Opening Mickey’s Toontown – 30 Years Ago at Disneyland

Serendipity is a word I have always enjoyed. It sounds as joyful as its meaning: the occurrence and development of events by chance in a happy or beneficial way. This month’s column, all about the opening of Mickey’s Toontown at Disneyland 30 years ago, falls on the same week that there will be a dedication of a new attraction, and a preview of the new Toontown that is to come.

On January 27 Disneyland will celebrate Toontown’s 30th birthday. Of course, officially, Mickey’s Toontown opened on January 24, 1993. Or did it?

Truth to tell, Toontown was not open that day. But that afternoon and evening (a Sunday), Toontown was the setting for a lavish party, hosted by Disney CEO Michael Eisner and attended by a galaxy of stars, including Robin Williams, Candice Bergen, Ted Danson, Tony Danza, Danny Devito, Tom Selleck, Dan Ackroyd, and Whoopi Goldberg.

Before the party, celebrity guests were paraded* down Main Street and past the Matterhorn in open cars, as awestruck fans eagerly snapped photos. And bringing up to the rear of the cavalcade were colorfully attired cast members, bearing signs reading, “Mickey’s Toontown or Bust,” “Mickey’s Toontown This Way,” and “Follow Me to Toontown.” So, of course, the crowd eagerly fell into step behind them, following them all the way to small world, where they were stopped in their tracks, and left watching as the Toontown gates swung shut for a private event.

So it wasn’t really an opening day, though it must have been a swell party.

The next day, Monday, January 25, was a media preview day, and again, no public was allowed. Among the events scheduled was an opening ceremony, complete with ribbon cutting. Disney CEO Michael Eisner and studio vice-chairman Roy E. Disney were on hand for photos and interviews. Harry Anderson, the star of the popular sitcom Night Court was the emcee for this particular welcome and dedication.

This is just one of the “official” images from that January 25th event.

But the public was not invited, and Toontown was not yet open. Besides, official publicity issued at the time stated that Mickey’s Toontown was to open on Tuesday, January 26. And that is the day I was there to witness the one and only, genuine, original, grand opening of Mickey’s Toontown.

After clearing the crowd at rope drop at the head of Main Street, and making my way past the castle and the Matterhorn, this is the view that met my eyes. I had heard that the original intention was to simply open the gates that morning, but after the disappointment of the previous two days (and this was pre-internet!), an opening ceremony had been devised.

The media was out in full force, and were still working inside Mickey’s Toontown and at their “Media Village,” set up in the Fantasyland Theater.

And lest anyone doubt that there really were cast members carrying signs beckoning guests to a party to which they were not welcome, the signs had been placed in planter beds on each side of the entrance.

It was a tight space, but room had been reserved for a sign and lectern. (If it looks familiar, go back and look at the first photo.)

And with a small band and red carpet placed on the other side, it made for tight quarters. My apologies for the quality of the photos; it was the best a civilian could do in those days.

Host (or hostess, as we would say back then) for the event was 1993 Disneyland Ambassador to the world Kathleen Mitts (now Kathleen Mitts Micalizzi). This was one of her earlier duties as that year’s Ambassador. After a warm welcome, she introduced the celebrity who would be officiating over the actual opening ceremony. Considering the calibre of talent that had graced the premises just two days earlier, there was a flutter of anticipation. Could it be… Harry Anderson? Roy E. Disney? Michael Eisner?

Joining us on behalf of the Walt Disney Company was none other than… Disneyland Executive Vice-president Norm Doerges. He in turn introduced Mickey Mouse, and together they brought forward an official “first family” to officially cut the ribbon, signaling the official opening of the gates to Mickey’s Toontown.

As we surged forward, I finally got a good look at a couple who had been standing in front of me, and mildly bickering during lulls in the activity. If you look at the lower right corner of that ribbon-cutting photo, you may have noticed them, too.

These two.

As they moved forward, he even turned back for a moment. At that time (1993) the internet had not revealed the identity and image of every single person working at the Walt Disney Company. But I did hear some interesting context clues as the couple was exchanging comments. They needed to get inside, in order to reach scheduled interview appointments. She was all for simply heading to the front; he was in favor of staying in place. And there was embroidery on the back of his coat: Disney Character Voices.

