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To Hurl or Not to Hurl: A Second Opinion on “Mission: Space” — Part III

In the conclusion of his three part series, a slightly hungover Seth Kubersky braves Epcot’s newest thrill ride. Soooo … how did JHM’s newest columnist feel once he returned to Future World?



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Okay. Let’s begin our pre-flight check:

Massively hyped new high-tech thrill attraction? Check.
Budget-limited underthemed queue line? Check.
Repeated apocalyptic safety warnings? Check.
Scientifically calibrated Jagermeister hangover? Check.

We have liftoff!

As the launch sequence of “Mission: Space” begins, you’re likely to think to yourself “hey, this isn’t so bad.” The initial acceleration is surprisingly gentle. If you are expecting an Incredible Hulk-like kick in the seat of the pants, you may at first find yourself wondering where the thrill is. But in a few seconds all such thoughts will be erased as you are gradually pinned to your seat by the mounting G-forces.

Here’s how to simulate the Mission: Space experience at home:

1) Find a cheap motel with a vibrating “magic fingers” bed.

2) Throw in some quarters and lie down flat on your back.

3) Have a large person (approx. 3 times your weight) slowly lie on your chest.

By the time the ride reaches full launch velocity, you will be the proud recipient of an instant facelift. The sensation of your skin being pulled tauter than Katherine Helmond’s in “Brazil” is unique and quite enjoyable. You will also feel the pressure in your throat and chest, and may briefly have difficulty swallowing. It is not, however, the “pit of your stomach” feeling that causes many people discomfort on roller coasters and freefall rides.

Despite my lingering hangover, I was suffering no real discomfort during the launch. No matter how many times I ride, this sequence remains a genuine rush. You get a sense of immense power and velocity without the violent shaking or spinning that comes with most thrill rides. The radius of the centrifuge is relatively large, and as the capsule is enclosed, so you have no external point of reference. Therefore, as long as you stay seated with your head back, you have no awareness that you are spinning.

At this point, I decided to push my science experiment to its logical conclusion. Even in my debilitated state, I was suffering no ill effects from the ride. But what if I ignored the safety instructions that they’d drilled into our heads? Was I truly willing to risk my life and health (and the clothing of my crewmates) in the name of science? You betcha!

Kids, don’t try this at home.

Do it at a friend’s house.

As the launch acceleration reached its peak, I lifted my head from the headrest. I leaned as far forward as the restraints would allow. And I swung my head from left to right, looking from side to side. Repeatedly. Exactly the way they tell you not to.

For a brief moment, this was almost a very bad idea. Tilting your head seems to make your inner ear instantly aware of the ride’s spinning. The sensation you experience doing this is immediate and powerful vertigo. Imagine sticking your head out the window of a speeding car, or leaning over the edge of a tall building. It’s a dizzying and disorienting experience. But it is not the thrill-ride equivalent of sticking your finger down your throat. I managed to lean back into my seat without doing the Technicolor yawn, and as soon as I did the vertigo disappeared.

As the blue sky beyond the cockpit dissolves into the blackness of space, you transition into the “zero-G” portion of the ride. For me, this is the most intriguing and most disappointing moment in the ride. Roller-coaster junkies know that high-G inversions and hairpins are fun, but airtime is life. We thrill for that brief moment of weightlessness you get cresting a hill. Rides like “Tower of Terror” and “Doctor Doom’s Fearfall” focus on giving us as much space between our butt and the seat as possible.

“Mission: Space” promised to raise the bar on airtime by giving us a few moments of “simulated” deep-space weightlessness. Instead, we get a bit of a cheat. What happens is that the centrifuge rapidly decelerates as the launch sequence ends. The massive pressure pinning you to your seat is released, and inertia pulls you slightly forward against the restraints. The psychological effect of this deceleration is a brief instant of a floating feeling. However, there is no genuine airtime, as your rear remains firmly attached to your seat. Perhaps if the cabin had been designed to invert you would get a truer sensation of weightlessness. I’m sure that would raise the upchuck factor by a power of 10, so we’ll just have to make do with what we get.

The moment of pseudo-zero-G is followed by the slingshot around the moon, which is nearly as intense as the launch. Then comes “hypersleep,” which is simply few seconds of quiet and darkness. Hypersleep is broken by sirens and flashing lights alerting you to an asteroid field. As the centrifuge accelerates the cabin pitches and rolls to simulate your ship swerving among the rocks. This sequence is about as dynamic as Star Tours, with the addition of G-forces less powerful than the launch. The movement, like everything in the ride, is smooth and well coordinated to the video. It is certainly less taxing than “Back to the Future” or “Body Wars.”

