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Texan with Big Dreams + Big Apple = Big Trouble

Learn how Six Flags theme park legend Angus Wynne Jr. bet big and lost big at the 1964 / 1965 NEW YORK WORLD'S FAIR. Jim Hill explores the myths and legends that surround the story of the ill-fated Texas Pavilions.



Legend has it that they do everything big in Texas.

Well, if that’s really the case, then Angus G. Wynne Jr. must have lived a true Texas life. For Wynne was a guy who really did dream big. Amusement park fans remember Angus as the visionary who created America’s first truly successful regional theme park: SIX FLAGS OVER TEXAS.

The folks around Arlington, Texas. – SIX FLAGS’ hometown – remain grateful to Angus for several reasons. One is that world-class theme park that he built right at their doorstep for the townspeople to play in. The other is the Great Southwest Industrial District, the 8,200-acre industrial park that Wynne built nearby. That park is home to over 3,000 companies, providing thousands upon thousands of jobs for the local community for over 40 years now.

Texas Pavilions at 1964 New York World’s Fair

But WORLD’S FAIR enthusiasts … Well, they have a somewhat different take on this Texan. They associate Wynne’s name with the legendary Texas Pavilions at the 1964 / 1965 NEW YORK WORLD’S FAIR – an exhibit that’s considered somewhat infamous and mysterious these days because so few FAIR-goers ever got to see the thing.

According to press accounts of the day, it really must have been something to see. A multi-million dollar showplace featuring what many have called the greatest stage show ever produced. Yet the Texas Pavilions – which had originally been slated to be up and running for both years of the FAIR – barely managed to limp through one season. The stage show? It didn’t even last that long. It shuttered after less than 100 performances.

What exactly went wrong here? For nearly 40 years now, stories have been circulating about why the Lone Star State’s exhibition fared so poorly at the FAIR. Some blame the Texas Pavilions’ remote location for the low attendance levels. Still others suggest that anti-Texas sentiment may have played an important part in the exhibit’s tepid turnout.

A few folks hold Wynne personally responsible for the Texas state pavilion debacle. But many more suggest that FAIR President Robert Moses should shoulder most of the blame. After all, Moses was the man who kept promising that his FAIR would be different. That this international exhibition would have record levels of attendance – which prompted businessmen like Wynne to mount elaborate and expensive exhibits for crowds that never came.

These are the sorts of questions that continue to bedevil 1964 / 1965 NEW YORK WORLD’S FAIR fans even today: What were the Texas Pavilions really like? Just how good was this legendary stage show? And why really did the exhibit shut down after just one season?

These are questions that have gone unanswered. Until now.

Through interviews with folks who actually worked on the Texas Pavilions as well as conversations with Wynne family members, a more accurate picture of that long closed ’64 WORLD’S FAIR exhibit is now emerging. Of course, to fully understand what went on (and – more importantly – what went wrong) with the Texas Pavilions, you need to know something about the man who built them: Angus G. Wynne Jr.

Angus G. Wynne Jr

A man who learned the hard way that life’s not fair. Particularly when you’re producing a show for the FAIR.

These days, most stories written about Wynne tend to dwell on the important role he played in the creation and construction of the first three theme parks in the SIX FLAGS chain. Sure, SIX FLAGS OVER TEXAS (which opened in 1961), SIX FLAGS OVER GEORGIA (1967) and SIX FLAGS OVER MID-AMERICA (1971) are all pretty impressive enterprises, but they really pale in comparison to everything else Angus accomplished in his lifetime.

Putting it simply, Wynne was a visionary. In the late 1950s, he looked out at that large patch of dirt that separated Dallas and Ft. Worth and saw the future. A time when these two Texas towns would quit their squabbling and grow together to form a vast metroplex. Since this spot in the middle of nowhere was roughly where the two municipalities would eventually collide, that’s where Angus and his partners in the Great Southwest Corporation decided to kick start the area’s economy by building a large industrial park.

Dallas-Fort Worth Industrial Park

It was tough going those first few years. The GSC team threw up a few buildings on spec and then tried to get area businesses to move into them. But Dallas organizations turned their noses up at the development, claiming that it was too close to Ft. Worth. Ft. Worth folks thumbed their noses at the industrial park too, thinking that it was far too close to Dallas.

