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What happens when things actually do sort-of, kind-of go horribly wrong at a Disney theme park

Jim Hill shares Richard Murphy’s tale about how Disneyland’s maintenance team came to his rescue on Super Bowl Sunday. When the Jungle Cruise boat that Richard was riding in somehow became untethered



At the D23 EXPO back in September, I noted – with some amusement – that the new attractions that are now in the works for Hong Kong Disneyland follow the tried-and-true WDI formula. In that the critical event, the thing that sets everything in motion (Be it Albert the monkey opening an enchanted music box at Mystic Manor ….

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… or a back-scratching bear. Who accidentally sends your train hurtling down this collapsing mineshaft on Big Grizzly Mountain coaster) …

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Imagineering has used “ … SOMETHING GOES HORRIBLY WRONG !?” so many times as the event that kick-starts the storyline of a new ride or show that – a while back – one of WDI’s rivals (And – no – I’m not going to tell you the name of the theme park design company that actually came up with this killer concept) wanted to create an attraction that parodied this over-used Disney conceit.

This proposed simulator ride – which was to have been built around the characters from “Futurama” – was to have been a “Star Tours” –like simulator attraction. In fact, this “Futurama” ride was to have been so closely modeled after “Star Tours” that – when the blast shield came down – Fry was to have turned around, noticed the audience seated behind him and then suddenly said: “Wait a minute. I know this ride ! I've been on this ride!? We’re about to blast off into space! And then something will go HORRIBLY WRONG !?

And then – from there – the beauty of this proposed “Futurama” simulator attraction was that Fry, Leela and Bender would go on a typical Planet Express delivery run. But at each step of the way  (i.e. When their spaceship stops for fuel at a decrepit old space station; when the crew lands on some dark, forbidding planet to deliver their package to this huge, scaly alien, etc.), Fry would then turn around & address the audience by saying “And this is the part where SOMETHING GOES HORRIBLY WRONG!?” And then nothing would happen.

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And this was supposed to go on for 3 & 1/2 minutes of “Futurama” ‘s 4 minute-long ride film. With the comic tension just building & building & building until …. Well, I’m not going to blow the ending of this proposed attraction (Why For? Because I still hope to see it built someday). But let’s just say — by the time this ride reached its climax — you were to have experienced the Mother of all Somethings that go HORRIBLY WRONG?!

"How bad are we talking here?," you ask. To the point that – when you exited this "Futurama" ride – you weren't going to walk through a door. You were supposed to climb out through a gaping hole in the side of your Planet Express spaceship. And as you headed down to the gift shop, you were to have passed this animatronic Fry who was still pinned under the wreckage. Who — upon seeing you — was supposed to have said: "See! I told you that something was going to go horribly wrong!"

Anyway … I bring this up today because … Well, this past Sunday, JHM contributor Richard Murphy was out at Disneyland. And as he and his family were enjoying a ride on The Jungle Cruise, something did really-for-real go … Well, not horribly wrong. But still wrong. And I thought it might interest you folks to know how Disneyland’s repair crew actually handle events like this.

Here’s Richard’s report:

Around 12:30 in the afternoon on Super Bowl Sunday, a Jungle Cruise boat at Disneyland detached from its guide track and crashed into some rockwork at the edge of the river.

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I happened to be in the forward most starboard seat, right next to the skipper. It occurred on a right-turn curve of the river between the Lost Safari (“they’ll get the point in the end”) and the hippo pool. We struck ‘rock’ on the left side of the river.

Back at the dock, I had just missed getting on the previous boat and was first in line when the Amazon Belle pulled up to the dock. A decision was made to only half-load the boat. I don’t know why, but it may have been because the ‘return’ boats were stacking up and they just wanted to get more boats out on the river. We departed with guests in the front of the boat and at the back of the boat, but with nobody in the middle.

The trip proceeded normally, except that Skipper Chris (Irvine, CA) was rushing his spiel a bit, causing some his jokes to fall flat. We passed the African Veldt scene and the Safari scene and then the river makes a sharp right turn to head for the hippo pool. When the boat makes a sharp turn, it lists toward the outside of the turn. This is usually played for fun a little bit at the first encounter at Schweitzer Falls. It happened here, too, but not — it seemed to me — to an unusual degree. But this time there was a sound from under the boat. I can’t remember what it sounded like but I know there was one. It wasn’t an alarming sound.

