Mickey Mouse, Minnie, Donald, Daisy, Clarabelle, Goofy, Pluto and Pete stand outside Mickey’s house in the refurbished Toontown at Disneyland.
Parkgoers at Disneyland in Anaheim, California, will finally be able to return to Mickey’s Toontown this weekend after a yearlong closure for refurbishment.
The cartoon-inspired land has long been a haven for Disney’s younger park guests, offering character meet-and-greets with the likes of Mickey Mouse, Minnie, Donald, Goofy and Pluto, as well as kid-friendly coasters and play areas.
The reimagined Toontown honors the space that first opened in 1993, keeping existing structures like Mickey and Minnie’s houses in tact, albeit with a paint touch-up. But there’s also quite a bit of new infrastructure for kids to explore — with an eye toward inclusivity.
At its core, Toontown’s revamp is all about intention. Imagineers have designed a space for all kids, crafting accessible play spaces, plus quiet areas and shady spots so that its youngest parkgoers have a place to exert their pent-up energy or decompress.
The redesigned land, which opens to the public March 19, is entirely wheelchair accessible, including its slides, and is visually and auditorily approachable for kids who are easily overwhelmed by loud or bright sensory stimuli. The entire land has been repainted in softer colors, and some areas feature more subdued, spa-like musical scores.
“We want every child to know that when they came to this land that this land was designed for them,” said Jeffrey Shaver-Moskowitz, executive portfolio producer at Walt Disney Imagineering. “That they were seen, and that this place was welcoming to them.”
Shaver-Moskowitz said the Imagineers spent time looking at children’s museums and water play spaces to see how kids engage and developed different stations throughout the land to cater to different types of play patterns.
“We know a day at Disneyland can be hectic and chaotic, running from one attraction to another, one reservation to the next,” he said. “We wanted Toontown to not only be exciting, but also decompressing and relaxing and welcoming.”
With that in mind, the Imagineers have introduced more green spaces within the land, places to have picnics, sit and unwind, or play freely.
“We really wanted to take a look at Toontown, knowing how important it was for so many of our guests for many generations growing up and the so many memories here that are connected to the land, and make sure we don’t lose any of that,” Shaver-Moskowitz said. “But, bring a lot of new magic.”
‘Thinking of every single guest’
When guests enter the new Toontown, they will pass through Centoonial Park. The area is anchored by a large fountain, featuring Mickey and Minnie, as well as water tables for kids to dip their hands into, and the “dreaming tree.”
The live tree was selected from the Disney property for its cartoonish limbs and leaves. Around the trunk are sculpted roots that kids can climb over, crawl under and weave through.
“One of the main play functions for little ones is learning the concepts of over, under and through,” Shaver-Moskowitz explained during a media tour of the land earlier this month. “So you’ll see some of the roots are big enough for little ones to crawl under, some of them can be used as balanced beams for little ones who are learning to get their feet underneath them.”
(There is a wheelchair accessible path that navigates through the roots, too.)
Centoonial Park is also situated next to the El Capitoon Theatre, home of Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Railway ride. Riders are invited to the premiere of Mickey and Minnie’s latest cartoon short “Perfect Picnic.” However, hijinks ensue and guests are whisked away for a ride on Goofy’s train, entering the cartoon world.
The El Capitoon Theatre exterior of Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Railway ride at Disneyland in Anaheim, California.
The trackless ride has no restrictions on height or age, allowing even the littlest Disney guest to join in.
Continuing through the land, guests will see Goofy’s new play yard, which wraps around Goofy’s house and features a sound garden, filled with musical bridges and melons, as well as Fort Max, a climbable clubhouse with attached slides.
Shaver-Moskowitz said the roller slides were chosen for the space so littler guests, who often have less mobility in their legs, don’t get stuck at the bottom of the slide. There’s also more space at the bottom of the slides to accommodate guests who need time to get back into wheelchairs.
“We are trying to make sure we’re thinking of every single guest in here,” he said. “Making sure that every little one who comes to play here feels like we’ve designed the space for them.”
Also outside is a small cordoned-off area for babies to crawl around and experience the area safely.
Goofy stands outside his new How-To-Play Yard at Mickey’s Toontown in Disneyland.
Inside Goofy’s house are a series of games that kids can play to help Goofy cultivate honey from the beehives on his property into candy. Here, little parkgoers can sort candy by flavor and color and watch as a kinetic ball machine activates all around the space.
Extra care was taken to ensure that the sound of the air compressors pushing the balls around has been suppressed, said Shaver-Moskowitz, in an effort to make sure that those with sensory sensitivity won’t be overwhelmed and can still enjoy the experience with their peers.
In a separate area next to Goofy’s new play yard is Donald’s Duck Pond, a water experience for kids. Imagineers intentionally separated this space from the play yard so that parents could better monitor their children around the water elements.
Donald Duck stands outside the new Duck Pond at Mickey’s Toontown in Disneyland.
Shaver-Moskowitz noted that the previous design of the land meant that kids would occasionally run back to their parents soaking wet, having wandered into the water play place.
Donald’s Duck Pond features a tug boat that spits out water, spinning water lilies, balance beams and rocking toys. Inside the boat, kids can help Huey, Dewey, Louie and Webby with a leak in the hull, turning wheels and levers to push the water outside.
Pack a picnic
The Imagineers have also revamped the food at Toontown. New restaurants such as Cafe Daisy and Good Boy! Grocers offer a wide variety of selections and flavors for young parkgoers and more mature palates.
Michele Gendreau, director of product optimization for food and beverage, explained that the team wanted to make eating easy by creating hand-held food that can be munched on the go.
The menu at Daisy’s café features “flop over” pizzas, hot dogs and wraps. Here, adults can grab a cold brew coffee or honey-mango sweet tea. For dessert, there are mini doughnuts covered in cinnamon sugar.
“Kids want to eat what their parents eat,” said Gendreau, highlighting kid-friendly versions of traditional pizzas.
At Good Boy! Grocers, guests can pick up grab-and-go drinks, snacks and novelties. The roadside stand offers up the “perfect picnic basket,” including up to three snacks and a drink. Kids can choose from a variety of options, from hummus and pickles to granola bars and apple slices.
Baskets are set up at multiple heights to allow even the smallest guests to select their own items, giving them a little autonomy when it comes to meal time.
Merchandise from Mickey’s Toontown at Disneyland.
Parkgoers can scoop up picnic blankets, T-shirts, toys and other exclusive Toontown merchandise at EngineEar Souvenirs.
Additionally, meet-and-greets with fan favorite characters return to the land. Guests can take photos with Mickey Mouse, Minnie, Donald Duck, Daisy, Pluto, Clarabelle and Goofy. And for the first time at any Disney park, Pete will make an appearance, causing mischief around the neighborhood.
(With inputs from CNBC)