I hope you did a double-take at the title of this month’s blog. 29 years ago at Disneyland? 30 years was an odd enough choice. But why change it now?
This is not really a change, just an acknowledgment of an item that is better presented a year in advance. You see, Toontown, which opened to the public in 1993, will be closing on March 9, 2022. It is more timely to take this look at “the land that toons built” now than in a year when it will no longer exist. (And don’t worry, next January you will be getting a full look at the Grand Opening of Toontown… Thirty Years Ago at Disneyland.)
For this month, I have selected 23 images of Toontown, taken on opening day, and paired them with 23 matching images taken within the last month. Some areas are inaccessible due to construction that has already begun, and other areas are so utterly changed that they cannot be replicated today.
We begin just outside the entrance to Toontown. In 1993 the new Toontown Station (which replaced the Videopolis station) and water tower were highly visible, beckoning guests to the newest land in Disneyland. In 2022, trees provide dense cover for both of these beacons.
Just before stepping under the trestle carrying the tracks of the Disneyland Railroad, one could see the fanciful topiary gardens of it’s a small world. On the day that Toontown was dedicated, colorful signs had been placed in the planter to the right of the entrance. By 2022 the topiaries had migrated closer to small world, and a secondary handrail with street lighting had been built parallel to the original railing.
Once inside, a look back toward the entrance offered a view of the spires of small world, and world-famous Matterhorn Mountain. Today the same view is virtually unrecognizable, as heavy foliage now blocks out everything outside of Toontown. The single greatest visual change in Toontown’s 29 years has been the growth of the trees, blocking views of many detailed structures and landscapes.
One of the more unusual structures was really just a “disguise” for the side of the exit tunnel for it’s a small world. An extension of the colorful facade (in 1993 small world had been repainted in a rainbow of pastel colors) had been added to the roofline, with a transition to the artificial horizon that formed the backdrop for Toontown. By 2022 trees have obscured all but a tiny portion of the transitional facade, which has been painted green to match the rest of the horizon line.
Very little has changed in the view across the Roger Rabbit fountain at the “downtown” end of Toontown. Sharp-eyed readers will note that the now-defunct Jolly Trolley appears in the 1993 view and that the 2022 view has the addition of the Wait Time/FastPass sign, disguised as a pile of whimsical luggage.
Another view toward the downtown area shows only the addition of a shade structure and the loss of a suspended bundle of crates.
Looking west from the far end of Toontown, one could easily see the Toontown hills with their distinctive sign at the far end of the land. The same view in present-day does not offer the visual enticement of the Toontown sign.
Moving closer, with the Toontown civic center to the north (right), the trolley station and suburban end of the land were clearly visible in 1993. Although a construction fence would seem to be the culprit in the 2022 view of the same area, it is again trees that are actually obscuring the view.
A slightly different angle, from 1993, offers a panoramic view of Goofy’s Bounce House, the Chip ’n Dale Treehouse, and Mickey’s House, nestled below the Toontown hills. In 2022, outdoor vending carts and additional shade trees are just about all one can see.
One side of the original Toontown civic center was given over to a trio of food outlets, with a modestly scaled horizon line peeking above the rooftops. In the present day, while the food locations remain pretty much the same, more tables and a large-scale show building create a far more crowded appearance.
Goofy’s Gas Station marked the end of the civic center and the start of the suburban end of Toontown. Note that in the present view, the invitations for “Free Air” and “Free Water” have been altered to “Free Air” and “Free Air.” This is presumably because the vending windows that replaced the show windows to the right of the canopy did not offer “free” water!
Across the street from Goofy’s Gas was Goofy’s Bounce House. Bisecting them were the tracks of the Jolly Trolley, with the eccentric, swaying, trolley cars themselves making the trip from one end of Toontown to the other. While the tracks remain in the present-day view, the precariously swaying trolleys are long gone.
What made Goofy’s Bounce House so appealing was the interior, in which everything was inflated and bouncy. Young guests waited in a long queue line that snaked through Goofy’s backyard, where his prowess as an amateur gardener was shown in a series of whimsical vignettes. After Goofy’s interior was deflated, his “Play House” and backyard became one big play space, and most of the “corny” displays were relegated to smaller planters.
One survivor in Goofy’s backyard is his madly spinning outdoor clothesline, still in place on the side of the hill above his garden.
Goofy shared his side of the street with neighbors Donald Duck (ensconced in the Miss Daisy, moored in Toon Lake), and Gadget, whose Go-Coaster was a masterpiece of recycled whimsy. Roger Rabbit no longer greets guests in Toontown, and guests are no longer allowed to explore the interior and upper decks of the Miss Daisy.
Looking back toward the homes of Goofy and Donald, the 1993 image offers a clear view of the stylized bluffs surrounding one side of Toon Lake. By 2022 heavy landscaping has made this less visible.
It was once possible to get panoramic views from the upper decks of the Miss Daisy. This included a clear view of the Chip ’n Dale Tree Slide and Acorn Crawl, which was at the end of Toontown’s suburban area. A similar view today (taken from the lift hill of Gadget’s Go-Coaster) is less clear, although Chip ’n Dale’s now denuded Tree House can be seen peeking above the trees. The tree slides are long gone, and all that is left of the long-since abandoned Acorn Crawl is an odd cavern in the base of the hill beyond.
The sign (1993 and 2022) says it all, although the figure of Chip is still “tree sliding” and Dale is still “acorn crawling.”
Incredibly, from the upper level of the Chip ’n Dale’s tree, it was once possible to see all the way to the other end of Toontown. Predictably, that view is no]w completely compromised by trees that have gotten out of hand.
The other side of the suburban end of Toontown is given over to the homes of the Big Cheese and his sweetheart, Minnie Mouse. Her lavender house can be seen in both the 1993 and 2022 views.
The walkthrough of Minnie’s house led to a charming backyard wishing well, and a trip right into Mickey’s house. By 2022 the wishing well has been replaced by a small gazebo. And the tree in Minnie’s yard has grown tremendously (although it still has the same diagonal trunk).
Looking at Mickey’s house then and now gives one an appreciation for keeping ornamental trees trimmed and in scale. Hopefully, this will be addressed while Toontown is being “refreshed.”
Time to leave Toontown and head back into Disneyland proper. In 1993 the Matterhorn beckoned beyond the railroad overpass. The 2022 view is, incredibly enough, taken from the same spot. It’s like a magic trick where they made a whole mountain disappear.
And there you are, Mickey’s Toontown as it looked on opening day, and Toontown 29 years later. Whatever else is offered in the new version of this land, we can hope it will, at the very least, involve restoring many of the iconic views that have been lost over the years.