Wednesday, May 01, 2019

ToonTown Pre-Opening

It's time for more photos from the Dream Team of Irene, her brother Bruce, and their friend James. 

These photos are related to the imminent debut of Mickey's Toontown - a whole new land inspired by the movie "Who Framed Roger Rabbit". Since Toontown opened on January 24th, 1993, it is safe to assume that these photos are probably from late 1992. 

I especially like this neat picture peeking over an olive drab construction wall - I don't recall ever seeing a photo of that wall before, with Mickey, Pluto, and Roger Rabbit. Roger is holding a hand drill, as if he was going to provide a hole for us to look through. But... where's the hole?

I'm not sure if this sign was displayed along that same wall; in any case, it announced the construction of Toontown Station. The Fleischer-inspired architecture of Toontown Station seems (to me) to be at odds with Disney's animation style, but I guess that is nit-picking.

I wonder if this photo (and the next one) was taken from the Disneyland RR? That might explain why they are not super-sharp (being taken from a moving vehicle). Still, you can see that progress on the new land is moving along nicely.

This one was taken mere moments later, I am guessing.

And lastly, here is an early morning peek beneath the tunnel that leads into the still-unopened Toontown (notice the metal barriers and orange cones in the distance). They could have chosen to put up barriers to prevent photos like this, but I guess they must have decided that these previews would whet the public's appetite.

There are more photos from Toontown, including some from the opening ceremonies. Thanks as always to Irene, Bruce, and James!


Nanook said...


ToonTown, although fun in some respects, was a bit of a let-down. (Perhaps a harbinger of things to come, that has yet to cease...)

Thanks to the Dream Team and The Major for sharing these images.

TokyoMagic! said...

The hole in the wall in that first pic, is in the door in the wall (just to the left of Pluto). Back then, they almost always seemed to have a door in the construction walls, with a hole for workers to reach through so they could open the door. There would usually be a rubber flap hanging down over the hole to prevent you from just casually looking in, but if you stuck your fingers through the hole, you could easily lift up the rubber flap and get a view of the construction.

It looks like that last pic was taken through the hole, but after the wall was moved closer to the new train overpass. I shot some brief video of the wall in that location, in May of 1992. That video can be seen here: Toontown Construction Wall and Sign

TokyoMagic! said...

For some reason, I am having trouble with Blogger, Google and YouTube. If that link above doesn't work, try cutting and pasting this address:

Andrew said...

The photographer was pretty excited about ToonTown! Was the sign in the first picture ever used during operation?

Also, in the second-to-last picture you can see the trees on the backdrop that spell out "WDI." I've always thought those were interesting.

Stefano said...

Nanook, let-down and harbinger sums it up for me too. Toontown is the first land which has little appeal for adults, and maybe anyone over twelve. Though Fantasyland corresponded with the Kiddielands of earlier amusement parks, adults have always been beguiled by the dark rides and Storybook Land or just by watching their young ones thrilled by the Carousel or Dumbo. Toontown has that look and feel of a sugar fit. The façade of Small World was tampered with also, bad harbinger.

Some years back there was talk of Star Wars Land replacing the Toontown area. How many would have regretted to see TT go? Sorry to be so Grumpy on the first day of May.

Major Pepperidge said...

Nanook, I feel the same way about ToonTown; there are good elements, but ultimately it feels a little “thin”.

TokyoMagic!, interesting! You can even see that lots of dirty hands have left their mark around that door hole. And at first I thought, “those pictures couldn’t have been taken through the hole”, but when you mentioned that the wall had been moved closer (and provided video proof!), I think you are spot-on. Thanks!

Penna.Andrew, I’m not sure what happened to any of those signs after ToonTown actually opened, but I’ll bet a reader knows. I didn’t know about trees that spell out “WDI” - and even when looking for them in that photo, I’m straining to see which ones are the right ones. There’s that one with a hole in the foliage that presumably is the “D”?

Stefano, I always thought it was weird that somebody felt that Disneyland needed a special land so that “kids would have something to do”. Uh, what? Meeting Mickey, Minnie, or Donald is fine, but if you’re not into the characters that much, then the Car Toon Spin is the only thing for grownups. And I remember those rumors about Star Wars Land potentially meaning that ToonTown would go away; the Car Toon Spin is on the eastern-most edge of TT, and I thought, “They could tear it all down and still save the best ride!”.

