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Why For?

Jim’s in a really generous mood this week. So — what the hell — here’s even more answers to your Disney related questions. This time around, Hill responds to JHM reader queries about the Big Bad Wolf, Walt Disney himself, the “Love Bug” and “20,000 Leagues” DVDs … as well as clueing you folks in Southern California on another fun event you can attend this weekend.



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First off, Mark F. writes in to ask:

Hi Jim –

First off, I want to say I’ve been reading your articles since the days of the Dreamfinder … I was so glad to see you finally get your own site, and I visit almost daily.

With your vast knowledge of Disney, I thought you might have an answer to my question.

Last night, I was watching the “Walt Disney Treasures – Silly Symphony” DVD with a few of my friends. We were watching the Three Little Pigs, and when it came to the part where the wolf comes to the brick house, we noticed that the quality of the animation changed. Suddenly, the colors didn’t look as faded as the rest of the film had up until that point. It made us wonder if that portion of the film had somehow been re-animated or edited from the original release. If you want to check it out, it is about six minutes and 26 seconds into the cartoon. We were just wondering if it is coincidental, or was there was something so “politically incorrect” in this film that Disney had to edit it out before it was released on DVD?

If you have any insight, we’d love to know!


Mark F.

Dear Mark:

Congrats to you and your friends for paying such close attention while watching your “Walt Disney Treasures – Silly Symphony” DVD. It’s not everyone who catches that quick change in quality in that particular portion of Disney’s “The Three Little Pigs.”

Yep, there was something definitely different in this sequence in the short. Back when “The Three Little Pigs” originally hit theaters back in May of 1933, there was a different piece of animation in place of the one that you can see there today. You see, the way this gag originally played out was that the Big Bad Wolf came up to Practical Pig’s house dressed as a stereotypical Jewish peddler.

Don’t believe me? Then follow this link to a web page where some kind soul was nice enough to post some image captures that they took off of the Japanese laser disc version of a “Three Little Pigs” shorts compilation. If you scroll down this page, you’ll eventually be able to see the Big Bad Wolf in all his … well, maybe “glory” isn’t really the right word to use in this instance.

Anyway … as you can see from that image capture, Disney’s animators — when they were putting together this picture back in the early 1930s — didn’t miss a single cliché. Which is why the Big Bad Wolf — while he’s in disguise as a Jewish peddler — has a large nose as well as a long thick black beard. If you look closely, you can even see that the wolf — as part of his disguise — is actually wearing a yarmulka.

Now — looking back on this particular gag from the oh-so politically correct times that we currently live in — it might be easy to take offense at this joke. But — were you to place “The Three Little Pigs” back in the time and culture in which this short was originally created — you’d realize that Americans were much more tolerant of ethnic humor back then. Which is why “Amos & Andy” and “The Goldbergs” were such huge hits on the radio back then.

Of course, that began to change as the 1940s rolled around. This is just about the time that Walt Disney was reportedly contacted by the Hays Office (Hollywood’s once all-powerful arbiter of good taste; during the late 1930s and well into the 1940s, the Hays Office had final say as to whether a film contained objectionable material or not) concerning this “objectionable” moment in “The Three Little Pigs.”

Rather than just cutting the Jewish Peddler sequence out of the picture, Walt opted to have his animators rework this scene. Though — this time around — Disney made sure that the Big Bad Wolf wear a more socially acceptable disguise.

Now where this gets interesting is that — just about the same time that Walt was ordering that his animators rework this one short sequence in “The Three Little Pigs” — Disney’s artists are allegedly already hard at work on a redo of the film. This brand new version of the Academy Award winning short — which would recycle whole sections of animation from the 1933 film — was done for the National Film Board of Canada. Released in 1941, the retitled film was now called “Thrifty Pig.”

And how was “Thrifty Pig” different from “The Three Little Pigs?” Well, this time around, Practical Pig built his sturdy little house out of Canadian War Savings Bonds. And the Big Bad Wolf … well, in this version of the “Three Little Pigs” story, the wolf is portrayed (I kid you not, folks) as an armband-wearing Nazi!

Kind of kind of ironic, don’t you think? That — just as Disney’s animators were getting ready to reanimate certain sections of the original “Three Little Pigs” because the Big-Bad-Wolf-as-a-Jewish-Peddler has been deemed to be offensive — animators in that same studio were gearing up to animate the Big Bad Wolf as a full-blown Nazi.

Anyway … if you’d like to see this short … well … I know that “Thifty Pig” short is out there. Over the years, I’ve seen video versions of it for sale at various Disneyana shows. And who knows? Maybe it’ll turn up as part of that “The War Years” DVD set that’s supposed to hit store shelves sometime this fall. You know, as part of that on-going “Walt Disney Treasures” series?

