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Mickey's Toontown Fair: The Cartoon Tale Behind Magic Kingdom's Only Lost Land

Mickey’s Toontown (Disneyland – 1993)

Click and expand for a larger and more detailed view. Image: Disney

Plans for Roger Rabbit’s Toontown Trolley had been axed from the Disney-MGM Studios since the expansion it was a part of relied on a Dick Tracy E-Ticket. And while Disneyland in California could’ve still gone forward with a standalone Roger Rabbit ride in a purpose-built Hollywoodland as rumored, instead the long-running desire for a Roger Rabbit ride joined with the potential of a Mickey Mouse themed land… and unlike Florida’s, California’s would be permanent.

Disneyland would build a Toontown of its own; a colorful, cartoon cityscape, stretched and squashed as if captured in mid-frame as buildings bounce in Fleischer and Walter Lantz style.

Click and expand for a larger and more detailed view. Image: Disney

Set into the rolling Toontown Hills, this Technicolor town would finally provide a permanent answer to the question of where Mickey and friends lived. And though Mickey's Toontown might not have much in common with the darker, '40s-inspired Toontown of Roger Rabbit, the land would serve as a fitting home for both.

So in 1993, Disneyland gained its seventh themed land: Mickey’s Toontown. Constructed outside of the park’s protective, tree-lined berm, the land can only be accessed by passing through a portal under the Disneyland Railroad, where the real world melts into a gag-filled animated cityscape.

Image: Disney

The city is divided into two regions: the first is a “Residential” neighborhood featuring Donald’s Boat spray-ground, Chip ‘n Dale Treehouse, Mickey’s House and Minnie’s House walkthrough meet-and-greets, Goofy’s Playhouse, and interactive props, gags, photo spots, and Easter eggs throughout. One of the land’s signature attractions is Gadgets Go Coaster, a family roller coaster themed to the inventive mouse from Disney Channel’s Chip ‘n Dale Rescue Rangers TV series.

Image: Disney

Toontown also has a “Downtown” district that includes shopping and dining, the Toontown Trolley (now stationary, but previously traveling between the two regions of town), and the Toontown Cab Company, home to Roger Rabbit’s Car Toon Spin – a black-light, kinetic, clever dark ride through Toontown aboard Lenny the Cab!

On-board, riders control the spin of their vehicle (Mad Tea Party style) even as the dark ride navigates the twisted roadways of Toontown running from the sinister weasels and their attempts to use the toxic “Dip” to erase us. It's a disorienting dark ride that features some spectacular how'd-they-do-that effects that continue to be surprising, even after multiple rides. You can see a video of Roger Rabbit’s Car Toon Spin at Disneyland here:

While the Toontown embodied on Roger Rabbit’s dark ride may be the dark, twisted, 1940s underbelly of the more whimsical, timeless world depicted in Mickey’s Toontown outside, it’s interesting to consider the role that Roger Rabbit played in today’s story. Because even though Magic Kingdom has never hosted a Roger Rabbit ride, the Toontown he inspired in California served as the jumping off point for Magic Kingdom’s lost land...

Refresher

Mickey’s Birthdayland opened in June 1988. It was never meant to last.

After a 60th birthday lasting more than two years, the land was renamed Mickey’s Starland in 1990, simply replacing the Mickey's Birthday Surprise show with Mickey's Starland Show incorporating the Disney Afternoon characters.

Across the country, the 1993 opening of Mickey’s Toontown at Disneyland offered a more permanent version of the concept, giving Mickey his own custom-built land that was quite a bit more convincing than Magic Kingdom’s temporary version, if only by way of featuring actual, permanent attractions and a connection to Who Framed Roger Rabbit?.

Image: Disney, via Yesterland.com

Two years after the opening of Toontown, Magic Kingdom’s still-technically-temporary land was briefly renamed Mickey’s Toyland for the 1995 holiday season, still without a ride. But designers were working on a way to make Mickey's Magic Kingdom land feel a little more permanent.

When it re-opened on October 1, 1996 – Walt Disney World’s 25th anniversary – it had undergone more than just a name change…

Mickey’s Toontown Fair (Florida – 1996)

“Where does Mickey Mouse live?”

He lives in Toontown, of course…! That’s where you’ll find a bustling town of cartoon stars nestled into the Toontown Hills; it's a metropolis for Mickey and friends, complete with their homes and gardens in a cozy neighborhood and a frantic downtown district. And if you want to see that, you’ll need to go to Disneyland all the way out in California. Like most of us, Mickey only calls one place home.