As 1960 rolled around, the Great Southwest Corp. was vacillating about what to do next with this piece of property. Some members of the board were pushing for construction of another set of spec buildings, hoping that the company would eventually be able to rent these out and get some sort of return on their investment.

Building a Theme Park – Six Flags Over Texas

Wynne had another plan in mind. Noting the immense amount of money that Walt Disney was making off of DISNEYLAND in Southern California, Wynne proposed building a theme park out on that slab of land that GSC owned between Dallas and Ft. Worth. To Angus’ way of thinking, here finally was an idea that was guaranteed to generate some cash flow for the company.

This was not a popular proposition with a lot of the other members of the Great Southwest board. Wynne had to twist but a few heads and arms before he finally got their approval to go ahead with his amusement park project.

Construction began in October of 1960. It continued at a whirlwind pace for the next 10 months, as construction crews worked ’round the clock to turn a scrub covered, rattlesnake infested hillside into a spectacular family fun center.

Finally in August of 1961, the Lone Star State’s first theme park – SIX FLAGS OVER TEXAS – threw open its doors. Those first few weeks, though, only a small number of folks trickled in to sample the various rides, shows and attractions that Wynne’s team had set up on the outskirts of Arlington, Texas.

Initial Success of Six Flags Over Texas

This last bit of news sort of concerned Wynne. You see, in order to secure the financing necessary to expand his $3.5 million theme park, SIX FLAGS had to get at least 400,000 paid admissions during its first year of operation. But the park’s first year of operation wasn’t even really a year. It was just a couple of weeks; August through Labor Day.

Happily, those first few folks who visited SIX FLAGS OVER TEXAS during those early weeks operation must have really talked up the joint. For word of mouth built, and – by the end of the park’s first season – 500,000 people had pushed their way through the turnstiles.

Those 500,000 paid admissions gave Wynne the freedom he needed to grow his little Arlington, Texas park into a world-class operation. Over the next two years, Wynne added tons of new shows and attractions to SIX FLAGS OVER TEXAS. This – in turn – inspired record numbers of people to come out and see the park. Which resulted in huge profits for the Great Southwest Corporation.

Texas at the World’s Fair

Of course, all this success quickly brought Wynne to the attention of the Texas elite. Particularly then-Vice President Lyndon Johnson and Texas Governor John Connally, who were then casting about for someone to take charge of the state’s efforts to develop an exhibit for the 1964 / 1965 NEW YORK WORLD’S FAIR.

Being as full of Texas pride as they were, Johnson and Connally wanted the Lone Star State’s exhibit at the FAIR to be the biggest and best of the bunch. That’s why they eventually decided to try and recruit Angus.

After all, here was this innovative real estate developer who had taken a scrub-covered hillside in Arlington and turned into the Texas version of DISNEYLAND. Surely Wynne was the guy who could take a corner in Queens and turn it something that would make all Texans proud.

Wynne was – of course – flattered when Johnson and Connally personally sought him out and offered this opportunity. After a little hemming and hawing, Wynne finally agreed to step up to the plate and personally supervise the Texas state pavilion project. After taking a temporary leave of absence from Great South Corp., Angus then made a call to his old buddy, Randall Duell.

Randall Duell – MGM Art Director

And who exactly was Randall Duell? Randall was a former MGM art director (Did you ever see that studio’s 1952 release, “Singin’ in the Rain”? Thought that the sets for that film looked snazzy, didn’t you? Well, Duell designed those – along with the sets for dozens of other classic MGM productions of the 1940s and 1950s) who had done most of the design work for the shows and attractions at SIX FLAGS OVER TEXAS.

Given the many sophisticated films Randall had worked on during his stint at MGM, Wynne felt certain that Duell was the guy who could come up with a show that would make all Texans proud as well as appeal to those snooty New Yorkers. The big question was: Just how do you go about whittling the great state of Texas down so that all of its rich history and culture could fit inside of some itty-bitty building?

Seven Texas-Themed Pavilions

The obvious answer here is: You can’t. Which is why Randall sold Wynne on a really wild idea: Texas’ exhibit wouldn’t be housed inside of a single building, but – rather – Wynne would stage a fitting tribute to the Lone Star State by building seven different Texas-themed pavilions that would be spread out over a three acre site.