As for how the Jewish Peddler sequence (which near as I can figure, has officially cut out of that short since 1941) ended up on the Japanese laser disc version of that “Three Little Pigs” compilation … I don’t know what to tell you, folks. Maybe back in the mid-1990s, someone in the Disney film archives accidentally gave the folks at Buena Vista Home Entertainment International the wrong version of “The Three Little Pigs” to dub onto that laser disc.

But then again, given that Japan is one of the only places in the world where you can purchase a video of another Disney animated classic that’s been repeatedly accused of being racially insensitive — “South of the South” — maybe this wasn’t actually an accident. Maybe there are folks at Disney who thought the Jewish Peddler version of the Big Bad Wolf would go over great in the Orient.

I wish I had the definitive answer on this subject for you folks. Does anyone out there have an authoritative explanation as to how this long-hidden-away piece of animation suddenly ended up as part of the Japanese laser disc version of “The Three Little Pigs?” I’m sure that it would make a really great story for … if we could just get to the bottom of that particular movie mystery.

Next up, DJ writes in to ask:

Hi Jim –

I’m an avid reader of your site and am always amazed that you have answers to some pretty far out questions. Well, in that vein, I’m hoping that you can lend some insight to mine. I have a couple of questions in regards to that “Disney After Dark” show that I recently got in my “Disneyland Treasure” collection. In the show, Walt is seen autographing hats and these appearances seem to be canned. So my questions are:

1. Was Walt really signing and — if he was — what happened to all those hats?
2. Why was Walt’s appearance taped? There were a lot of big stars on this show, so I’m surprised that Walt wasn’t there live.

Keep up the great work!


Dear DJ:

Thanks for the kind words about As for the show you’re asking about, according to my handy-dandy copy of Bill Cotter’s “The Wonderful World of Disney Television: A Complete History” (which no serious Disneyana fan should be without, so go pick up a copy today), it was actually called “Disneyland After Dark.” And it originally aired as an episode of NBC’s “The Wonderful World of Color” ‘way back on April 15, 1962.

And you’re right about those shots of Walt that are featured in the program being canned, DJ. Those are what used to be called process shots. In order to achieve this illusion … well, Walt would stand in front of a big yellow screen on a soundstage on the Disney lot while the cameras rolled. He’d then interact with the various actors who’d been hired to portray typical Disneyland guests who just wanted the old Mousetro’s autograph.

After those scenes were shot … well, the special effects wizards at Disney Studio would just take Walt’s footage and fold that in with stuff that they’d shot previously of really-for-real guests milling around in front of Sleeping Beauty Castle. When these two pieces of film were combined … Presto Changeo! It would appear as if Walt actually were out in Anaheim being amusingly annoyed by tourists.

As to why Walt himself didn’t really make a trip out to the park to take part in the festivities. Well, you have to understand, DJ, that the appearances by Louis Armstrong, the Osmond Brothers, Annette Funicello and Bobby Rydell that are featured in the show actually happened over several different weekends in the Summer and Fall of1961. So trying to arrange to have Walt on hand as each of these sequences were shot would have been a bit of a logistical nightmare.

Not to mention that back in late 1961 / early 1962, Walt Disney was a really busy guy. He had literally dozens of irons in the fire at this point. Lots of ambitious projects like “Mary Poppins” and “The Enchanted Tiki Room” (not to mention the high covert land search for the East Coast version of Disneyland as well as all the shows for the 1964 New York World’s Fair) occupying his mind. Eating up all of his free time.

So Walt doing his bit for “Disneyland After Dark” by standing up in front of a process screen may seem like a bit of a cheat now. At least to you and me. But to an executive who was as busy as Walt was back then, doing it that way just must have seemed like the most sensible thing to do.

Now — as for those hats that Walt autographed, DJ — I’m betting that the crew that was on the set that day got them. Probably took them home to the wife and kids as souvenirs of an interesting day at the studio. Otherwise … well, maybe they went back to Wardrobe.

If that’s the case … well, I’m betting that some enterprising Disney employee who works with the folks who do the “Disney Treasures” auctions over at eBay is — as they read this — now making plans to scour the studio’s wardrobe department. To find out what actually did become of those ridiculous but (since Walt actually evidently autographed these things as part of the show) now highly valuable hats.

So — if I were you, DJ — I’d keep an eye on eBay over the next couple of months. It could be that something pretty intriguing could pop up over there over the next few months.

And finally, Maureen E. of Manchester, NH checks in to ask:


Did you ever have any luck finding “The Love Bug” on DVD? The reason I’m asking is that — on a recent trip to WalMart — I noticed that they seemed to have literally dozens of copies of that title. Along with tons of the collectors edition of “20,000 Leagues Under the Sea.”

