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Ruminations – San Pedro, Joshua Tree, Perris & Anaheim?

Four days in sunny Southern California? You bet and Roger has the full tale of an interesting long weekend. It’s another edition!



(Apologies to Mel Blanc and those immortal words from the “Jack Benny” radio show – “Train now leaving on Track Five for Anaheim, Azusa and Cucamonga!”)

Well, if you are one of those who says that when Roger has a railroad story, that you don’t read his column (and I know you do), then you would be doing yourself a disservice by skipping this one.

It is true that there will be railroads involved, but it was a very interesting and amusing long four days. And entertaining, too! So, sit back with that favorite morning beverage, and enjoy the tale as it unfolds.

Now as a precursor to this, I had the pleasure of getting not one, but two lovely injections of Cortisone in my right arm on Thursday the 11 th. Hence the short but sweet column last week, For something that is supposed to relieve pain (and it has, finally) it left me only able to do the one-finger typing bit. But I promise I am making up for it today.

Starting off, Jeff Ferris, Dasha Clancey and myself all made the pilgrimage to the Oakland International Airport early on the morning of Friday the 12 th of November. With Jet Blue’s usual speed and efficiency, we arrived at the classic Long Beach terminal, retrieved our luggage, Alamo rental car (a white Chevy Impala) and headed north on Lakewood Blvd in search of a hearty breakfast. Once that task was completed we headed for our first stop of the trip in San Pedro.

With a little imagination, you can see this as the Disney Magic…

Now this may seem an usual destination, but next year it will be one that many families will make their choice as the Disney Cruise Line docks here. The Disney Magic will call this it’s temporary homeport for a series of seven-night cruises to Mexico from May through August. And it looks like these will be extremely popular. Many sailing dates have been sold out for some time now.

Another ship, I have mentioned in a previous column, the S.S. Lane Victory, is berthed just east of the Cruise Terminal here. I had visited her before in San Pedro and was glad to see her now with a more prominent and better marked location for visitors.

But for us, this time, the attraction here was the chance to ride on the Port of Los Angeles “Red Cars”. At one time, it was the transportation choice of many people to ride from points in the LA Basin to board a ship here. Whether for a long cruise or just the day trip to Catalina, many people rode the “Red Cars” of the Pacific Electric here.

On the original Pacific Electric right of way, passengers travel from the Cruise Terminal to the Ports of Call Village and beyond…

The Port invested $10 million dollars into the project to create the mile and half operation. Currently, there are three “Red Cars” available for service. Most often seen are the two replicas of the 500 series Pacific Electric cars. Where the originals were wooden bodies, the new cars combine modern safety and convenience. Seating 48 people, and including space for handicapped accessibility at each stop, the offer a great way to enjoy the short ride.

The interior of the 500, complete with wooden walk-over seats.

Also aboard are vintage advertisements such as this one for the Folding Brownie camera.

The gem of the line is the one actual Pacific Electric car, #1058. You may recall seeing the car in a number of films, including “Who Framed Roger Rabbit”. Anyone remember the line, “Look out for the Red Car!” as Roger and Eddie escape from the weasels with the help of Benny the Cab? This was that Red Car.

The 1058 sunning herself at the line’s temporary car house.

In their day, the 1000 series class cars were the biggest wooden cars to operate on the P.E. and only two of them survive today – both at the OERM in Perris (where our story will eventually get to). The 1058 is actually a 900 series car that was badly damaged in an accident. Purchased by trolley enthusiast Richard Fellows, it was mounted on rubber tires and was used in many movies, parades and events around the LA basin. When he passed away, a number of car bodies he owned were sold, including the 1058. The Port hired Railway Preservation Resources to oversee the restoration of the 1058 for rail service as well as the construction of the two 500 series replicas.

All in all it made for a great time in San Pedro. A leisurely lunch followed our Red Car visit at Utro’s Café right next to the Ports O’ Call Village stop. We even ended up visiting a local shop that we had seen a car card advertisement for on the 1058 – The Naughti Mermaid. A nice little gift shop and she has a good selection of Reyn Spooner shirts among other things.

Jeff, Dasha and I eventually headed east with no particular plans, other than ending up in Yucca Valley, eventually. That’s where we were spending the night (at the Super 8 Motel). Working our way down the freeways, we ended up eastbound on the 91. As it wasn’t too late in the day, we thought why not visit Downtown Disney? With a showing of “Incredibles” at the AMC Theaters, and dinner at Hook’s Pointe, we managed to do quite well before getting back on the highway after all of the Friday night commute traffic had died down. Just in time to watch fireworks from the happiest parking structure in Orange County, too!

Hey! Radio controlled miniature Jungle Cruise boats at the Disneyland Hotel! Right down to the loading dock and offices!

Saturday morning, we slept in. After getting up so early on the previous day, it was a welcome change of pace. That’s a good description for the rest of the day, too. Joshua Tree is in the high desert of Southern California. It’s home to the National Park of the same name.

