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Set the WABAC Machine for the summer of 1973. Yup! It’s summer, it’s baseball and passion all rolled into one… Who knew?



In June of 1973, I graduated from the eighth grade leaving Walnut Creek Intermediate School behind me. Personal mobility wasn’t much of a problem as I was already used to riding my bicycle all over the place. While my Disney and railroad interests had not become obsessions just yet, baseball had.

Now when I lived in Mountain View (on the other side of the San Francisco Bay), I was definitely a Giants baseball fan. I had been to several games at Candlestick Park with my maternal grandfather, and one really memorable game with a local summer school group. That featured a true Candlestick experience as the fog rolled in on the third deck. Those were the glory days of the Giants with greats such as Mays, McCovey, Bonds (Bobby, not Barry), Marichal, Perry and a whole lot more! Throw in games on the radio (KSFO, thank you!) with Russ Hodges and Lon Simmons, and it was “Bye, bye baby”! Since coming west from New York in 1960, the Giants were Major League Baseball for Northern California. Always a contender, they made for exciting games including a 1962 World Series “By-The-Bay” (as Herb Caen happily announced). And with a rivalry of legendary proportions as the Dodgers also came west, you could always count for a great day of baseball as long as the Giants took the field.

That all changed when real estate mogul turned team owner Charlie Finley brought his Athletics from Kansas City to Oakland for the 1968 season. Major League Baseball would never be the same.

To start with, there were the uniforms of green and gold. And bright green and gold at that. Finley was going to do what he needed to. He wanted the seats at the new Oakland Alameda County Coliseum stadium to be filled. If that meant playing baseball with a flair, then that is what they would do. With a group of young exciting prospects, the A’s went from a proverbial last place joke to the league champions in only five years after their arrival in Oakland. How could you not love this team?

So, with a World Series victory in 1972, they were playing exciting baseball again that summer. And I was following the games in the local newspaper, on radio and television. Excitement was hard to contain, and I wasn’t alone in my fandom for the A’s. I had friends who shared that passion. At the age of 14, we were decidedly hooked.

However, even with expanded mobility thanks to the old Schwinn Varsity ten-speed, the Coliseum was over 25 miles away. Riding from suburban Walnut Creek wasn’t impossible, just impractical.

There was an alternative to the bicycle, but for a 14-year old kid from the burbs, it was definitely intimidating. Rapid transit was a term that was all the rage with urban planners at the time. Before we all were lured from the trains onto the highways, they were just commuter trains, call ’em what you will.

Back in 1939, there was a fair network of rail lines about the East Bay and even out to the Diablo Valley and beyond. Folks rode trains from home into downtown San Francisco for those nine to five, Monday through Friday jobs. But the call of the open road and the seduction of personal mobility through your own automobile proved too great. One by one, the rail lines from the East Bay ended passenger service. In 1958, the last of the trains rolled across the lower deck of the Bay Bridge into the City, as victims of corporate greed.

Amusingly enough, at almost the same times as the last trains rolled, plans were well underway for a county transit system including busses and new trains to replace the old. In 1972, the first of the new trains of the Bay Area Rapid Transit system ran through the East Bay (especially a station for the new Oakland Alameda County Coliseum complex!). Those trains and busses got a real test as capacity crowds for the 1972 World Series used them to travel to and from the games.

1973 saw the opening of BART’s Concord line to connect with the Richmond-Fremont line. So now, what had been a 25 mile plus bicycle ride would be a quick train ride from the Diablo Valley. That summer I was fortunate enough to go to a number of A’s games including one outstanding three-game series (which if memory serves the A’s won two out of three) including Bat Day. I still have the green baseball bat (albeit somewhat worse for wear) from that game. For another game, my dad got tickets from a sale rep for the Western Pacific Railroad (whose Sacramento Northern railroad served his company’s West Pittsburg plant). That day, we sat down behind the A’s dugout on the third base side along with my maternal grandmother (down from Reno just for baseball). All I can remember is one fan (who had obviously had way too much Budweiser) ripping into Reggie Jackson at ever opportunity. He used some very colorful language that afternoon, much the amusement of many folks sitting next to him. Reggie got his revenge, as he became the World Series Most Valuable Player that year.

But the most memorable of the 1973 season was the last regular game. With the division pennant won, it seemed that the team was headed for a second straight World Series appearance. I enjoyed that day with a friend, riding by ourselves on BART (quite the unsupervised adventure) in from Walnut Creek. We managed to get a couple of autographs including the team’s pitching ace, Jim “Catfish” Hunter, and snuck down from the cheap seats to get a better view of the game.

Oakland went on to defeat the Baltimore Orioles to take the American League championship. In the series that followed, they played hard against the New York Mets, with MVP Reggie Jackson earning his nickname “Mister October”. It was the second of a series of back to back to back World Championships for Oakland, and maybe the sweetest of the bunch.

It’s been a while since those days when life seemed less complicated. Maybe we were trying to be ignorant of many of the issues around us or had other things to concentrate on. For one teenager in that summer before high school, baseball as played by the Swingin’ A’s was one such priority.