In the interest of scientific completeness, I repeated my head-leaning experiment during all the high-intensity segments of the ride. Again, you get a brief head-rush, but nothing as nauseating as the warnings might suggest. Try as I might, I was unable to give myself anything worse than a short spell of dizziness.

I should note that throughout the ride you will be asked to participate in the ride’s “interactive” feature. Each crewmember will have two tasks to perform. One of the two lights in front of you will light up, and Gary will tell you to push the button. If you do, there will be a brief sound effect. If not, a computer voice will announce a “computer override.” Either way, there will be absolutely no effect on your ride or its ending. You will get no particular praise or condemnation based on your performance. Every mission is successful, even if you deliberately fail in your button pushing. There isn’t even a score provided so that you can judge how well you did.

The final section of the ride begins with the decent into Mars’ atmosphere, similar to the launch and slingshot, followed by a gently swooping ride through the canals. Again, the movement is smoother and less jarring than most simulators. During this segment, you will be asked to grab the vibrating joystick (is that appropriate for a Disney ride?) and follow Gary’s instructions (“Left! Left! Pull up! Pull up!) Like the buttons, there is no punishment or reward for playing with your stick (yeah, that sounds pretty bad too). In fact, I’ve grown fond of pulling the stick in the opposite direction, just to see if I can cause a crash. No luck yet.

The ride ends in an all-too-familiar “near miss,” much like “Star Tours” and “Back to the Future.” You get a round of applause from Gary and his mission control cohorts. He invites you to proceed to the “advanced training lab,” and the screens slide back and the restraints release. Guests stumble out of their capsules and are herded down an unglamorous corridor towards the postshow area.

So, I survived. I determined, based on my non-double-blind single-sample experiment, that it is possible to ride “Mission: Space” while hung over without losing your lunch. The only close call came when I lifted my head from the headrest, and that discomfort was short-lived. My headache and stiff joints were still there, but the adrenaline rush of the ride was quite invigorating. Rather than feeling sick, I was ready to go another round.

At this point I conducted an unrepresentative, unscientific survey. Basically, I bugged every person coming off the ride to tell me how he or she felt. Reactions ranged from delight and enthusiasm to mild shakiness. Pre-teen kids seems the most excited, many bouncing up and down asking to go again. Their middle-aged soccer moms typically said “Once was enough,” but did it with a smile on their faces. I even saw a few grandparents who really seemed to get a kick out of the ride.

In several trips through the attraction, I only encountered one girl who did not enjoy her trip into space. She was a British tourist who was lined up in the pod next to mine. She was extremely nervous waiting for the ride, and the safety warnings seemed to agitate her more. It took constant reassurance from her family to get her into the capsule. Despite all this, she conceded that the ride was not as bad as a roller coaster, and she didn’t need to rush to the bathroom or collapse in the corner. I suspect a drink of water and a few minutes rest will cure the majority of ill effects caused by the ride.

I also cornered some ride attendants and quizzed them about the upchuck factor. All the CMs I asked said they’ve been averaging only one or two in-ride accidents per day. Some days go by with no puking whatsoever. This is comparable to other thrill rides and simulators. It is significantly less than the original version of “Body Wars,” which probably holds the title as Disney’s all-time vomit king.

As I said, this survey is based on too small a sample to be scientifically representative. But I expect these results to be consistent for most riders. Remember, your mileage may vary. If you are unusually susceptible to motion sickness, you probably won’t enjoy this ride. People with low blood pressure may have trouble handling the high G-forces (my ex-wife used to black out on the hairpin turns in “Kumba”). But if you can handle most simulators and modest coasters, you can probably handle “Mission: Space” just fine. Even people who typically don’t enjoy large coasters or rides like the Teacups might be surprised how well they can handle it. As long as you can remain calm and approach the experience with a positive, relaxed attitude, the ride should be well worth your time.

On my last trip though the attraction, I experienced the side effects of one of these rare ill guests. I was in the ready room, Gary had just finished his spiel on the overhead monitors, and we were waiting for the door to the curving corridor to open. After a few moments wait, the door behind us opened. A chipper CM informed us that due to “technical difficulties” we would be restaged in another ready room. One row at a time we were led across the room to the opposite ready room and lined back up on our numbers.

“Protein spill?” I asked.

“Yup, something like that,” the CM chuckled.

“How often do you have to do this?”

“First one today.”

Apparently, when there is a mishap they briefly shut down the affected bay for cleaning and restage the guests to another centrifuge. If the spill is minor they can clean it and get the bay ready by the next cycle. If there is a bigger mess, they can seal that particular capsule, allowing the rest of the cabins on that centrifuge to be used until there is time to disinfect. The cabin interiors are obviously designed to make this cleaning as efficient as possible.

