Connect with us

Theme Parks & Themed Entertainment


In today’s column, Roger Colton looks at a true San Francisco treasure who was always the one to remind us of the many pleasures and perils of living along the northern end of the San Andreas Fault…



Jim Hill Media Featured Image

Historical note: 5:13 a.m. April 18, 1906. Lest we forget those who perished and the City along with them. Today’s column looks at a true San Francisco treasure who was always the one to remind us of the many pleasures and perils of living along the northern end of the San Andreas Fault…

Three Dot Journalism
An appreciation by Roger Colton

This image is displayed on the Herb Caen web pages of the San Francisco Chronicle,
recreating as it appeared atop his columns for many years.

For me, as well as many other folks here in Northern California, there is the City. And it has been called that since the Gold Rush days of 1949. It’s a place you either love or hate. Usually there is no room for middle ground on the subject.

If one person could have been called the voice of San Francisco, it was and always will be Herb Caen. From humble beginnings with a first printed column on July 5, 1936, a kid from Sacramento made good.

Along the way, he bemused and amused readers six days every week for too many years. When most of his contemporaries had retired or gone to their rewards, his loyal Royal typewriter still produced columns that kept his readers coming back for more and more.

The Chronicle still maintains a page in his honor on their web site. It’s a good look back at the career as seen through his own words as well as some of his colleagues and contemporaries.

I discovered his column in June of 1976. A high school program got me on as an intern at radio station KSFO (worth telling this story as well in a future effort!) in San Francisco. Along with that came a Monday through Friday commute by train from the East Bay into the City. Somewhere during one of those rides, I picked up a discarded page from the San Francisco Chronicle and chuckled my way through the column just to the left of the full-page Macys advertisement.

Another column of note appeared on the pages of the Chronicle that same summer. It correctly lampooned all that was the City, including Herb Caen. Armistead Maupin’s “Tales of the City” brought it larger than life for the folks who actually lived it as well as those who wished they had.

Now if you’ve ever watched one of the mini-series adaptations, you get a good idea of what life was like back in Seventies San Francisco. A mention in one of Herb’s columns was worth its weight in gold. A watering hole getting a quick nod of approval or a restaurant getting the cold shoulder could make or break a business. But this man knew of whence he wrote!

He was known by a number of nicknames, but perhaps “Mister San Francisco” put it best. Touring the City either in his white Jaguar (a.k.a. the White Rat) or on foot, you never knew where he might show up next. A smart cocktail at Trader Vic’s, a quick snack at Original Joe’s, catching the latest and greatest in up and coming comedians at the Holy City Zoo, enjoying jazz in any one of the small clubs, or just passing Fifth and Mission (home of the Chronicle). But you could be sure that anything or anyone he might view on one of those sojourns would be fodder for his next magnum opus.

The link above offers a whole bunch of his columns as well as an archive of his pieces from 1995 through 1997. All too few, in my humble opinion.

Newspaper columnists come and go with somewhat amazing regularity. But he was there through it all. As he put it, “Hookers are “turned out” and newspaper people are “broken in” but otherwise there isn’t much difference, hence the term presstitute.” Yet, he managed to capture the pulse, pleasures, follies and foibles of what he loved to call “Baghdad-By-The-Bay” in a way that no one has done since.

Thankfully, his daily except Saturday efforts (well, one does need at least a day a week to rest, right?) have been printed in book form for us to enjoy once again. Some twenty books at least have his name linked to them. Even a children’s book, entitled “The Cable Car and The Dragon” told a tale of San Francisco in the Caen way.

Long before Disney coined the term “little souvenir” for it’s Cruise Line ad campaign, Herb Caen considered him self the same after a visit by his parents to the 1915 Panama Pacific Exposition in San Francisco. Born and raised in Sacramento, he got his first newspaper job there. In 1936 he started with the Chronicle writing a radio column, and that transmogrified into his daily oeuvre to the city he loved. A look back at his columns is as much a walk through the past as it is a look at a City that still knows how. He suffered gladly from “terminal nostalgia” and was definitely a carrier, infecting his readers at least once a week, usually in his Sunday pieces.

Among many accomplishments, he’s credited with coining the term “Beatnik”, in his column on April 2, 1958. Here’s an excerpt with the reference:

“. . . Look magazine, preparing a picture spread on S.F.’s Beat Generation (oh, no, not AGAIN!), hosted a party in a No. Beach house for 50 Beatniks, and by the time word got around the sour grapevine, over 250 bearded cats and kits were on hand, slopping up Mike Cowles’ free booze. They’re only Beat, y’know, when it comes to work . . . “

In April of 1996, he was awarded a special Pulitzer Prize, only the fifth time such had been done for newspaper and magazine writers. As the Chronicle proudly reported, “In conferring the rare honor, the Pulitzer board said the prize recognizes Caen’s extraordinary and continuing contribution as a voice and a conscience of his city.”