Matt said...

I had an AP back then and the built-up to a new land was so intense. We were so excited at the prospect of Toontown. Seeing the construction of it just added to the excitement. Myself and 2 other friends skipped our college classes and went opening day and it was insane! The crowds were crazy, and the media presence was something I had never seen before. I think we waited 3 hours in line before we finally got into the land and even on that first day we were all, "this is it?". Hopefully the new upcoming Mickey ride will help boost its appeal.

Irene said...

I can not over state how excited my brother Bruce was for this new "land". When he got excited about something, in this case Roger Rabbit, it became an obsession. So to say he was looking forward to this is an understatement. He purchased so much Roger Rabbit stuff, it was insane. I still have a sateen jacket with Roger embroidered on the back and a denim jacket with Roger again embroidered on it. On opening day I have the photos of Bruce with Roger. He was like a kid in a candy shop. I am sure either Bruce took these photos or was with James the day they were taken.

Anonymous said...

Major and Irene, thanks so much for sharing Bruce's memories and pictures of ToonTown.

This was the big thing right around the time of my first visit to Disneyland with my toddler kids, and my return after about 15 years hiatus.

I don't recall being really disappointed, but the hype definitely exceeded the experience, as we recalled. Toontown was a funny notion in the film, but a thin concept translated to reality. The RR ride was pretty good and I would ride it again, even now, if the wait time was right. I wish Disney had done more with that character/property.

I do recall it as scalding hot, with no shade or any place to get a decent bite to eat, or even sit down. All the foods at that time were french fries, but this was typical of the Park at that time, and it is much improved today.

My daughter has become a Disney fan, attending some Dapper Days and similar events in addition to trips with Mom and Dad, but I find it interesting (especially in light of my fellow Junior Gorillas' fascination with the Disneyland of our youth), she has almost no interest in ToonTown or Roger Rabbit. The last couple of visits, we didn't even go back under the bridge to walk around, much less ride anything.

Both kids (now adults) are very focused on Star Tours and Indiana Jones, which were also the buzz at the time of their first visits, so maybe their nostalgia is focused. They run back and forth between the two fast pass areas alternately, which I find exasperating, since I want to run back and forth between the Haunted Mansion and Pirates.

At some point, there was an "Afternoon Avenue" (I think it was called this, based on Disney channel after-school cartoons?) overlay in this area. I recall a character meet & greet opportunity with Baloo Bear as a pilot, in a very cheap portable building under the train trestle. I can't recall if that was before or after TT opened. Does anyone else recall this event or dates? It also involved some crummy "Gummi Bear" plywood flats in the Motorboat ride before it closed.

This was my first contact with the Pressler regime, and we were not impressed. Of course, it went downhill from there.

Thanks again for the look back!


Major Pepperidge said...

Matt, when you think about it, this was the first new “land” since Bear/Critter Country. And Roger Rabbit had been so huge. I was pretty excited for it, until I eventually learned that so much of it was aimed at small children. It’s not terrible by any means (hello, Super Star Limo), it just lacks that “oomph” that one might hope for.

Irene, I can only imagine how excited Bruce must have been! If I had been able to go to the park as often as he did, I’m sure I would have made a point to be there on opening day. Funny how Roger Rabbit has sort of gone by the wayside; it would be nice if they made more cartoons with him.

JG, ToonTown was built for people with toddlers! As I said in my writeup, one of the things that didn’t work for me is that Disney cartoons really did not have that off-kilter architecture once Walt’s artists were able to render buildings in perspective. The Fleischer artists were amazing, but not so tied to realism (until they felt like they had to compete with the Disney Studio on things like “Gulliver”). Does your daughter dress up for Dapper Days? I’m sure my lack of excitement over the George Lucas properties has to do with age - I was just a little bit older than the kids who lived and breathed “Star Wars”. So I liked it, but that’s as far as it went. I’ve never owned a Star Wars toy (though I’ve purchased them for my nephews). According to Yesterland, the Motor Boat Cruise to Gummi Glen opened in 1991, but “didn’t survive to the January 1993 opening of Mickey’s Toontown”.

Andrew said...

