I either missed or I haven’t seen for a while. And good luck trying to get the song “Mahna Mahna” out of your head for the rest of the day after you’ve heard it on this CD!

If you enjoy the Muppets, this is a CD you’ll want to have in your collection – don’t wait 25 years to get yourself a copy.

Paul’s CD Bin Rating: 4 Frog Legs out of 5.

The final recording I’ll be reviewing isn’t generally available, but I want to get the word out about this recording because I think something like it really should be released. A few years ago, Randy Thronton at Walt Disney Records took on an ambitious project called “Operation Lazarus,” where classic Disney recordings were brought out of the vault and were restored so they could be re-released. As part of his presentation for the 1998 Official Disneyana Convention, Randy provided the ConventionEars a cassette of some recordings that received the “Lazarus” treatment, and someone was kind enough to give me a copy.

This cassette is a real treat, folks. The sound quality on the recordings is absolutely wonderful; it’s obvious that some real care was put into the restoration project, and if the recordings don’t sound as good as they did on the day they were recorded it certainly wasn’t for lack of trying. The cassette contains some rarities that, alas, still haven’t been released by Walt Disney Records. The tracks include a recording of the soundtrack for General Electric’s Progressland from the 1964-65 New York World’s Fair that makes you want to lay down a shag carpet in the living room and start mixing martinis, a rendition of “the Headless Horseman by Thurl Ravenscroft that either had to be an inspiration for “Grim Grinning Ghosts” at least encouraged the Imagineers to get Thurl to sing it, the title music from “20,000 Leagues Under The Sea” and “Song of the South,” and even musical performances featuring Louis Prima, Paul Frees as Professor Ludwig von Drake, and Clarence “Ducky” Nash as Donald. I’ve been having a wonderful time listening to it.

So why am I reviewing a cassette that’s really hard to come by? Because I think that Disney fans deserve to hear more of what “Operation Lazarus” has wrought. I suspect that one of the main reasons that many of the tracks on the “Lazarus” cassette (and many classic Disney recordings) haven’t been re-released is that the powers that be at the Company don’t consider the music to be commercially viable. I’d love to see the Company give it a shot, though — even if only as a compilation CD that contains the “Lazarus” cassette tracks plus a few more recordings. Granted, the CD might never go double platinum, but I think there’d be enough interest from Disneyphiles out there that Walt Disney Records might be encouraged to restore and release more of the classic recordings, either in their original album formats or as compilation CD sets like the “Disney’s Greatest” CDs or “Walt Disney Treasures” DVDs. Here’s hoping, anyway. Keep your fingers crossed, folks — maybe someday soon we’ll all be able to give this music a listen.

Paul’s CD Bin Rating: 4 ½ Mouse Ears out of 5.

Well, that’ll do it for this look through “Paul’s CD Bin!” If you have any suggestions as to CDs you’d like to see reviewed or you have any comments (I wonder if my next column will be titled “Paul, You Ignorant ***!”), please e-mail me at or post them to the JimHillMedia discussion boards.

Thanks for reading!

Marathon Training Update: Today I am a racer! After 6 weeks of training walks with the Ventura Roadrunners, I participated in my first race, a 5K walk, last Sunday. The distance of the race didn’t seem like it’d be a big deal — 5 kilometers is about 3.1 miles, and the last couple of weeks I’ve been going at least that far on my training walks — but the prospect of running a really-for-real race seemed a little daunting. My fears appeared to be justified when the starter’s gun went off and I watched a whole bunch of runners take off and disappear around the corner while I was just getting started with my walking.

Once I finally put the other racers out of my mind and concentrated on my own walking pace, I did pretty well. I finished the race in 40 minutes; that may not sound really fast, but that was a personal best for me, since that represents a pace that’s a minute per mile faster than my usual walking time. Walking a race was a blast — I loved all the cheers and support from people I passed as a walked the race. I’m supposed to be walking a 10K race in a couple of weeks, and this race is going to have a lot more people participating than the 5K I was in — that should be really interesting! Things are looking pretty good so far — hopefully, I’ll keep doing well and I’ll keep from getting hurt, and I’ll be ready for the Los Angeles Marathon in March.

I’ll keep you posted as to how things are going.

Paul Schnebelen

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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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