To be honest, this concept borrowed quite a bit from SIX FLAGS OVER TEXAS (the theme park was divided into six different ‘lands,’ each area themed around a nation whose flag had flown over Texas at one time or another). Which is probably why Wynne immediately warmed to the idea.

Duell’s plans called for seven separate pavilions, each celebrating a different aspect of Texas’ colorful culture and history. Among the areas that Randall wanted this exhibit to touch on was the great impact that Spanish explorers and Mexican settlers had had on the region, the territory’s Confederate heritage as well as the state’s rough-and-tumble phase – way back when Texas was just a republic.

Wild West – Frontier Palace

The Lone Star State’s wild west days would be celebrated in the Texas Pavilions’ Frontier Palace restaurant complex. Guests would enter the eatery through an exterior façade that was made up to look like an elegant prairie home circa the 1880s. Inside, they’d find a 500-seat dinner theater was designed to look like an authentic frontier saloon.

Inside this rustic looking restaurant, chuck wagon steak was the big item on the menu while can-can girls would provide the entertainment. For those who were thirsty for a little gratuitous violence, occasionally two feuding waiters would settle their differences by pulling out their pistols and firing at each other. Right over of the heads of the Frontier Palace’s patrons! (Don’t worry, though, folks. Those waiters were only using cap pistols.)

Modern Achievements – NASA & Houston/Gulf Coast

Of course, the achievements of modern Texas would also have to play an important part in the exhibits that were being presented at the state’s ’64 NEW YORK WORLD’S FAIR pavilions. That’s why Duell wanted to celebrate the Houston/Gulf Coast area – and its important ties to the aerospace industry – by getting NASA to agree to display its latest creation: a full scale version of the two passenger Gemini space capsule.

Oil Industry and “Wildcatters”

Randall also wanted the state’s oil industry to put together a display that highlighted the cutting edge technology that 1960s era “wildcatters” used while drilling for crude oil. As for Texas’ cattle ranchers … Well, that’s kind of an interesting story.

Cattle Ranchers and Wynnes Prize-Winning Steer

You see, back in the mid-1950s, Prince 105TT – a prize-winning steer that the Wynne family had raised at its Four Winds ranch – was named “Best in Show” at the Texas State Fair. To commemorate this great event, the family decided that Prince 105TT should get the royal treatment.

Which is why the Wynnes treated this prize-winning steer – plus a heifer and a couple of calves – to a stay at the Menger Hotel in Tyler, Texas. The family rented out the Presidential Suite and – after setting down a few bales of hay – moved Prince 105TT and his entourage in.

This must have been a really remarkable sight, for Wynne family members still talk about it even today. Angus must have mentioned it to Randall once or twice, for the designer decided to pay tribute to this odd piece of family history by replicating Prince 105TT’s stay in the Presidential Suite as a display at the Texas Pavilions.

Sure, the official 1964 NEW YORK WORLD’S FAIR’s guidebook describes this particular exhibit – where an enormous Brahman bull was kept corralled inside an elegant French bedroom – as being symbolic of the pampered lives that modern livestock supposedly live. But Wynne family and friends knew better and they supposedly got a real kick out of seeing this odd little moment recreated in Queens.

Friendship at the Farm

And what of theme could be used to tie together all the extremely different elements that Randall wanted to include in his Texas Pavilions design? “Friendship at the Farm.” To re-enforce this concept, Duell proposed bringing 400 bright-and-smiling young Texans up north to work at the exhibit so that those native New Yorkers would be sure to get an authentic Texas greeting from an authentic Texan the next time they moseyed back into this neck of the woods.

Texas Tourism Pavilion

Of course – with the hope that all this Texas style hospitality might inspire FAIR-goers to go visit the real thing – Randall made sure that a Texas Tourism pavilion figured prominently in the exhibit’s plans. This light, airy structure would direct potential tourists to the many wonders to be found in the Lone Star State (With a particularly large plug for Wynne’s other entertainment enterprise, SIX FLAGS OVER TEXAS).

