Mickey’s Toontown should feel more welcoming, playful and calming with less pavement, dead spaces and cartoon intensity when the kid-centric themed land at the back of Disneyland returns after a yearlong makeover.
“This whole job wasn’t about tearing down Toontown and restarting,” Walt Disney Imagineering’s Jeff Shaver-Moskowitz said. “This whole job was about keeping what everybody loves about Toontown and making it better for the next generation. We tried to be careful about surgically taking what wasn’t working for us and fixing that up and keeping and preserving and bettering what was there.”
Shaver-Moskowitz led a hard hat construction tour of Toontown for the media last week ahead of the grand reopening of Mickey Mouse’s neighborhood on Sunday, March 19.
No longer does Toontown feel like a place designed by Roger Rabbit while amped up on too many Red Bulls and binge-eating a king-size bag of Skittles.
Imagineering wants the new Mickey’s Toontown to be a place for kids ages 3 to 9 and their parents to blow off steam, chill out and decompress after a busy day at Disneyland.
The colors have been toned down and the cartoon intensity has been turned down — or should we say “tooned down.”
“The color palette for Toontown was softened and pulled down instead of being those crazy cartoon colors to make it more welcoming and more soft and sweet,” said Shaver-Moskowitz, Imagineering’s Executive Portfolio Producer for the Disneyland Resort.
At first glance, Toontown feels largely unchanged. For the most part, everything is still in the same place. The ends of the land continue to be anchored by Roger Rabbit Car Toon Spin and a kiddie roller coaster with Toontown City Hall, Donald’s Boat and Mickey, Minnie and Goofy’s houses in between.
But Imagineering has introduced plenty of new details both obvious and subtle. For starters, the whole place has gotten a fresh coat of paint in what seems like the first time in 30 years. The entire land that was once a swath of pavement is much greener — thanks to more real trees and plenty of artificial grass. And everything seems more inviting and engaging — from the placemaking to the storytelling.
“We know a day at Disneyland can be hectic and chaotic, running from one attraction to another one and one reservation to the next,” Shaver-Moskowitz said. “We wanted Toontown to not only be exciting, but also decompressing and welcoming.”
In its simplest form, Toontown is a playground for kids tucked away at the back of the park where they can blow off some energy after spending all day stuck in a stroller, forced to hold their parents’ hands or stand in a line for an endless stream of rides and attractions.
Toontown has been going through a phased reopening with the new Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway debuting in January and EngineEar Souvenirs opening about a week ago. Curious visitors have gotten a peek at the fresh, new look of Toontown as the facades were revealed for Toontown City Hall and Roger Rabbit’s Car Toon Spin — with the 1994 dark ride still closed until the full land returns.
When the rest of the construction walls come down, Disneylanders will find a lot more green space designed for families who want to relax, hang out and maybe even have a picnic. Good Boy Grocers will sell souvenir picnic baskets and blankets for families that want to feast on the artificial turf — one of the rare places Disneyland will let visitors stand or sit on the “grass.”
Shade trees and green turf will welcome visitors across from the Roger Rabbit dark ride, in front of Mickey and Minnie’s houses and in the new Popcorn Park where Chip ‘n’ Dale’s treehouse and ball pit once stood.
“Toontown was a really hot land before. It was a fight to try to find shade,” Shaver-Moskowitz said. “It just makes it more inviting and makes it a land you really want to spend time in instead of get in, get out, do your attraction and get on the move.”
The new Dreaming Tree in Toontown is inspired by the place where Walt Disney daydreamed as a boy in his hometown of Marceline, Missouri. Kids can climb over, under and through the sculpted undulating roots of the real tree.
“It has a beautiful canopy and these almost cartoony, velvety leaves that just made it feel really special,” Shaver-Moskowitz said of the transplanted tree. “We liked that the trunk almost felt drawn at the curves and undulations. It felt like a Toontown tree.”
Another big change will be an evening lighting package — something Toontown lacked because the land used to close around dusk for fireworks. Imagineering has added Tivoli lights in front of Toontown City Hall and lanterns in the new Dreaming Tree play area. While Toontown will still close for fireworks, the land will reopen after the pyrotechnics show for visitors anxious to ride the new Runaway Railway or grab a late night snack at Cafe Daisy.
“We’re going to make this place really sparkle at night,” Shaver-Moskowitz said. “We really rethought the design of the lighting of the entirety of the land so it’s going to look really beautiful at night in a whole new way that you’re not used to seeing the land come to life.”
The Centoonial Park fountain with Mickey holding Minnie aloft like a ballerina doubles as a kinetic centerpiece and interactive water play area. A 30-minute loop of water, light and music effects will play throughout the day with the fountain providing a “goodnight kiss” moment during nighttime shows for kids too tired to stick around for the Disneyland fireworks show.
Goofy’s House is still standing – but it now serves as the centerpiece of the new Goofy’s How-To-Play Yard.
Inside Goofy’s House is a Rube Goldberg-style contraption where kids get to sort candy by color and flavor. Outside is a sound garden with a musical bridge and stepping tones. In the backyard, kids can climb on and explore Fort Max.
“Kids love getting up high,” Shaver-Moskowitz said. “They love being in the top bunk bed. They love being up somewhere where they’re taller than they normally get to be. So we’re going to provide them that opportunity of a lookout.”
Nearby, there’s an embankment hill with roller slides for bigger kids and a climbing tent for younger kids.
Donald’s Boat is still next door but you can’t go inside or up on the deck anymore because the ship is now “flooding from the inside” in a fun twist from Imagineering. Donald’s Boat now serves as a water play area where kids can get soaked while playing bubble games and running through water jets.
The former Gadget Go Coaster has a slightly new look, backstory and name as Chip ‘n’ Dale’s Gadget Coaster. A larger-than-life Chip shoots water through a giant straw over the coaster track into a cup held by Dale. Gadget – the quirky inventor mouse friend of the anthropomorphic chipmunks – stands near the coaster lift hill.
Cafe Daisy will serve “dinner classics” like pizza, corn dogs and donuts while Good Boy Grocers will have grab-and-go snacks and drinks. Diners can eat at tables in the Toontown City Hall courtyard with outdoor seating for 200 people.
After the yearlong renovation, Mickey and Minnie will get to move back into their side-by-side houses – the couple never tying the knot after 90-plus years of dating. Toontown will once again be the prime place to find Donald, Daisy, Pluto and Goofy along with newcomers Clarabelle Cow and Pete – the reformed arch-nemesis of Mickey.