Tomorrow marks the end of an era, when Mickey’s Toontown Fair closes in Orlando. Twenty-two years after its opening as a “temporary” area, Mickey’s Birthdayland, the cobbled-together land will face the bulldozer in preparation for the Fantasyland expansion.
Mickey’s Birthdayland debuted to celebrate the Mouse’s 60th birthday in 1988. Pieced together on a shoestring budget in only a few months, the area included a live show, a Mickey meet-and-greet, a petting zoo, and a small playground. The rather low-rent aspect of the land was kind of shocking back in 1988.
The show in one of the circus tents was replaced a few times over the years; when the area was renamed Mickey’s Starland in 1990 the show changed to focus on the the-popular “Disney Afternoon” cartoon lineup. In 1996 the area was closed and upgraded, and re-opened as Mickey’s Toontown Fair. The buildings were made more permanent, the rotting temporary tents were replaced, and more landscaping was added. Disney also added the Barnstormer kiddie coaster, and houses for Minnie Mouse and Donald Duck.
For a trip back to when the land was new, let’s look at this clip from the 1988 Walt Disney World 4th of July Spectacular. It gives a pretty thorough look at the land at the time, and shows actual scenes from the Minnie’s Surprise Party show. There’s actually quite a bit packed into this clip, so watch closely:
So, let’s break down some of the small details. You might have noticed that Mickey’s Birthdayland wasn’t even Toontown – it was Duckburg! Considering that the TV show Ducktales was popular at the time, and that Duckburg was the only prominent fictional urban area in the Disney canon at the time, it made sense. I still pine for Duckburg to be done right in a Disney park. The area was filled with lots of trappings alluding to the fictional culture of Duckburg.
Did you see the kids eating the old – and much more awesome – Mickey Mouse ice cream bars? How about the old-school blue strollers? Did you see Roy Disney looking spookily like Walt? How about young Michael Eisner? The tiny boat, which was supposed to be Donald’s house, which was actually in Mickey’s backyard? How about Roger Rabbit, making his way into the picture? Grandma Duck’s Barn, and Maid Marian? The Mouse-ka-maze? And someone with a side ponytail!
How about the street names? Walt Street, Hyperion Blvd., Tailfeather Trail and Cornhusker Lane.
You can also see that there were several small-scale fake storefronts around the outside of the circus tent. There was Daisy’s Cafe and the Duckburg News, as well as Goofy’s Clip Joint Barber Shop – a name I’ve always found surprising!
One question – why do Mickey’s home movie titles make it look like he’s 4 years old?
Anyway, after two decades of mockery by theme park snobs like me, Toontown Fair is gone for good come the morrow. Mickey and Minnie will take up residence temporarily in Tomorrowland, until their new digs in the Main Street Exhibition Hall are completed. So sayonara, Toontown Fair – may your basic concept be revisited in the future with better results.