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Roger is back this week with another episode in the series of “Things You Always Wanted To Do, But Never Knew You Could.” So Saddle Up! We’re burning daylight!



Much as this series has been interesting for me to share with you, this particular chapter is not one I have personally experienced. Nor is it one that I am likely to partake of in the future. However, being that I have friends in the “horsey” set, I’m sharing this with you today…

“I grew up a-dreamin’ of bein’ a cowboy,
and Lovin’ the cowboy ways.
Pursuin’ the life of my high-ridin’ heroes,
I burned up my childhood days.
I learned of all the rules of the modern-day drifter,
Don’t you hold on to nothin’ too long.
Just take what you need from the ladies, then leave them,
With the words of a sad country song.
My heroes have always been cowboys.
And they still are, it seems.
Sadly, in search of, but one step in back of,
Themselves and their slow-movin’ dreams.

Cowboys are special with their own brand of misery,
From being alone too long.
You could die from the cold in the arms of a nightmare,
Knowin’ well that your best days are gone.
Pickin’ up hookers instead of my pen,
I let the words of my years fade away.
Old worn-out saddles, and ‘old worn-out memories,
With no one and no place to stay.

My heroes have always been cowboys.
And they still are, it seems.
Sadly, in search of, but one step in back of,
Themselves and their slow-movin’ dreams.

Sadly, in search of, but one step in back of,
Themselves and their slow-movin’ dreams.”

“My Heroes Have Always Been Cowboys” by Sharon M. Vaughn


Cowboys are a part of my heritage. Well, one at least, and he was a vaquero, working on several ranches in Nevada’s Pine Valley (in Eureka County). And I have other cousins who did their time in the saddle out there in the same place over the last few decades.

My great grandfather (Christopher Cameron Walker or Chris) was born in Eureka, Nevada on October 7, 1881. Not long after, his parents moved off to a mining camp called Safford near the Central Pacific along the Humboldt River. As life goes, well… this was pretty bleak. The camp never really amounted to much. Lead silver was the ore, and there wasn’t much of that.

So, when at the age of twelve, his father announced it was time for him to go out into the world and make his own way, it probably did not come as much of a surprise. With little in the way of education and mining in decline, prospects were not what you would call exciting. (Much like looking for work in the Silicon Valley today; once the boom gone bust, most miners would move on to the next camp to try and strike it rich.)

What Chris did find was life on the back of a horse as a vaquero on the ranches up and down the Pine Valley. (Click here for a view of the area today.) Oddly, this part of the Silver State has water that seems to flow year-round, and that leads to good ranching and grazing lands.

As character Slim said in the film, “The Cowboys”, “There ain’t no Sunday’s west of Omaha.” Life on a ranch was pretty much the same, day in and day out. Work had to be done, and that’s what you did. There was no forty-hour workweek, no overtime after eight hours. Your day started at sun up and lasted until you were done.

Chris had one slouch hat, a pair of work boots, jeans, a jacket, gloves and a shirt (maybe three); and that’s what he wore day in, day out. When it got cold, he might wear all of his shirts.

One of the different things he might do during the course of a year on the ranch was to round up the wild mustangs that roamed the area. A buyer would come in from the East and take all the horses he could get. So that meant that guys like Chris would have to go out and do the work. According to an interview recorded in 1965, it would usually go something like this. The vaqueros would chase the wild horses into a box canyon and then get the herd ready to travel to the nearby railroad. It was pretty hard work as the mustangs were an unpredictable lot.

Chris said he was only thrown once from a horse while riding. It wasn’t his horse, but someone else’s and that guy didn’t want to ride it because he had been thrown! Chris was used to horses that didn’t like riders, so he said why not? Landed in a clump of sagebrush to cushion his fall luckily.

For something to do to amuse themselves, the ranch hands would get together a pot, maybe of six bits, and find someone crazy enough to ride a wild horse. Chris used to be one of those who would do it. He said riding was the easy part. Putting the saddle on the wild horse, that was hard work!

In February of 1899, Chris went from the ranch he was working on to Eureka (the big city and county seat) for a Mardi Gras dance. He was hoping to see a young lady and maybe get a dance or two. He and a number of other folks rode the narrow gauge train down from Palisade to Eureka.

After a disappointing evening, Chris rode the train back to Palisade. The tale goes that most everyone else had partied quite a bit and were all asleep back in the coaches. Chris rode up front in the locomotive with the engineer and fireman.

After that trip, Chris decided that the rest of his life on the back of a horse was not for him. So, after another summer and fall on the ranch, he went to the Southern Pacific’s division point offices in Wadsworth to apply for a job. There must have been something that the road foreman saw that he didn’t like because he turned Chris away, saying he was too young. But when he came back the next year, he was hired as a locomotive fireman, and never rode a horse ever again.