Major ~ it is hard to see, but the tree (to the left of the one with the hole you mentioned - the 'D') looks U-shaped in this picture, but actually has a center branch that makes it a 'W'. To the right is a single spire that functions as a 'I". You can Google it to find lots of better examples.

TokyoMagic! said...

I didn't see Toontown until a year after opening, when the Roger Rabbit ride was brand new. I agree, they could bulldoze most of it and just leave that ride. It does seem like wasted space, especially since the things that were supposedly for the "little ones" have been closed or scaled back, like Goofy's Bounce House and Chip and Dale's Acorn/Ball Crawl. Even Donald's Boat has had a lot of it's interactive experiences removed from it.

Does anyone remember Disney announcing in 1990, "The Disney Decade" of expansion and new attractions? That was supposed to include a "Hollywoodland" that would have only had a section of it dedicated to Roger Rabbit. But even that was going to include two Roger Rabbit-themed rides, "Baby Herman's Runaway Baby Buggy Ride" and a type of simulator ride through Toontown, aboard a trolley. And speaking of trolleys, even the Toontown Trolley was shut down and now just sits there as a photo op. Disney can be so freakin' disappointing at times! Wait, actually most of the time now. :-(

TokyoMagic! said...

And JG, I remember the Disney Afternoon overlay to the Small World mall area, the Motor Boat Cruise and the Fantasyland Autopia. I also remember that meet and greet under the train tracks with Baloo, but I didn't go in there. I think that overlay was definitely the precursor to Toontown, although I imagine by 1991, they already had plans to build Toontown.

And just to vent a little bit more, Toontown takes up all that space and then it isn't even open in the evenings. They always close if for the fireworks and then it never reopens.....not that I really want to go back there, but again, it just seems like wasted space. The fact that it closes for the fireworks also makes me wonder about the soon-to-open Wookie World and the fireworks. Since that land is going to be just to the west of Toontown and just as far north, won't that be a problem too, when they launch the fireworks? I can't imagine them closing the entire land down, like they do with Toontown. Will they continue to do fireworks shows after Ewok Alley opens? And whatever happened to that rumor of them replacing fireworks shows in the future, with "drones"?

Melissa said...

I keep forgetting that ToonTown even exists in California. Granted, I tend to visit more adult-oriented Disney websites, and there's no longer a corresponding ToonToen in my "home" park. I didn't look for
it at DLR while I was out there because it just wasn't on my radar. The Roger Rabbit ride sounds pretty rad, though. The only "attractions" in the Magic Kingdom version were indoor character greetings, and they've been replaced by others in Fantasyland, Storybook Circus, and Main St., so there wasn't much outcry when it was removed.

I remember when I was in the Magic Kingdom in 2012, there were peepholes in the construction wall around the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train.

Melissa said...

okay, I just watched a ride through of Roger Rabbit's Car Toon Spin, and I was going to say that it's kind of like the heir to Mr. Toad's Wild Ride. Then I remembered that y'all still HAVE Mr. Toad's Wild Ride. *sigh*

Chuck said...

Irene, thanks again for sharing Bruce's photos with us. My first adult visit was in December of '93, so I missed all of this at the time. I think it's great you have your bother's Roger Rabbit jacket.

JG, that's an interesting dichotomy between what your kids want to see at Disneyland and what you want to see, and I'm sure it has a lot to do with childhood nostalgia. I like Indy and Star Tours, but if I could only ride two attractions, it'd be Pirates and HM. Not only is there the nostalgia factor, but as I get older I appreciate not having to walk as far.

TM!, fireworks fallout won't be an issue in Ewok Alley as long as the shields hold.

Anonymous said...

I think I heard there were some intellectual property issues with Roger which could be why they didn't do more with that character and world.

Major, thanks for the time line info. I have to get our trip dates figured out. I only recalled two trips, but my daughter said we made three visits before she was in high school, so my memories are all a mishmash. I admit that I am a Star Wars fan, but since I was in college when it came out, I never really bought any toys. I did keep my SW dorm room poster, (but threw away my Farrah Fawcett and Loni Anderson posters). My kids fell in the gap between the originals and prequels, so they never bought many toys either. We are looking forward to a Wookie World visit at some point, but I'm not in a hurry since I'm afraid I will be so upset at the changes in the rest of the Park that I won't ever go back.