Catering to New York with a Broadway Show

But what about all those sophisticated New Yorkers? Those types of folks who were sure to look down their noses at waiters who played with cap pistols and/or bulls that were being displayed in bedrooms. What was there at the Texas pavilions to entertain the snooty set?

As a sop to the snobs, Duell proposed taking something that Wynne was already doing at his theme park – i.e. a Broadway-style musical production – and radically expanding on that idea. If Wynne really did want to win over those New York sophisticates, then why not recruit some theater professionals to produce the ultimate Broadway show – a lavish revue that celebrated the best shows that had been presented on the Great White Way over the last 100 years?

That’s just what Wynne did. Working through the offices of Compass Productions, Wynne recruited top talent to put together this proposed production. First of all, he landed veteran television and theatrical producer George Schaefer (best known as the man behind the original Broadway production of that Tony Award winner, “The Teahouse of the August Moon”) to ride herd on this Best-of-Broadway revue.

Schaefer – in turn – would turn around hire one of Broadway’s best, Morton Da Costa, to serve as director for the show that was being prepped for the Texas State pavilions. Though mostly unknown today, Da Costa was considered a major talent back in the 1950s & 1960s. These days, Morton’s probably best remembered as the man who directed both the original Broadway production as well as the movie version of Meredith Willson’s classic, “The Music Man.”

George then went about putting together a crack creative team to assemble this ambitious musical revue. That’s why he hired Tony & Pulitzer Prize winners Jerry Bock and Sheldon Harnick (who would go on to even greater fame in September of 1964, when their next smash hit – “Fiddler on the Roof” – opened on Broadway) to create a book for the revue. The songwriting team also contributed several specialty numbers as well as came up with a suitable title for this ambitious extravaganza.

And what title did Bock and Harnick come up for this Texas-sized revue? Predictably enough, it was “To Broadway With Love.”

“To Broadway With Love” – World’s Fair Texas Pavilion Broadway Show

So what was the show like? Well, if you’re really interested, I suggest you chase down a copy of the “To Broadway With Live” original cast album. This vinyl LP — recorded by Columbia in early 1964 — presents an accurate aural picture of the elaborate extravaganza. Just as Duell had originally suggested, the revue quickly runs through 100 years of Broadway history by presenting many famous numbers from long-forgotten shows. There’s lots of George M. Cohan in here, a big chunk of Irving Berlin, even some Rodgers and Hammerstein tossed in good measure.

UPDATE: I’ve just learned that ABC Television supposedly taped a performance of the “To Broadway With Love” show, which eventually aired on the network as a TV special in late 1964 / early 1965. Those folks who are still interested in seeing what this elaborate stage extravaganza might have looked like should consider making a trip into New York City and/or Los Angeles to visit that city’s branch of the Museum of Radio & Television. It’s very likely that this institution – which has tapes of shows on hand that go back to the 1940s – might have a copy of that particular broadcast hidden away somewhere in its extensive archives. Anyway …

As for the cast of the show, Schaefer and Da Costa assembled a very talented troupe. Unfortunately, due to the fact that “To Broadway With Love” was supposed to be presented three times daily (3:00, 7:00 & 9:30 p.m.), George and Morton were unsuccessful in their efforts to recruit a big name entertainer to serve as the headliner for the Texas Pavilions’ stage extravaganza. So the pageant ultimately became a no name show. (Though there was one member of the chorus – a young dancer named Goldie Hawn – that would eventually go on to considerable fame and fortune in Hollywood. But only after Ms. Hawn gave up her dream of becoming a Broadway hoofer and headed west to find work in television.)

Of course, a show this ambitious needs a lavish setting. That’s why Wynne pulled out the stops while creating the centerpiece of his ’64 NEW YORK WORLD’S FAIR exhibit, the Texas State Pavilions’ Music Hall. Truthfully, no expense was spared on this project. This 2,400-seat facility was built with a stage that was over 70 feet wide. All of the lighting rigs and stage devices used in the show were state-of-the-art (circa 1964, of course).