So — if you’re still not able to find a copy of “The Love Bug” — I’d be happy to pick up one for you, Jim, and send it along. Sort of as a “Thank You” present for all the great stories you’ve shared with me over the past few years.

I’m serious, Jim. Just say the word and I’ll go pick up that DVD for you today.

Let me know, okay?


Dear Maureen:

Thanks for your most generous offer. Thanks also to the dozens of other loyal readers who also wrote to me, offering to help me out in my somewhat desperate search for the two disc edition of “The Love Bug” DVD. I am pleased to announce that my search is over. A few weeks back, I was finally able to acquire a copy of “The Love Bug” on DVD.

And you know what? This two disc Collector’s Edition of the movie ain’t half bad. By that I mean: it’s got a lot of intriguing extra features — like a brief film on “Love Bug” Day at Disneyland (where hundreds of VW owners drove out to Anaheim with their elaborately decorated cars to take part in a parade that rolled straight through the park!) as well as a great making-of documentary. But you know what my favorite feature on this two disc DVD is? The audio commentary that goes with the “Love Bug” movie.

Mind you, this is probably the least organized/professional audio commentary in the history of Buena Vista Home Entertainment. Poor Dean Jones desperately tries to keep the thing on track. But then the late, great Buddy Hackett starts telling these stories that have absolutely nothing to do with “The Love Bug.” How — back in the late 1940s — Columbia Pictures tried to hire him to replace Curly Howard as a member of the Three Stooges. Who Buddy performed with back in Las Vegas in the day. All these great schmoozy show business anecdotes that really have nothing to do with the movie.

But then Dean Jones (being the good, loyal Disney vet that he is) tries to get Buddy back on track. Talking about the movie that the two of them (and us) are actually watching … only to have Hackett matter-of-factly say something like “You know, I thought that I did such a bad job as Tennessee Steinmetz that — after that first test screening in Encino — I actually went out behind the theater and threw up.” Very funny and very real stuff.

And Michelle Lee’s comments are a hoot too. Just her story about how she screwed up the film’s continuity by forgetting to put her earrings back on for one shot (and more importantly, how mad the Disney Studio execs got at her when they heard about this error) makes the disc worth owning. Not to mention her tales about how David Tomlinson kept cracking everyone else up when his face got stuck in the glove compartment. (Don’t ask. It’s hard to explain. Just go pick up a copy of the “Love Bug” DVD, watch it … all will become clear.)

Mind you, if you’re a hardcore film historian and really want an audio commentary that tells — in excruciating detail — how Disney’s “The Love Bug” was actually made, then maybe you won’t enjoy this DVD. If — on the other hand — you like off-the-cuff sounding show business anecdotes (or have any sort of fondness for Mr. Hackett, who sadly passed away earlier this month), then do yourself a favor and go pick up a copy of the “Love Bug” DVD.

And speaking of serious information … I almost forgot. This weekend — Saturday, July 12th and Sunday, July 13th — there is this amazing “20,000 Leagues Under the Sea” event being held at the Anaheim Marriot Suites in Garden Grove, CA. Some truly notable former and current Disney Company employees — people like Tony Baxter, Tim Kirk, Kevin Kidney and Peter Renaday — will be turning out to talk about this landmark film as well as the amazing impact it’s had on the Disney theme parks.

Here’s just a sampling of the various events and seminars that will be presented as part of this two day exhibition:

“Nautilus Berths at the Disney Theme Parks and the Discovery Bay Project” hosted by Tony Baxter.
A “Tokyo DisneySea Overview” presentation as well as a “TDS Mysterious Island” presentation hosted by WDI vet and theme park designer Tim Kirk
A “Sneak Peek at 50th Anniversary 20K Merchandise” with Disney designer Kevin Kidney

All this, plus a tribute to perhaps one of the most colorful characters who ever worked for Walt Disney Imagineering, Tom Scherman.

It promises to be a most memorable weekend. Tickets are $45 for both days of the event. And seats are limited. As I type this, there are only eight seats left open for the “20,000 Leagues Exposition: Imagineering the Secrets of the Nautilus.”

So if you want to get in to on the fun, I suggest you get in your car now and drive down to the Anaheim Marriot Suites (which is located at 12015 Harbor Boulevard in Garden Grove, CA). The doors open at 9 a.m. on both days, with the festivities continuing ’til at least 5 p.m.

Would that I could be there myself. I’d love to hear what Tony Baxter has to say about Discovery Bay, not to mention Tim Kirk’s take on how TDS’s “Mysterious Island” section came to be.

Ah well … there’s always next year.

Anyway … that’s it for this extra special bonus weekend edition of “Why For.” If you have any addition questions about this weekend’s “20K” event, be sure to check out the Chandler’s Cove Historical Society’s official website.

Beyond that … you folks have a great weekend, okay?


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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