And here they are. When the crowd came to a sudden standstill, I caught sight of their badges and saw their names: Russi and Wayne. And their titles: Voice of Minnie Mouse and Voice of Mickey Mouse. They were gracious enough to pause for a quick photo, and then made their way to their respective interviews. Years later I would make the happy acquaintance of Russi Taylor and Wayne Allwine, known throughout the voice-over industry simply as, The Mice.

After that auspicious moment (a serendipitous occurrence?) I turned my attention to the new land that lay ahead of me. A glance back showed that quite a crowd was moving in behind me.

The working media also noted the uptick in activity as the crowd entered.

I decided it was time to get some photos. But where to start? This signpost, which I later realized had been created as a photo prop for the event, was of little help. So I made my way to the back of Toontown, with the intention of working forward again.

Moving ahead of the crowd, I spotted Roger Rabbit greeting his first guest. Roger was ubiquitous throughout the early 90s, as Michael Eisner seemed determined to imbue the Walt Disney Company with the creations of his administration.

By the time I took this shot of Toontown’s “suburbia,” the new land was starting to fill up.

Here is the civic center, marking the transition from the suburbs to “downtown” Toontown.

And finally, here is the city itself, now bustling with crowds. But not, as it turned out, with a signature attraction. Roger Rabbit’s Car Toon Spin was not destined to open for another year.

In full operation that day, however, was the Jolly Trolley. As it made its way very, very slowly from downtown to the suburbs, it gently swayed up and down, back and forth. Long lines soon developed at each end of the line. But the longest line was at the station at the Trolley’s mid-point, the one place the trolley did not actually stop.

In addition to the Disney characters, these guys were also making appearances that day. Greeting guests and posing for photos were Toontown’s own fireman, auto mechanic, utility worker, and policeman. Some readers may recognize them as none other than the Dapper Dans of Disneyland, apparently at their “real” jobs. In addition to their many other duties, they were also on hand to perform a little street show called Mickey’s Toontown Welcome Blast.

Lurking behind the scenes was a different group, with a different task at hand. Based on the suits and ties, it is safe to assume they were involved in the creation of Mickey’s  Toontown, and were there to see how the public was reacting.

For more of my reaction, and a fairly exhaustive opening day photo trip through that first day of Mickey’s Toontown, please return next month. But before I close this column, I would like to share a set of somewhat whimsical photos, taken with a most unusual camera.

At one point I had two different “Mick-A-Matic” cameras. I had never had occasion to use one, but the opening day of Mickey’s Toontown seemed quite appropriate. It was a fixed lens camera (that lens is in Mickey’s nose!), light leaked into the imperfectly sealed chamber (Mickey’s head), and the film format was 126 cartridge (which could still be found— and developed— in 1993). I decided to use the Mick-A-Matic to shoot character pictures that day. Here is a selection.

Disney’s newest star, Aladdin, checks in for an interview. The movie had debuted less than two months earlier, and had proved a big hit.

Disney royalty Minnie Mouse greeted fans outside her house.

Donald take a moment out from… filching a bag from a stroller???… to strike a pose.

Roger Rabbit, accompanied by handlers, makes his way off stage.

Chip and Dale, photographed in the somewhat gloomy depths of their “Acorn Crawl.”

Perhaps Launchpad McQuack is advising these guests that the Jolly Trolley does not actually stop at the station.

And… these guys again! Cheerfully waving goodbye.

But do be sure to come back next month for an in depth look at the wonders of the brand new Mickey’s Toontown, thirty years ago at Disneyland.

*Toontown cavalcade images courtesy Gary Marlis.


2 responses to “Opening Mickey’s Toontown – 30 Years Ago at Disneyland”

  1. Imagine seeing Winnie The Pooh, Mulan, Oswald The Lucky Rabbit, Flippy Doggenbottom, Bonkers D. Bobcat, Shnookums and Meat, Lilo & Stitch,
    The Wuzzles, Jim Hawkins ( from Treasure Planet ), Fluppy Dogs, Gummi Bears, Tarzan, Hercules and The Fox and The Hound at the Toontown grand opening during that time !

  2. Morris Chestnut Avatar
    Morris Chestnut

    Now a days the longest line would’ve surely been for the Gag Factory…All the AP holders would be buying out the shops entire inventory so they could sell it for triple what they paid…

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