TM, thanks for the confirmation on Afternoon Avenue. It was all really cheap and crude, I thought it was only acceptable because it was obviously temporary on the way to something better. I never imagined it would become a model for future development. I think they must close TT early since they figure all the kids need to go to bed. They should open a Roger Rabbit speakeasy there and sell adult beverages after the fireworks. If they close Wookie World after fireworks, there will be another Rebellion.

Melissa, I never thought of Cartoon Spin as another Mr. Toad, but you are right. Something about a car chase that never gets old. Odd that WDW didn't get ToonTown, but you aren't missing much. The RR pre-show is pretty good tho.

Chuck, I agree, it's definitely "what we liked when we were nine". Like my Dad, I'm a big fan of the NOS area and could sit around there all day, so standing outside in a long line isn't much hardship to me. That little corner is really what brings me back.


Major Pepperidge said...

Penna. Andrew, thanks, I did Google it, and it made it clearer! That’s a fun bit of trivia that I’m surprised I’d never heard before.

TokyoMagic!, what? I thought you loved everything that Disney was doing these days! If you didn’t, I figured you would say something. I knew they’d closed the Bounce House, and let’s face it, I don’t need anything called a “Ball Crawl” in my life, ha ha. I had NO idea that there were so many other attractions originally planned for TT; I wonder if that upcoming Mickey Mouse ride will wind up being a redo of the Baby Herman concept? the simulator ride through ToonTown… meh. I’m over simulator rides, I think.

Melissa, oh I see how it is! I guess I’m not an “adult-oriented Disney website”! Well from now on there will be lots more nudity. LOTS MORE! And gratuitous violence. You’ll see! I actually really like the Roger Rabbit ride a lot, it’s a great dark ride. I wish they’d do more stuff like that, to be honest. Maybe the kids don’t agree. Rumors are flying about how some of our dark rides are not long for this world, but we will see.

Melissa, the unique part is that you can spin your vehicle at will much like the teacups. It really gives it a manic feel.

Chuck, I don’t think I knew that your first Disneyland visit was in ’93 (though you’ve probably mentioned it before). I figured you went “way back”. It’s no surprise that kids want something different than the older folks. Just like movies; my nephew thinks the Transformers movies are the best thing ever, and I find them borderline unwatchable. Gosh, that’s an interesting thought; if I could only ride two attractions, which ones would they be? I think the Haunted Mansion would be in contention, but I might choose the Disneyland Railroad as well.

Melissa said...

They should open a Roger Rabbit speakeasy there and sell adult beverages

There used to be a lingerie shop called "Jessica Rabbit's" in the adults-only Pleasure Island section of Florida's Downtown Disney. Pics and story here:

Graffer said...

We wants more nudity!
We wants more gratuitous violence!
We wants more adult beverages!

Chuck said...

Major, my first adult visit was in '93. My childhood visits were in 1971, 1975, and 3x in 1976. That's not including the hundreds (thousands?) of "virtual visits" via souvenir maps, souvenir books, and INA guides in between visits. And I guess my memory is somewhat freakish in that I remember large chunks of my childhood - some things from as far back as when I was 11 months old. Disneyland visits, being major life events, are the kinds of things that really stuck in my memory.

Anonymous said...

What Graffer Said.


Irene said...

Great comments on this. This is why I am so glad I gave all the Disneyland photos to the major :)

I wanted to add that I think my brother related to Peter Pan because he never grew up! You all mention not buying toys of Star Wars, etc. Let me tell you that Bruce got excited about all kinds of things, not just Roger. And when he did he bought so many toys and stuff. So think Star Wars, Star Trek, Harry Potter, How to Train Your Dragon (that was his last big one), and that's all I can remember right now as think there was more. Cleaning out his apartment was a nightmare. Fortunately he had a very close friend who was also into all this and he was designated by Bruce to take all that stuff. I don't know what we would have done with out him.

Melissa said...

Have I told this story before? Mom and Dad took us to see Return of the Jedi when it came out, and Mom got nauseous and had to leave the theater when she saw Jabba the Hutt drooling. Rotten little brat that I was, I got her bubble bath in a Jabba-shaped bottle that Christmas.

Anonymous said...

@Melissa. Brilliant. There really was bubble bath in a Jabba bottle? Oddest commerical tie-in ever.