Some of my favorites from the era of his later efforts included the saga of the March 1983 visit of Queen Elizabeth, Prince Phillip, Ron and Nancy Reagan (and their entourage of lackeys, lookers-on and security minions) to Trader Vics on Cosmo Alley in San Francisco. He correctly reported on what Their Royal Majesties enjoyed in the way of a cocktail — Tanqueray gin martinis over ice. (His competition at the Examiner or “Brand X” as frequently referred to, erroneously had reported they consumed something as pedestrian as margaritas. Really!) On more somber occasions he recalled the lives and legends of favorite sons and daughters of the City. Everyone from “Trader” Vic Bergeron to pal Benny Goodman (from his radio column days) to madame Sally Stanford to social column pariah Lucius Beebe to radio bad boy Don Sherwood all got the Caen treatment upon his or her demise. But it was his Sunday efforts that more than often ventured into the City of the past, present and future or an element of all three. Everything from cable cars to sewers to the Port to the fashionable and not so all could be and were fodder for that little space, slightly to the left of Macy’s.

One particular column I have saved is all about a weekend at the Lake. It was and always will mean Tahoe, not any other one. It has been the place, winter or summer, to truly get away from the City. Favored by generations for different reasons, it was the place for my family to enjoy a more laid back and less complicated time. While our accommodations may have been somewhat plebian as compare to those enjoyed by the money crowd, we knew how to have a good time none the less. That one column hit the nail right on the head for me. The trek up I-80 or back in the day, US 40, was and is always something to be looked forward to on a Friday night, and then dreaded for the ride home on a Sunday afternoon. A dip in the 60 degree sky-blue water or a ride at speed on your boat of choice (ah, Garwood’s… another column — wooden motorized boats!) from one scenic bay to another, finishing the day at a long savored night spot for a fine meal and appropriate beverages.

His columns just caught the flavor of the topic that folks enjoyed. The people who came after him try, but don’t seem to be able to capture the knack of his style and polish. He wrote columns right up to the end of a battle with cancer. His last column was on January 10, 1997, and he passed away a short time later on Saturday, February 1, 1997.

Since then, things have changed. The Chronicle’s long time owners sold it to the competition (the Hearst family who owned the “Brand X” — whose papers I once delivered — and who sold that paper to another family, only to watch it deteriorate into oblivion. No longer does the City have separate morning and afternoon papers!) and then divested their local NBC television affiliate (only to have NBC pull their affiliation and change it to a network owned station in San Jose!). I don’t doubt that the circulation of the Chronicle dropped as well, after his passing. If I pick up the paper, it’s a rare day indeed, and I was once a daily subscriber.

Now, I’m sentimental about the City for my own reasons. Family history and all that not withstanding, my appreciation for the place simply wouldn’t be what it is had it not been for those columns. It’s a love of cable cars, streetcars (another Caen term — “The Roar of the Four” referred to the four streetcar tracks on Market Street), ferryboats, good food and smart cocktails, local sports teams, entertainers and entertainment’s, amusements and bemusements, neighborhoods and districts, downtown and the avenues…

I don’t get into the City as much as I did in years gone by when my mothers parents lived just outside of Seacliff (where the radio adventures of “One Man’s Family” took place or where Robin Williams now calls home). But without too much difficulty, I’m easily taken back to summer afternoons with the blanket of fog rolling into to the soundtrack of distant foghorns from the Bay.

You’ve probably noted my use of these three little guys…

Hi, my name is Roger, and along with many other things, I am addicted to three-dot journalism.

It’s all his fault!

So that’s this weeks tale. Hope you enjoyed another glimpse into the City and the man who was it’s voice for almost 60 years. The next time we get on Jim for his tardiness on a piece, just remember the Herculean efforts of Herb Caen, and realize just how hard it is to get a column out every day, let alone once in a while!

Next week? Ah, now that would be telling? Something from those promised topics, no doubt…

So? Like what you’ve been reading here in Roger’s columns? Well, here is one way to show your support! You can use his Amazon PayBox to keep him plugging along on more tales.

Roger Colton

Continue Reading
Click to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


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.

Continue Reading


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.

Continue Reading


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.

Continue Reading