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I was looking forward and realized that we didn’t seem to be making the turn. And I was really startled when I realized we were heading into the shoreline. I’m not sure when Skipper Chris was aware of it; there are many places on the ride where the Skipper is facing his passengers instead of looking down river and I can’t recall which way he was facing. He was looking as we ran up on the rockwork. At this spot on the river there is some ledge-like rock on the left side of the river. There was a scraping sound beneath the bow and the boat lurched to a stop. The sudden stop bent people forward, but no one was thrown out of their seat. The boat drifted backward off the rocks and the boat settled back into the river.

Our skipper immediately picked up the revolver that is usually fired while passing through the hippo pool. He nervously loaded five more rounds into it and then fired six shots. He then accessed a two-way radio below the ship’s wheel and called out “We have a six-shot on the C-curve.” A few seconds after that we heard someone on the ride P.A. announce “All boats please hold your position.” Our boat was afloat, and I was relieved to see that there was no sign of any leaks. We’d hit the rocks hard and wasn’t sure what the damage might have been to the bow.

Everything was stable at this point so we all had a moment to collect ourselves. Skipper Chris apologized and pointed out the obvious: we weren’t going anywhere for a bit. He joked “I guess this time the hippo’s won!” Most of us quickly realized that, rather than a disaster, we were all going to leave Disneyland with a great story to tell our families and friends.

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I had expected that we would shortly see the next boat behind us on the river, but we didn’t. The P.A. announcer called for the boats behind us to back up and return to the dock and for the boats in front of us to come in.

Finally, someone on the boat called out “Rescue!” and pointed.Through the jungle, we could see another cruise boat with blue-uniformed maintenance people backing down the river. They came into sight as they backed through the hippo pool and eventually made their way to us. They had a costumed skipper at the helm with the maintenance folk at the back.

The maintenance men asked our skipper for his rope. There is a tall box between the Skipper and the middle bench of the boat. He flipped open the lid and pulled out a thick, black mooring rope with loops at each end. They secured the front cleat on our boat to the back cleat of the rescue boat. We guessed that they were just going to tow us in. But what they did was pull the two boats together so that a maintenance guy could transfer to our boat. A silver-haired man with what I guessed was a German accent came into our boat while another maintenance man leaned over the stern of the rescue boat.

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The man on our boat looked inside the tall box the rope came from. With a front-row seat, I learned a little about the mechanics of the boat. The tall box conceals a hollow pin the side of a pipe that engages with the submerged track beneath the boat. The goal now was simple: to reposition the box precisely over the track so that the pin could be dropped in place, thus reattaching the boat to the track.

Simple does not mean easy. Trying to position a drifting boat over a fixed point while your only point of leverage is another drifting boat is a significant challenge. There were numerous attempts and it required coordinating with rescue boat’s skipper to move a touch forward or a touch back. But after several minutes of struggle the pin dropped into place with a satisfying thud. Our skipper tested his throttle and our boat moved forward on the track. Our maintenance man transferred back to the rescue boat and they departed.

Skipper Chris resumed our journey. He tried to finish as much of the spiel as he could, but it wasn’t easy with the ride audio and animation switched off. The hippos didn’t move, the tribal dancers didn’t dance, and the ambush party didn’t ambush. Fortunately, the backside of water just kept flowing. No piranha, but the Trader Sam jokes are amazingly reliable.

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We returned to an empty dock alongside an empty queue. As we exited, park personnel issued each of us two Fast Passes for rides of our choice.

I guess that’s why they call it ‘Adventureland.’

Isn’t that a cool story? More importantly, isn't it reassuring to learn that Disneyland actually already has a procedure in place so that — in the events that something like this does occur — the Park's maintenance staff can then move quickly to make repairs right there on the spot. With little or no real impact on the Guest experience.

The only time that every happened to me that was even remotely like what Richard just experienced was … Well, it was back on January 2, 1996. And I was at Epcot, trying to be one of the very last civilians to experience World of Motion before this Future World show building was gutted to make way for Test Track. But right before my Omnimover reached the first show scene, World of Motion stopped moving. Its ride system — for some inexplicable reason — suddenly broke down. Which is why — rather being one of the very last non-Cast Members to ride through this late, great Epcot attraction — I wound up being walked down that exterior load ramp by a Cast Member. Who first had to manually open my Omnimover.

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But what about you folks? Have any of you ever had an experience like Richard and I? Where you were enjoying a ride, show or attraction at a Disney theme park and then … Well, something didn’t go horribly wrong. But things certainly didn’t work the way that they were supposed to.

Sooo … You got any stories to share?

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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