Image: Disney, via Yesterland.com

But where does he vacation? Ah, now we’re talkin’! While Mickey, Minnie, Pluto, Goofy, Donald and the gang maintain permanent residence at Disneyland, Mickey’s Toontown Fair is their home-away-from-home. As it sounds, Toontown Fair is what you might expect of a rural county fair in a cartoon world... which meant that those old, leftover, temporary birthday tents were now fair tents – a perfectly reasonable explanation! (And a clever, money-saving excuse to explain away the re-use of Birthdayland’s impermanent festival tents without constructing the more expensive, built-out Toontown proper.)

While it may be true that Mickey's Toontown Fair is mostly just a modest redress of Mickey's Birthdayland (and its successors) from a decade earlier, Toontown Fair is by all accounts a more Disney-quality product if only for the inclusion of more to see and do and one ride. The still-small cul-de-sac still features the personal residence of the mouse himself, but now it's Mickey's Country House – Mickey's vacation house when the county fair rolls into town.

Naturally, guests tour past Mickey's bedroom and (under construction) kitchen, pass through a game room, and explore a garden and tool shed out back. To tour Mickey's Country House is a whimsical walkthrough in its own right, but even better, the tour continues through Mickey's comical gardens and out to the Judge's Tent behind, where you can meet the Big Cheese himself:

Across the plaza, a brand new Minnie's House glows expectedly pink with purple frosted gables and heart-shaped weathervanes. The plastic pink house contains as many interactives and hidden details as Mickey's, including – for example – a painting in progress in the front room of... well, it appears to be Goofy riding a biplane directly into his farm's watertower!

Minnie's House may strike an uncomfortable tone to modern sensibilities given that her house is comprised of a living room stocked with fashion magazines, a sewing room, a kitchen (with a memorable "diet cookies" illusion), and a greenhouse sunroom exclusively. But, having been "born" in 1928 herself, Minnie is an old fashioned girl after all.

Neither mouse's house, it should be noted, has a bathroom. Maybe – like us – they need to walk next door to Pete's Garage when nature calls.

Donald's Boat is here, too, but unlike the simple photo-op plywood backdrop of Birthdayland, it's a small splashpad park for families to explore. 

Still, the real takeaway from Mickey's Toontown Fair is the first ride to take up residence in the land – The Barnstormer at Goofy's Wiseacre Farm. You can't miss the marquee – it's an old-fashioned biplane emblazoned with a "G" on its fin, rammed into a wooden watertower. Ahh...!

Image: HarshLight, Flickr (license)

Goofy is an aeronautical stunt pilot like those who frequented air shows in the early 20th century, performing aerial acrobatics for the awe-struck crowd below. But in true Goofy fashion, things don't seem to have gone particularly well... the path he's carved through the farm gives a new meaning to the term "barnstormer," leaving chaos and clucking chickens in his wake.

Like the rest of Toontown Fair, the journey through Goofy's farm is an attraction itself, passing by popcorn growing on stalks, past Audio Animatronic chickens that erupt with squawks each time a train passes, and beside barns marked by Goofy's cartoon silhouette as if he blasted right through them (in that special way that only a cartoon character can). 

Image: Matt Dempsey, Flickr (license)

Then, guests tour past Goofy's newest engineering design: a "Multiflex Octoplane" with eight individually-articulating segments, each providing two side-by-side seats... Cleverly, Goofy's plane looks quite a bit like a roller coaster train, and it serves as a farm-flying coaster for the whole family.

You can get a glimpse of Goofy's Barnstormer as it makes its way through Wiseacre Farm here:

In fact, the Barnstormer is a fairly simple Vekoma Junior Coaster model, with no less than two identical cousins in Orlando alone – Woody Woodpecker's Nuthouse Coaster and the Flying Unicorn (soon to become Flight of the Hippogriff). Gadget's Go Coaster back in Anaheim is a clone of the ride, as well.

While the Barnstormer may not be a thrill-seekers dream, it is a convenient stepping stone for Disney World's youngest guests – those who wouldn't dare face Big Thunder Mountain yet.

Image: HarshLight, Flickr (license)

When Mickey’s Toontown Fair officially opened in 1996, it wasn’t necessarily a headlining attraction, but certainly it was an upgrade from the temporary arrangement that had existed for nearly a decade before. Even still dominated by circus tents, Mickey’s Toontown Fair felt like a land unto itself, separate from Main Street, Adventureland, Frontierland, Liberty Square, Fantasyland, and Tomorrowland.

But the first permanent land added to Magic Kingdom wouldn’t end up being so permanent after all… On the last page, we’ll take a look at why Disney closed Mickey’s Toontown Fair… and why it’s not as gone as Disney had originally intended...

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