The Joshua Tree & Southern Railroad Museum is a combination of small scale railroading and full sized railway equipment. Jeff, Dasha and myself have been helping here for the last few years as volunteers at the Museum’s “Dinner in the Diner” events. It’s a chance to show what it was like aboard a railroad dining car. In this case, it’s from 1927 and was once part of the Denver & Rio Grande operating between Salt Lake City and Denver.

Chef Rita Allan and her helpers did a fine job! Meals for almost thirty people.

“Dinner In The Diner, nothing could be finer…”

The small scale railroading has several sizes to choose from. That includes a “G” scale or garden railway, the 7 1/2 inch gauge and then the 15 inch gauge railroad. The latter is still very much a project in progress with a large bridge being built as the starting point for a very ambitious railway.

There was plenty of action over on the 7 1/2 inch railroad during the week end. These steam locomotives may be small in size, but they are every bit as functional as their full size brothers. Here are views of three locomotives in operation on Saturday.

A fine sunset in the high desert!

One of the most popular children’s television properties around the world in the last few years has (and continues to be) “Thomas The Tank Engine”. Railroad museums and tourist railroads have also discovered that appearances by this little blue locomotive are wildly popular with the public. So much so that “Thomas” is found visiting all across the country throughout the year. This particular visit was to the Orange Empire Railway Museum in Perris, California.

Thomas at the ready for another trip!

Train rides with Thomas are the main attraction and start early in the day. In fact, things at the Museum began at 7:30 a.m. as opposed to a normal day beginning operations at 11:00. Rides continued all day long right up to the last departure at 4:30 p.m. and the train was full almost every trip.

Photographs with Thomas were very popular.

OERM may be known by some of our readers as the new home for some of the equipment of Ward Kimball’s “Grizzly Flats Railroad”. The Grizzly Flats car house does double duty during this event as the home to the Thomas retail store with all kinds of items for sale.

The Grizzly Flat Car House as the Store.

Streetcar rides proved popular with visitors as well.

For this day, we were aboard a 1956 Union Pacific sleeping car, the “National Scene”. This was part of the display at the Museum’s Car House 4, and was reached by riding a train of cabooses pulled by an electric locomotive. Even though cabooses may be gone from freight trains of today’s modern railroads, they still have lots of fans who enjoyed the ride aboard a traditional red caboose!

The Caboose Train ready to depart Car House 4.

Roger in the uniform of a Pullman Porter in front of a Santa Fe passenger diesel locomotive.

The day ended at 5:00 p.m. and things were pretty much done for the night soon after. As most of the Museum folks will be back there again this weekend (and yes, tickets for the Day Out With Thomas are still available!), they beat a hasty retreat. We joined a few of them for a fine dinner at Amigos Tres in downtown Perris.

Now originally, we had planned to meet up with a few folks in downtown Los Angeles on Monday morning. The purpose was to show off a private railroad car to someone who is interested in chartering it for an event. That car, the “Pony Express” is based in LA and will be just right for this group with a trip down to San Diego and then back.

That was just the kind of trip it was supposed to have made on Saturday while we were out a Joshua Tree. But due to a derailment at the Los Angeles Union Station on Friday night, the car had to be placed in the middle of a train set, rather than on the rear, as would be the usual practice. That was fine as the charter would still be able to run. What complicated things a bit was that due to this and the derailment still being cleaned up, the car could not be removed from that train set once it got back to Los Angeles.

Why not, you may ask? Well dear readers, the train that the car returned on doesn’t end in Los Angeles that night. It continues on to Santa Barbara and little more to a place called Goleta. And that is just what it did — complete with the “Pony Express”! Car owner Stan Garner called me and told me the tale. It didn’t stop there, however. Just like “Charlie on the MTA” (as so notably sung by the Kingston Trio), it seemed that Stan and the “Pony” were stuck on the train. Sunday came and went and there they still were. Monday morning came and Stan was enjoying a fine breakfast of Quiche Lorraine, fresh fruit and a nice cup of coffee rolling along in his private railroad car, heading south along the coastline.

Amtrak finally did take pity on him and the car got switched out of the train set that afternoon in San Diego. He managed to make it back to LAUPT later that evening.

This all was amusing, but it meant that our plans to head downtown were somewhat unnecessary. Hey, it means for the second time in three days, we all got to sleep in late! Wow! Such a bonus!

And as fate would have it, while looking for the most reasonably priced (a.k.a. cheapest) room in the area, it turned out to be directly across the street from…

You guessed it! (Or you read my Ruminations Extra on Wednesday…) Disneyland.

Thanks to very light traffic on the 91 we managed to arrive in Anaheim about 8:30. And as Disneyland was open until 11, I bid Jeff and Dasha farewell, apologized for being anti-social and made my way to the Park, arriving just after the fireworks were done for the night. A good excuse to try out the digital camera and the little tripod!

The Emporium and the Main Street Christmas Tree.

The Matterhorn and construction at the top.

The entrance to DCA from an interesting vantage point.

So, here we are Monday morning…

I’ll recap a bit from the Extra here.