The A’s have gone on to greater glory since then with another World Series victory in 1974 over the Dodgers; another World Series appearance in 1988 with a loss to the Dodgers; then the 1989 Bay Bridge Series against the Giants and the Loma Prieta earthquake to really put it all into a proper perspective (Michele still says that can’t happen again as we don’t need any more earthquakes).

The A’s have been in the “Hunt for a Green October” for the last three years. 2000 the A’s took the Western Division title only to be defeated in a tough series against the Yankees. In 2001, saw them as the American League Wild Card team only to once again go down to the Yankees. In 2002 the A’s again took the Western Division title (after a record breaking 20-game win streak) only to lose to the Minnesota Twins, who themselves were defeated by the Wild Card Anaheim Angels!

2003? Well, we hope for good things! As of the All-Star Break, the team has the same record as they did at this time last year with 54 wins and 39 losses, and are four games behind the Seattle Mariners — right where they were at the same time last year. While no one is forecasting a repeat of the 20-game streak, it seems that we are in for another exciting finish to the season.

With the 30th Anniversary of that 1973 season, it’s natural to remember that team of long ago. And that’s just what will happen before and after the game with the Yankees on Saturday, August 2. In ceremonies before and after the game, members of that team will be recognized. Among those scheduled to appear are Vida Blue, Reggie Jackson, Rollie Fingers, Joe Rudi, Ken Holtzman, Ray Fosse, *** Green, Dave Hamilton, Bill North, John “Blue Moon” Odom, coaches Irv Noren and Wes Stock and manager *** Williams. Check out the A’s web pages for more information.

While I usually don’t go to Yankee games (sorry folks, Yankee fans are only exceeded in rudeness by Giants fans — at least that’s the way they are at the Coliseum), this might just be the exception. If nothing else, it’s worth a chance to add to those autographs from that afternoon a world away.

So, while we’re on the subject of baseball, let me introduce you to another facet of the game — minor league baseball. It’s exciting and often one heck of a lot of fun for both fans and players. And it’s being played at small (and not so small) towns across North America.

Out here in California, we have two different classes of minor league teams. First is the AAA or Triple A class (that’s the one just below the Major League teams). The Pacific Coast League is a direct descendant of the old PCL which had teams up and down the west coast in the days before teams like the Dodgers and Giants came west. Players such as Joe Dimaggio came from the old PCL teams (the San Francisco Seals to be exact) to the big leagues. Today it is comprised of AAA teams from all over the western U.S. and Canada. Here in California, we have the Sacramento Rivercats (the Oakland A’s AAA affiliate) and the Fresno Grizzlies (the San Francisco Giants AAA affiliate) and in Nevada, there is the Las Vegas 51’s (the Los Angeles Dodgers AAA affiliate).

The other league here in California is Class A or Single A. Oddly enough, it’s called the California League with the North and South Divisions. Until recent changes in affiliations, both the A’s and the Giants had two Single A farm teams in this league. Now there are the Modesto (Remember where this town got it’s name? Think back to that Billy Ralston column. And what a great town motto! “Water, Wealth, Contentment, Health! Modesto!” Okay, so it was a toast at my wedding…) A’s and the San Jose Giants to keep fans interested.

Another personal favorite team is the Visalia Oaks — now affiliated with the Colorado Rockies. Fans of the classic baseball movie “Bull Durham” will recall that this was the team Kevin Costner’s character (“Crash” Davis” was planning to work for as a coach after the end of his minor league playing days. And what’s not to love about a squirrel named “Chatter” as a mascot?

And while on the subject of “Bull Durham” (a real classic with some great dialogue despite all the nonsense over political views of Susan Sarandon and Tim Robbins in the days since they made this movie), how about the Durham Bulls? They are the AAA affiliate of the Tampa Bay Devil Rays, and yes, they still play their games in Durham, in a stadium “designed by HOK Sport + Venue + Event, architects of Camden Yards in Baltimore, Jacobs Field in Cleveland, Coors Field in Colorado along with many other new stadiums opened in the past 10 years. The $16-million brick ballpark opened in 1995 and was expanded to a 10,000-seat capacity for the 1998 season, the year the Bulls began playing in the Triple-A International League.”

There are a lot of great Minor League teams with great names and logos. If you’re looking for hats, jerseys, shirts and other gear from one of them, I can recommend two places. First up is the official Minor League Baseball Store, and then Star Struck. Both have great selections to choose from and will have almost everything you could be looking for. Don’t overlook the team websites either as most of them have souvenirs for sale through their own shops. Some of the logo’s are pretty good. The Lansing Lugnuts and the Albuquerque Isotopes (Okay Simpson’s fans… Remember when Homer exposed the fact that the Springfield Isotopes were moving to Alberquerque? Well they did!) get my vote for some of the more unique teams…

So there you have it. So there you have it! A look at baseball. There is a lot left to the 2003 season, and here’s hoping you get a chance to enjoy something of the Great American Pastime…

Roger’s hard at work on another effort in his “Things You Didn’t Think You Could Do” series and will be back next week with a medieval tale. And thanks again to everyone who has made use of his Amazon Honor System Paybox. If you’ve enjoyed a column now and then, why not show your appreciation by sharing a buck or two? It doesn’t hurt a bit!

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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