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Ruminations: Meanwhile, back in Anaheim

Now that the busy season is supposedly over, Roger Colton takes his family down to the Disneyland Resort for what he thinks will be a quiet fall weekend at the theme park. Little did he realize that the crowds continue to hang on at “The Happiest Place on Earth” …



The last time I was in Anaheim was for the big 50th anniversary weekend in July. Since then, a lot has happened outside the berm. Hurricanes Katrina and Ruth came and went. Gas prices went up across the nation along with airfares. Various experts predicted that the traveling public would be staying closer to home for a while to come.

Well, guess what? From what I saw at the airports I traveled through, it’s no secret that those experts were wrong. Heck, even I prognosticated that the Labor Day weekend was the last big travel hurrah for a while. I’m enjoying that big piece of humble pie right now…

The Jet Blue flight from Oakland to Long Beach was almost full, and that was departing about six on a Saturday morning. The rest of the terminal was busy too, with plenty of people heading for other destinations. Arriving at Long Beach, rental cars were available only for those lucky enough to have made advanced reservations. And it didn’t stop there either. The Grand Californian was completely full for that night. As far as I could tell, there was not anything special going on that weekend. True, it was a three-day weekend (Columbus Day). But no special merchandise event, no cheerleaders. Just a great time. The weather was outstanding and even Disney’s California Adventure had a healthy crowd inside the gates.

So what was the cause of all this? Outside of the Disneyland Resort, I don’t have a clue. But if I were to hazard a guess about inside, it would be a safe bet that all of the efforts invested in the magic of Disney marketing seem to be paying dividends.

Now that is “Grumpy”!
New shirts and hats at Disneyland with this artwork

For example, my mailbox produced a surprise shortly after Labor Day in the form of a mass mailing that was designed to specifically attract the Hispanic market. It was the first time I had seen such a piece here in Northern California. And even though I’m on various Disney mailing lists, this item came addressed to Resident from Disney Data Processing in San Ysidro. (That’s right on the California – Mexico border, south of San Diego.) Along with the slew of television commercials I’ve seen here in the San Francisco Bay Area, mailings like this to specific demographic groups must be producing results.

The mass mailing targeted to Hispanic guests

This trip to Disneyland was the big one. For the first time, all of the Colton clan descended on Anaheim. During our four-day adventure, for the most part we had a great time. The waits for attractions were reasonable and we made liberal use of Fast Passes for the more popular choices. Out and about in the parks, we tried to plan our choices to take advantage of opportunities. For one example, our first attraction that Saturday took advantage of our Disney hotel guest status to ride “Soarin’ Over California.” Thanks to the Early Entry, we were exiting the attraction as the rush arrived from the Main Gate to get in line or score a Fast Pass. I have to admit it was interesting when the Cast Member asked how many in our group and the answer was “18”.

It seems that we were not alone in making that particular choice. A good number of guests from all of the Disney hotels took advantage of it. That morning there were more people in California Adventure than I’ve seen in the middle of an afternoon on some weekdays. I suspect that more travel agents have shared the magic of the Early Entry with their clients as that extra incentive to book that Disneyland trip.

Out and about in California Adventure, it seemed that there was plenty of action. Getting a much-needed coffee and munchies at the Baker’s Field Bakery, there was a healthy line even before we joined it. We noted a full show for “Playhouse Disney – Live on Stage” as well as “Turtle Talk With Crush,” and even something of a rush by guests to ride the “Twilight Zone Tower of Terror.” In other words, something for interests of all ages. And as it was a warm weekend, even the “Grizzly River Run” was doing a brisk business later in the day.

A good crowd in California Adventure on a Saturday was a good indicator of what lay ahead in Disneyland. Although not as packed as it was in May or July, there were still plenty of people having a great time all around the Park. One good example was the Fast Passes for “Space Mountain,” our first one of the day. We made it to the machines a little before noon and wouldn’t be able to return until almost 7 that evening. With a stand-by wait of 70 minutes for most of the rest of the day, that proved to be a good choice. Amazing as “Space Mountain” has now been reopened for almost 3 months and it is back to being as popular as ever before.

Looking about the Park, there are plenty of changes still going on. Around the Hub, walkways have been widened to make for better crowd control and flow during both the “Parade of Dreams” and the “Remember… Dreams Come True” fireworks. We managed to watch both from different locations in the area. I think that the Cast Members have a bit of a better idea what to expect now for these guest favorites. The use of ropes and benches to organize viewing areas while creating clearly defined walkways and emergency access lanes is great improvement over the confusion experienced here earlier in the year.

The new and improved walkways in front of the Plaza Inn

With the fireworks reduced to weekends only, it was nice to see a performance of “Fantasmic!” on the Monday night. However, that led to more than the usual crowd waiting in advance of the show. If you had decided to dine at the River Belle Terrace that night, it was more than a challenge to find a table to enjoy your meal. Too many people had gathered up chairs and tables more than two hours in advance to save a place for family and friends to watch the show. Let’s hope that there is some truth to the rumors of improvements to this area.

