Friday, February 11, 2011

Can't go back to Toontown

Tomorrow finally marks the closing of Mickey's Toontown Fair, a land in Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom that was not initially intended to last nearly as long as it did.

The area initially opened as Mickey's Birthdayland (set in the town of Duckberg from the Donald Duck comics and then-popular Ducktales cartoon show) in 1988 when it was designed as a temporary area celebrating Disney's main mouse's 60th birthday. When it proved more popular than expected it was rechristened Mickey's Starland in 1990, then upgraded and renamed Mickey's Toontown Fair in 1996.

It's a cute land. Mickey and Minnie's houses and Donald's boat are fun to see and full of clever little details, but there's really very little there to hold the attention of anyone but toddlers for very long. It's mainly become the place to walk through if you want to go meet some characters in the under-themed tents. Oh, and there's the Barnstormer, a Goofy-themed kiddie coaster that's mostly sticking around, though it will be re-named The Great Goofini, and redecorated.

This is happening because of the big Fantasyland expansion going on in the Magic Kingdom, touted as the largest park expansion in the resort's history. Initially, I was thrilled to see Toontown was being scrapped for this change. More of what we love about Fantasyland (primarily dark rides based on animated classics from the company library) would be a big improvement over a little whimsical architecture and a few meet-and-greets.

But... it's hard to see what we're getting in place of Toontown fair now. All the big headline attractions being added to Fantasyland (The Little Mermaid Ride, the Dwarf Mine coaster, the Beauty & The Beast restaurant) are all going in elsewhere. The space that's currently Toontown Fair will become part of the Dumbo's Storybook Circusland portion of Fantasyland, but even the main draws of that will be the two spinning Dumbo rides which also won't be where Toontown is now, and the Great Goofini which is essentially already there.

Big circus tents are coming - they look to be a lot like the big circus tents aleady there. More giftshops? Meet-and-greets? Bathrooms? I don't think I'll really miss Toontown, but just what are we getting in it's place?
Mickey's Country House.

My guess: another placeholder. The initial plans announced for the Fantasyland expansion weren't well greeted by fans. Too much girls' stuff, too many meet-and-greets. Toontown was initially slotted to be given over to Tinkerbell and friends as Pixie Hollow. That's gone now, and I think they haven't yet decided what the more-perminant addition to this area is going to be. I'm fine with that -for now, just so long as this temporary solution doesn't last another 23 years.

(Meanwhile, Disneyland in California still has their more detailed, urban Toontown with no plans to shut it down)

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