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Bye, Bye Birthdayland

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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.

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12 comments to Bye, Bye Birthdayland

  • [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Dis Marks, WDW Project Tracker, Matt Carter, Michael Crawford, Imagineering Disney and others. Imagineering Disney said: RT @ProgressCityUSA Care for a look back at what Birthdayland was like in 1988? There's a petting zoo!! http://bit.ly/fQoyU3 [...]

  • I know – I totally failed to mention Marc Summers and Tempestt Bledsoe. And at the end, the Grand Flo featuring the BEACH BOYS AND FAT BOYS.

  • I can’t believe how awful the character’s voices are!! It sounds like the director of the video just did it all himself! And Chip and Dale’s total monotone delivery… astonishing.

  • Yeah Chip and Dale crack me up – it’s like they’re going through a vocoder or something. HOW DO YOU ICE A CAKE? SILLY USE IIIICE…

  • So, I was 5 when Mickey’s Birthdayland was built, but I have to say, it is one of the few memories I have of my trips to WDW as a kid.

    I remember the Minnie’s Surprise Party Show! I remembered that yellow kitchen and different aspects of the show from watching that video again. Matter of fact, I have a video somewhere from that trip we took that featured this show in it. I wish I could find it.

    The thing I didn’t remember so easily until I saw that video were the “shops” that lined the street like Daisy’s Cafe. As soon as I saw it, I remembered sitting underneath one of the shops getting my picture taken.

    So, I guess what I’m trying to say is goodbye Mickey’s Birthdayland…and thanks for the memories!

  • walter

    The real question is where are the World of Motion (I think they’re from there, right?) chickens going? I’ll laugh if they end up at the new Goofy ride in California.

  • Paul

    Who did those character voices, and why does Mickey’s 60th birthday song sound very similar to Donald’s 50th?

  • Oh my….watching that video brought back that damn song. I remember seeing that show as a kid, and walking out going “Happy birthday…haaaaappy birthday! Happy birthday, birthday to you!” over and over again to my grandmother, driving her up a wall. I might have to send this along to her, remind her of those good times!

  • Also, the voices sound like Bob Saget doing the voices for America’s Funniest Home Videos.

  • “I still pine for Duckburg to be done right in a Disney park.”

    Amen to that… I’m still surprised there’s nothing alluding to it at Disneyland Paris, seeing how hugely popular Disney comic books have always been in Europe. It might actually be a draw for people over here.

  • Tim

    I’ve always wondered why the Mickey Mouse ice cream bars changed from much more awesome version seen in the video into the generic (but still iconic in their way) version we have today. You would think ice cream bar technology has improved enough through the years to allow us to still have Mickey Mouse ice cream bars with eyes and smiles.

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