Howard Hickson as his web pages so well say is “Director Emeritus of the Northeastern Nevada Museum in Elko. He retired in 1993 after heading the national award-winning museum for almost twenty-five years.” He’s got a wonderful series of stories as told by another cowboy, Lawrence Jackson, who worked in the area around Elko, also in eastern Nevada from 1921 into the Seventies. His tales are a great look at that life, hard as it was.

Yet, something in the mystique of the American West idolized the life and labors of the “cowboy”. Making that cattle round up and drive to the railhead is the stuff of legends, right? Who am I to disagree?

It’s been the stuff of pulp novels, western movies — features and serials, television shows, popular music, etc… Icons of American popular culture, and as popular around the world as they are here at home.

So are you one of these folks who wants to ride the open range? Or are you someone who has watched “City Slickers” and got all the horseback riding you’ll ever need vicariously? Jack Palance not withstanding, there certainly are all kinds of opportunities out there to fulfill any fantasy of life on the range.

To start with, let me offer some media of note:

Musically, I’m all for the “Riders In The Sky” who may be best known for their work on “Toy Story 2” with “Woody’s Round-Up”. Having enjoyed both their CD’s and a live performance, they get my vote for western music.

Or if you’re another fan of the Blues Brothers as am I, “Oh, we got both kinds. We got Country, and Western.”

Texas Bix Bender offers words of wisdom from the trail. My favorite book so far is “Don’t Squat With Yer Spurs On” and “Never Ask A Man The Size Of His Spread—A Cowgirl’s Guide To Life.”

Too Slim’s Mercantile<> has all the goods any armchair cowboy will ever need.

When it comes to movies, I favor a couple that told it pretty much like it was. Romantic it was not. Dull, tedious and just plain boring, day in, day out is more like it. If you had little or no schooling, this was the kind of career you probably would end up in.

That said, “The Cowboys” with John Wayne carries a good look at the reality of that life. The new Kevin Costner film, “Open Range” may be another fine looking piece from the actor/director, but it’s a bit too much fluff for me.

“The Misfits” was a fine tale of some of the cowboys that Arthur Miller met one summer in Nevada while waiting for a divorce. PBS offered a great look behind the scenes with this effort from its “Great Performances” series. In the days when people were just discovering the wild mustangs, they weren’t the cause they would become. They were just horses waiting to rounded up, much as they had been almost seventy years before. But Miller did understand. As he put it, “What intrigued me about Nevada was that the people were so little and the landscape was so enormous.”

PBS offered a fine look as 21st Century folks tried their hand at what life might have been like on the Montana prairies in the 1880’s. Frontier House put a good cross-section of families back in time for six months. Modern conveniences like shampoo and soap don’t exist. The luxury of a bath wasn’t an everyday thing. And meals weren’t just something you popped into the microwave. Keeping the family fed was an all day chore from sunrise to sundown and then some!

Now for the romantic side of the coin, the television series “Bonanza” was the fanciful tale of a ranch in Nevada. From 1959 to 1974, folks tuned it each week to watch the adventures of the Cartwright family. Set between the eastern shore of Lake Tahoe and the mountains that held Virginia City and the Comstock Lode, there wasn’t a lot of realism in the stories. Yet, it’s a show that has lots of fans, even today. Here’s one of the better fan sites you’ll find on the Web. Some episodes were filmed on location at Lake Tahoe on the north shore. Sets used became part of the Ponderosa Ranch theme park (not far from what was once a logging camp). Folks from all over the world have come to enjoy the place that their favorite TV western called home. (What is it with the Germans and their fascination for this place? Got me!)

But if you’re looking to step out and see the trail for yourself, there are plenty of places ready to handle it. Check out this Google search for some suggestions. The top of the list offers with a state by state list of places to tempt you.

Another good search is for trail drives. If you’re looking to do the “City Slicker’s” bit, give the Gray Rocks Ranch a try. This is a 22,000-acre working ranch in southeastern Wyoming that offers all kinds of activities. Events are limited to four to six guests and offer deluxe accommodations. It’s not all work and no play, but it’s a good bet you’ll spend plenty of time on the back of a horse, if that’s what you’re looking for! Although the web pages don’t show it for this year, they did have cattle drives in 1999 and 2000. Drop them a note to see if they’re planning one for this year!

As I said up front, I’m not likely to join one of these efforts soon. Nor will you find me riding the mechanical bull anywhere, or even sitting in the stands watching a rodeo. I can appreciate what might entice folks to do so, but it’s just not for me.

So that brings to a close this chapter of “Things You Always Wanted To Do, But Didn’t Think You Could”! I’ll be on the lookout for more experiences to share with you again. And if you have any suggestions, drop me a note and I’ll look into them. Heck! If they’re interesting enough, I might just go try it myself!

Next week? A look at a ranch of a different sort, and what it is with pot roast. Stay tuned…

Thanks again to everyone who has shown their appreciation for these efforts by using Roger’s Amazon Honor System Paybox. There’s nothing better than knowing we make you smile now and then.

Roger Colton

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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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