The Music Hall also featured an Executive Bar and Lounge area (which was allegedly supposed to serve as American Airlines Admirals Club during the run of the FAIR, giving all those tired frequent flyers a cushy place to rest their feet after spending a day exploring all the wonders to be found on Flushing Meadow). And – for those folks who desired a more elegant way to view a performance of “To Broadway With Love” – the theater had its Champagne Circle, a series of private boxes that were located on the Music Hall’s second and third levels. Inside of these elegantly appointed enclosures (the boxes’ décor was designed by noted Dallas interior decorator, William P. McFadden), patrons were free to sip cocktails while they enjoyed the show.

Supporting the Project – Wynne’s Financial Investment in the World’s Fair Texas Pavilion

Unable to control his enthusiasm for the project, Wynne poured millions from his own fortune into the construction of the Texas State Pavilions. Sure, there was some risk involved. But – given the millions of people who were expected to attend the NEW YORK WORLD’S FAIR during its two year run – Wynne thought it was safe to assume that this particular investment would pay off in a big way.

After all, wasn’t FAIR President Robert Moses predicting that over 70 million people would come to Queens just to attend the 1964 / 1965 NEW YORK WORLD’S FAIR? If even a fifth of these folks made their way back to the Texas Pavilions and took in a show, Angus would be rolling in dough.

Best of all, Wynne had built the Texas Pavilions at the urging of Lyndon Johnson and John Connally. That meant that the Vice President of the United States and the Governor of Texas now each owed Angus a favor. Those made for some pretty impressive markers for the former Texas businessman to cash in later in life.

So – in spite of his initial misgivings – Wynne went full speed ahead on this project. Ground was broken for the Texas Pavilions complex in early 1963, with Governor Connally himself showing up to help Wynne’s turn that first symbolic spade of earth.

Bobo – Brahman Bull & Texas Goodwill Ambassador

To help publicize his state’s participation in the FAIR, Connally declared Bobo – a 2,000-pound Brahman bull – an official Texas goodwill ambassador to the ’64 NEW YORK WORLD’S FAIR. Cowboy Jerry Cotten then climbed on Bobo’s back and rode the Brahman all the way from the Lone Star State to the Texas Pavilions site at Flushing Meadows. Reporters regularly filed stories on the unusual pair, wondering if Jerry and Bobo would be able to survive the 2,000-mile trek and/or the bull and his rider would arrive in time to enjoy the FAIR’s opening day festivities in April of 1964.

Building the Texas Pavilions

Unfortunately, Bobo wasn’t the only bull that Wynne had to deal with during the construction phase of the Texas Pavilions. Moses – ever fearful that New York’s construction unions would intentionally delay the opening of his FAIR if they didn’t get their piece of the pie – let them get away with charging ridiculous rates for all work that was done on the international exhibition’s pavilions. As a result, union carpenters who worked on building the musical were paid $23 an hour.

And that’s not the overtime rate, folks. That’s actually the flat base pay rate paid for on-site construction done at Flushing Meadow. (Minus – of course – the 50% kickback you were expected to hand over to your shop steward, the guy who actually landed you this cushy gig.)

This – plus the demands of the steelworkers union (which insisted that New York state regulations prevented them from doing any on-site steel bending while working in Queens) – resulted in tremendous cost over-runs on the Texas Pavilions. When news of this got back to Angus, he was understandably concerned about the spiraling costs of the project.

“To Broadway With Love” Reviews

But then – after he attended a dress rehearsal for “To Broadway With Love” – Wynne became convinced that his ’64 NEW YORK WORLD’S FAIR entry was going to be a winner. He felt certain that the Texas Pavilions’ elaborate stage revue would win over the city’s toughest audience (New York City’s theater critics), that would lead to rave reviews. Which would lead to large crowds deliberately seeking out the entertainment to be found at the Lone Star State’s exhibition. This would translate into huge food and beverage sales at the Texas Pavilions’ concession stands. Which meant that Angus’ seemingly risky NYC investment would eventually pay off in a big way.

Well, the first part of Wynne’s plan came true. The New York theater critics really did love “To Broadway With Love,” calling the Music Hall’s live stage presentation one of the very things to be seen at the FAIR.

A “Don’t Miss” attraction. Thrilled with the pageant’s critical reception, Wynne stood back and waited for the crowds to come rushing in …

But the crowds never came.