In other areas: Pin trading seems to have taken to its new home at the Plaza Pavilion rather well. I saw plenty of guests enjoying trading with each other and the Cast Members stationed there. Don’t know if I’ll ever be able to accept how pins have taken over the former Pendleton shop in Frontierland, however. But I am glad to see that new pins continue to come along now and then. This new open edition Stitch Halloween pin with his costume as a little devil seems very popular.

Such a cute little devil!

Same goes for the Haunted Mansion. Things were so busy that the Fast Pass machines were back in operation on both weekend days of our visit. As popular as this overlay is with guests, it is hard to imagine it coming to an end.

Character dining at the Plaza Inn has changed themes again. Where earlier this year it was a chance to meet the various Disney Princesses, now it is dining with Minnie and friends. If regal visits during your meal is the choice, then head on over to California Adventure and Ariel’s Grotto. Captain Mickey and crew have set sail for other adventures and the Princesses have dropped anchor. Appropriately enough, Ariel has joined the other royalty greeting guests here.

The Virtual Magic Kingdom seems to be continuing in popularity as well. The three in-park quests (Adventureland, Fantasyland and Frontierland-Critter Country – available from the VMK booth in Tomorrowland in front of Innoventions) offer the chance to step out from the virtual park and into the real thing while winning prizes to be used online. (Don’t forget the special Tomorrowland quest available only online!) There were even opportunities to add virtual merchandise at several location including pins and t-shirts. I also noted the special VMK Insider Tour out and about. Seems that there were plenty of family groups taking the tour and the quests.

The Virtual Magic Kingdom Quests of Disneyland

The major entertainment has been scaled back during the slower weekdays. No fireworks or Fantasmic, but with a closing of 8 pm that is to be expected. The Parade of Dreams makes one trip at 7 pm from Small World Plaza down to Main Street. One thing I missed during this visit was the 50th Anniversary Rededication Ceremony. During the week, it is scheduled for 11:30 am and features various characters and the Opening Day Dedication speech by Walt Disney. As impressed as I was by this on July 17th, I am very glad to see this shared with guests on a daily basis.

Still a guest favorite! The Parade of Dreams…

October also features the Honda “Coolest Ride in the Galaxy” daily give-away of a 2006 Honda Civic. At 4:30 pm every afternoon in the Esplanade the festivities begin. Guests get an entry into the contest every day when they enter the parks. And by using their passes or tickets to check, Cast Members make sure that everyone only gets one entry per day. While there are only a small number of guests actually chosen each day to participate in the actual contest (depending on how many entries are handed out), everyone can participate in a second chance entry online.

Sunday’s winner in front of the Space Mountain display

With the lack of major entertainment performances, such as the Snow White show on hiatus, the smaller groups are doing a great job around the parks. Billy Hill and the Hillbillies continue to pack them in for their shows at the Golden Horseshoe. Musical groups such as the Royal Street Bachelors, the Dapper Dans and the Disneyland Band all are out and about. Alan Thompson was doing his usual high-energy best at the pianos at both the Plaza Pavilion and the Coca Cola Refreshment Corner. His version of a “Haunted Mansion Boogie” was great fun and a real surprise.

Back at the Grand Californian, the list of activities for hotel guests has expanded with some great choices to tempt everyone. The favorite “Art of the Craft” tour is still being offered. One new (at least to me) activity is “Wonderful Washcloth Creations”. Experts from the hotel’s Housekeeping staff share the secrets of how to turn a simple washcloth in to a rabbit or other creation. And you get to keep it after the clinic. Now that is an interesting Disney collectible!

A new “Grand Quest” offers something for the younger guests (between the ages of 3 and 12) in a chance to hunt for clues and find secret answers during a one-hour journey through the hotel. A special treat awaits those who take up this challenge. One activity I couldn’t quite take advantage of is a “Get Up and Go!” Fitness Walk through California Adventure. It is described as a “heart-pumping” 45- minute walk through the park. All four events remain free of charge to hotel guests.

Downtown Disney was busy as well with plenty to tempt everyone in our group. Electronic violinist Drew Tretick was back performing again in front of Naples. From our rooms overlooking this area it was a great treat to enjoy his music. He has several new albums available either online or during his performances. Drew has an upcoming live performance with the Masters of Harmony for their annual Christmas show in Long Beach on November 26th. If you are in the area, this one seems well worth enjoying.

Work is ongoing on the Anne Geddes flagship store scheduled to open sometime next year. And pin trading has stepped up from a simple cart. The former ticket booth adjacent to the Monorail station has been transformed into a nice little shop that was doing a brisk business. The same continues to be true for the World of Disney. We noted more than a fair number of people waiting for the store to open each day as well as doing their final shopping late into the night.

Would you believe this is a “quiet” Tuesday morning?

All in all, what we thought might have been a quiet weekend at Disneyland was instead a good solid time with plenty going on all around. And there’s nothing wrong with that!

Earlier this year, you all generously helped out by supporting the efforts toward relief of the victims of the Tsunami. If you can see your way to doing so again, the victims of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita now face many of the same daily challenges for basic necessities. The need is every bit as real and as serious. Consider a donation to the American Red Cross if you can. Every bit helps, even more now…

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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