Mission: Space Race, the centerpiece of the postshow,
brought to you by Chuck E. Cheese.

Once you’ve disembarked the ride and proceeded down the exit corridor, you arrive at the “Advanced Training Lab.” Remember Gary’s numerous mentions of the mission control training you will receive? See the colorful signs overhead advertising the “Mission: Space Race” experience that awaits? Expecting an interactive postshow on the scale of the classic Kodak ImageWorks, or Seabase Alpha? Or even the AT&T Global Village? Well, forget about it.

Instead, we get a modest-sized room with the aesthetic décor of your local mall’s video arcade. To the left is a Chuck E. Cheese-style gerbil maze for the kiddies, a simple “find the lost astronaut” video game that would get laughed off your Xbox, and a kiosk for sending email postcards. To the right is the centerpiece of the postshow, a large group game called “Mission: Space.” At the front of the room, 4 players per team play “pilots,” matching colored balls to “trouble spots” on a spaceship schematic. The rest of the team uses their “mission controller” computer consoles to generate the colored balls by pressing buttons.

C’mon kids, you can play your Playstation at home.

It’s like a very simple cross between Simon and Tetris, without being as much fun as either one. The results of the “race” are projected overhead. The results of the game are always suspiciously close, with both teams coming in within a point or two of each other every time. My personal best score as a “mission controller” is 24 points, but there isn’t enough replayability to make it worth waiting in line for more than once.

Beyond the disappointing postshow is the inevitable gift shop. In fact, the shop gets as much (if not slightly more) square footage as the postshow, which tells you something about Disney’s priorities these days. The good news is there isn’t much plush. The bad news is that the ride-specific merchandise is uninspiring, and much of the shelf space is taken up by junk that you can find in any mall.

Cheap crap! We gottcha cheap crap here!

So, what can we conclude from this rather long-winded tour of “Mission: Space?” What advice do I have for the weak of spirit (or stomach) who want to reach for the stars?

1) Relax. The ride is intense and unique, but it isn’t a medieval torture device. If you can handle most simulators and roller coasters, you can handle this. Even if the teacups make you toss your scones, you may be surprised at well you survive “Mission: Space.” Your own anxiousness is your worst enemy, so don’t get yourself too worked up over the safety warnings.

2) Keep your head back and your eyes front. Failure to do so isn’t a recipe for instant disaster, but it will make your head spin. As long as you stay properly seated, you won’t be aware of the spinning, only gravitational pressure, and you are unlikely to get disoriented.

3) Don’t sweat the button pushing. If you want to play along with the “interactive” element of the ride, go ahead. But if you don’t, you won’t be missing a thing. This isn’t “Men in Black;” there’s no such thing as a good or bad ending. If you are the kind of person who panics under pressure, and worries that you’re going to “fail” the ride, chill out and ignore Gary’s directives. It won’t make a bit of difference in the end.

4) Lower your expectations. If you are expecting a ride that blends the Disney tradition of seamless storytelling with amazing technology, you may be a bit let down when you only get half the equation. Instead, expect an amazing technological demonstration, with just enough theming to get the job done.

Disney took out a full-page advertisement (disguised as a news article) in this past Sunday’s Orlando Sentinel. In the ad, they repeatedly refer to “Mission: Space” as an “E-Ticket.” I have read other sources where they refer to it as the “first F-Ticket ride.”

The thrill of “Mission: Space” is genuine, intense, and original. It is something that you won’t find at your local Six Flags.

But, to my mind, it takes more than exceptional thrills to make an E-Ticket. It requires a great story that has a beginning, middle, and end. It requires attention to the small details that you only discover after dozens of rides. It requires an immersive environment that flows seamlessly from the queue to the preshow to the exit.

“Splash Mountain” is an E-Ticket. So is “Tower of Terror,” the last true E-Ticket thrill ride built at WDW. “Killamanjaro Safaris” is an E-Ticket, but a scenic one in the tradition of the “Jungle Cruise” rather than a thrill ride. “Spiderman” is certainly an E-Ticket, perhaps the first F-Ticket, but the “Hulk Coaster” is not, despite its impressive launch.

“Mission: Space,” by this standard, is not a full E-Ticket. Call it an E-Minus or D-Plus. A more consistent storyline, follow-through on the promised interactivity, and a better queue and postshow would push it over the top. Maybe if a clone is built in Tokyo they’ll give it the budget needed to use this amazing new technology to its fullest storytelling potential.

Until then, I’ll be happily getting my G-force fix, and bringing along something to read in the queue.

Seth Kubersky

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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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