Attendance Issues at 1964 New York World’s Fair

To be honest, attendance was a problem at the 1964 / 1965 NEW YORK WORLD’S FAIR almost from Day One. Moses had told the press and FAIR participants that he expected his international exhibition to have many “quarter million days.” Meaning that Robert thought that – during the course of the FAIR – there would be numerous days where at least 250,000 people would push through the turnstiles at Flushing Meadow.

The trouble is that – at least during the FAIR’s crucial first few weeks of operation — those “quarter million days” never came. During the months of April and May, there were times that only 40,000 – 50,000 folks made the trip out to Queens. This meant that the FAIR wasn’t even coming close to meeting Moses’ attendance projections.

This was bad news for most FAIR participants. But truly disastrous news for Angus Wynne Jr. He kept hoping that his Texas Pavilions experience would be a duplicate of the early days of SIX FLAGS OVER TEXAS. Where – for those first few weeks – only a handful of people came. Once word of mouth spread, the crowds would eventually come rushing in.

But that never happened. For most of the Spring of 1964, the crowds never really came out for the 1964 / 1965 NEW YORK WORLD’S FAIR.

Even when a moderate sized crowd of 100,000 – 150,000 entered the Fairgrounds at Flushing, very few of these folks ever seemed to make their way back to the Texas State Pavilions complex. Why for? Well, some people have theorized that Lone Star State’s lack-of-traffic problems simply boiled down to the No. 1 rule of real estate: Location, location, location.

Location of Texas Pavilions

Putting it bluntly, Wynne’s Texas Pavilions seem to have been built in the most remote location to be found at FAIR. A Guest arriving at the ’64 NYWF main entrance who wanted to catch a performance of “To Broadway With Love” would first have to hike down New York Avenue. He’d then have to cross the Court of States, go around the Unisphere, down the Court of Nations before he reached Harry Truman Promenade. Then the poor slob had to find the pedestrian footbridge that would allow him to cross over the Long Island Expressway, which would eventually lead him into the Lake Amusement Area. That’s where – in the uppermost corner of this far-off region that bordered on Meadow Lake – the exhausted visitor would finally find Angus’ Texas Pavilions.

Of course, in order for your typical tourist to follow this path (the most direct route to the Lake Amusement Area as well as the Texas Pavilions), they would have to walk by dozens upon dozens of other tempting attractions. Other enormous pavilions whose sponsors weren’t asking Guests to fork over $2 – $4.80 (the going rate of a seat to most performances of “To Broadway With Love”) to see their presentations. These give-it-away-for-free shows really made life rough for the FAIR’s pay-to-view attractions like Wynne’s Music Hall show.


It’s also been suggested that other unfortunate, unforeseen circumstances (beyond the Texas Pavilions’ seemingly remote location) may have played a large part in the lack of attendance seen at the Lone Star State’s exhibits. After all, just six months prior to the opening of the FAIR, President John F. Kennedy was killed in Dallas.

Could the small number of folks who turned out to see Wynne’s assortment of attractions seriously be interpreted as some sort of anti-Texas backlash? Personally, I find this idea kind of far fetched. But Luther Clark – a longtime Wynne associate who actually rode herd on the construction of the ’64 NYWF Texas Pavilions – insists that anti-Texas sentiment really did play a huge part in the failure of Angus’ NYC attractions.

“Back then, the people of New York just hated Texas because we were the guy who’d killed the President,” Clark explained. “Those folks wanted nothing to do with Texas. Which was why all of our attractions for the Fair only ran for one year.”

Canceled Shows & Exhibits

Mind you, some of the Texas Pavilions’ shows and exhibits didn’t even last that long. In spite of its great reviews and ample publicity (The 1964 Emmy Awards even managed to work in a sizable plug for Wynne’s theatrical revue. Though the majority of that year’s ceremony was being broadcast from the Hollywood Palladium, a good portion of that night’s program was presented – via live remote feed – right from the stage of the Texas Pavilions’ Music Hall), “To Broadway With Love” shuttered after only 97 performances.