So bright and early we were up Monday. It was one of those rare days with a warm morning and the mythical San Gabriel Mountains were even in view, complete with snow capped peaks. After a brief moment of consideration, my companions decided that we should enjoy a Disneyland visit instead of making the trek to downtown.

After a quick nosh at the La Brea Bakery, we entered the Park and wandered down Main Street. Dasha is a big fan of Ariel from “The Little Mermaid” so we thought we would see what time Ariel would be at her Grotto to greet guests. Turned out that would be 12:30 p.m. so we had a bit of time. We went off to take in the “Indiana Jones Adventure” (The snake still looks fake.) Nice to see most of the effects back up and running. Also noted the new procedure that insures that each guest takes in the pre-ride film showing seat belts instructions, carry-on item storage and assorted safety warnings.

By the time that was finished, it was time to head back across the park to Ariel’s Grotto. Passing in front of Sleeping Beauty’s Castle, we stopped to take in the ongoing restoration. While watching some folks at work on what appear to be the finishing touches, I thought I saw a familiar face walk by. Right I was; as Matt Ouimet and another Cast Member with a name tag of Steve said “Hello” to an Outdoor Vending Cast Member at the same location. Matt and Steve stopped for a moment to look at the Castle and then continued off on their walk. “Neat”, I thought. Nice to see him out and about as I’ve heard he’s someone very interested in seeing what is happening for himself.

So, we continued on and joined the short line of guests waiting for Ariel at her Grotto. It wasn’t long and Dasha soon had her moment for a photo and a chat.

A quiet moment with a favorite friend…

Now while I’m taking this photo, I’ve noticed that Monorail Blue is coming slowly around the Matterhorn headed for the Tomorrowland Monorail station. Just about the time I’m pushing the shutter button, I hear a loud pop, and Monorail Blue comes to a stop. So taking another quick photo of Ariel and Dasha, I walk over to join Jeff in seeing what has happened on the beam. We hear the pilot come on the public address system on the cars and let the passengers know that they are temporarily stopped for an unknown technical difficulty.

Monorail Blue stopped on it’s way to the station.

Less than two minutes later, the pilot announces that they will be pushed into the station in a few moments, as it appears that the electricity has been lost. Right they are, as in a great display of Disney efficiency, the Monorail tow tug comes to a top behind the train so that the tow bar can be attached.

The Monorail Tow-Tug, ready and on the scene…

While I’m busy taking photo’s of the tug and the Monorail as it is readied to be pushed into the station platform, Dasha is greeted with a “Hello” from Matt as he passes by, headed east under the beam. Of course, I never noticed this. She tells me about it after I’m all done and put the camera away…

From here it was off for a ride on the Disneyland Railroad, something Dasha says she has never done before. Well, we set that one right!

Yes, it is the Fred Gurley. That’s the DRR #3, the 2-4-4T (not the #4, Ernest Marsh, which is a 2-4-0 with a tender.)

Thanks to everyone who reminded me last time!

That’s what I get for writing on the fly…  

We rode from Tomorrowland to New Orleans Square. Disembarking from the train, I spotted Disneyland Tour Guide Edmundo getting a group ready to board while we exited.

Edmundo and his group between near the Haunted Mansion.

A ride on Pirates of the Caribbean is always a favorite, so we made our way along Royal Street. I noted that the shop, “Le Mascarade de Orleans” was open again, as it had been shuttered earlier in the year. A quick visit revealed it has become a pin trading location with the usual variety. Too bad, I always enjoyed it as a hat shoppe, and even purchased some favorites there including a dashing grey top hat! Ce’ la vie…

Le Mascarade de pins?

After Pirates, we stopped for a bite of lunch at the Stage Door Café. Thankfully, they haven’t switched to the McDonalds fries just yet. But a burger is still just a burger here, too. It’s been a while since I had such mundane fare at the Park, so it was actually an amusing change of pace.

Haunted Mansion Holiday, good as ever!

We enjoyed this year’s Haunted Mansion Holiday and headed back to Main Street for some last minute shopping before heading off on that most dangerous of journey’s – the Southern California Freeways!

That was a great moment here as three fantastic Cast Members at Main Street’s Disney Showcase took very extra special care to see that twenty Christmas ornaments are especially wrapped to safely survive the airplane flight home. That was a great bit of Disney “Magic” and it just topped off a wonderfully unexpected day at the Park.

From right to left, these great Cast Members shared a special bit of Disney Magic – Gel, Teddy and especially Jo-Ann!

Thanks again for the wonderful help!

So there you have it. Or do you? I’ve saved a few things to share, so you’ll just have to check back later, won’t you?

It was a great four days in Southern California and just packed with good weather and interesting times. So much so that I’m doing it again next month, just in time for Disneyland’s Candlelight events! Stay tuned…

Thanks again to everyone for your support of the American Red Cross. It’s great to know that your help makes their efforts go that much further when folks in trouble need assistance.

And if you’re in a generous and or appreciative mood, drop me a buck or two using the Paypal Donation Box or the Amazon Honor System links from my bio page here! I’m putting it to good use, honest!

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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