Everyone who actually saw the show back in the Spring of ’64 thought that “To Broadway With Love” was a wonderful piece of entertainment, something well worth going out of your way to see. But since so few FAIR-goers seemed willing to make the trek out to the Texas Pavilions (during a typical performance of “To Broadway With Love,” Wynne considered himself fortunate if he was able to fill even a tenth of the cavernous Music Hall’s 2400 seats), Wynne really had no choice but to shut the show down.

The end came pretty quickly after that. Once “To Broadway With Love” closed, the Texas Pavilions lost the attraction that had served as the primary focus of the exhibit’s ad campaign. So – without that show to serve as the carrot that tempted people to take that long walk all the way out the Lake Amusement Area – those small crowds got even smaller.

Partially as a face-saving gesture (but mostly as a courtesy to the 400 young Texans who had relocated to the Big Apple to help operate his attractions), Angus tried to keep the other pieces of the Texas Pavilions up and running throughout the rest of the FAIR’s 1964 season. However, in order to do this, Wynne had to accept loans from the FAIR Corporation itself.

Bankrupt and Heading Back to Texas

The trouble is, there was just no way that Wynne was ever going to be able to repay the FAIR Corp. Wynne had blown through much of his own personal fortune during the initial construction phase of the Texas Pavilions. So the Fair Corp. finally came calling, looking to get its loans repaid, Angus had no money to give them. In the end, Wynne was forced to declare bankruptcy. Which was why – when the FAIR’s books were finally audited in December 1965 (by then NYC comptroller and eventual NYC mayor Abe Beame) – Angus Wynne, Jr. still owed the FAIR Corp. $1,348.276.57.

When the FAIR ended its first season in October 1964, the few remaining exhibits at the Texas Pavilions closed for good. The following year, FAIR officials tried to boost attendance by setting up some carnival rides on the 3-acre lot that used to play host the Lone Star State’s exhibits. But this meager assortment of new attractions still wasn’t enough to get people to hike all the way back to the Lake Amusement area.

Wynne’s return home to Texas after the FAIR left the man with a lot of mixed emotions. Wynne was obviously embarrassed at having had to declare bankruptcy (though his friends – in an effort to soften the blow – threw him a bankruptcy party where they all came dressed as bums). Wynne was also extremely angry with Robert Moses, and would remain so for the rest of his life. He felt that the way that the FAIR President had oversold the event – projecting record attendance levels that the ’64 NYWF never even came close to achieving – had played a huge part in the failure of his Texas Pavilions.

But – mostly – Wynne was anxious to get back to work; to take up the reins of the Great Southwest Corporation again. Under Wynne’s command, GSC grew to be of the nation’s biggest real estate development companies. During the late 1960s, Angus’ company built hundreds of apartment buildings, dozens of industrial parks and – of course – two great new theme parks: SIX FLAGS OVER GEORGIA (1967) and SIX FLAGS OVER MID-AMERICA (1971).

Though the Great Southwest Corp. would eventually sell off all of its theme park holdings in 1972, the folks at SIX FLAGS never forgot Wynne’s contribution to their company. Which is why – in the Confederate section of SIX FLAGS OVER GEORGIA – there’s a memorial plaque that reads “Dedicated to the memory of Angus G. Wynne, Jr. Innovator and friend. Founder of SIX FLAGS OVER GEORGIA. We dedicate ourselves to providing the wholesome blend of family entertainment which was Angus G. Wynne, Jr.’s dream come true.”

Angus G. Wynne, Jr (1914 – 1979)

Memorial Plaque?! Yep. Did I forget to mention that Wynne died back in 1979? This much respected businessman may have passed on, but the cities of Grand Prairie and Arlington, Texas still think fondly of old Angus and all the fun and prosperity he provided for the Lone Star State. Which is why – a few years back – family friends and local officials, working with the Texas Department of Transportation, decided to honor Wynne’s memory by renaming busy Texas Highway 360 the Angus Wynne Jr. Freeway.

It is – rather fittingly – the major highway that you have to ride on if you’re taking a trip out to SIX FLAGS OVER TEXAS. More pointedly, there isn’t a single exit ramp off of the Wynne that will take you anywhere near New York City.

Which is just the way Angus would like it, I’m betting.

Special thanks to Luther Clark, Mike Pender, David Wynne and Bill Young for their generous contributions during the research phase of this article, (and to for giving us back this article.)

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.

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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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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