Mickey’s Toontown Fair in 1996

The first “new land” added to Magic Kingdom since it opened was Mickey’s Birthdayland in 1988 (or so says the Wikipedia). It was renamed to Mickey’s Starland in 1990. Something I had never read was that it supposedly was briefly known as Mickey’s Toyland in 1995 (again, from the Wikipedia — this is the first time I’ve read that). I think I only saw it as Starland during my family trips in the summer of ’94 and ’95.

It began a large refurbishment to become Mickey’s Toontown Fair in 1996. I remember a promotional photo that was released showing Mickey, Goofy and Donald hard at work:

NOT MY PHOTO. Sorry. The watermark is added by WordPress.

This version made the land a bit more similar to Mickey’s Toontown at Disneyland, though it was missing the Roger Rabbit references and most of the “town” part. It did, at least, add Mickey’s house, Donald’s boat, and a few others elements.

According to this sign, the grand opening was expected October 1996:

Coming soon sign on August 27, 1996.

Because of this sign, I believe all the photos I have from this August 1996 visit should be considered Mickey’s Starland. I suppose this means some of the buildings were already there, or they were opened before the grand opening. I’m too lazy to go look anything up.

Here’s a map:

Map of Toontown Fair on August 26, 1996.

Going with the “fair” theme, there was the big tent with character meet and greets:

Toontown Fair tent on August 27, 1996.

You can see how they were able to keep the tent when this area became Storybook Circus.

Some of the nicer elements at the time where the buildings that were, more or less, brought over from the other Toontown(s). Pete has his garage:

Pete’s Garage on August 27, 1996.

Donald had his boat, the Miss Daisy:

Donald’s Boat on August 27, 1996.

Minnie had her house:

Minnie’s house on August 27, 1996.

And there was even a simple version of the Toontown Park:

Toontown Park on August 27, 1996.

The train station depot was rather bland, though.

Toontown Fair Station on August 26, 1999.

Compare that to what Disneyland’s Toontown looked like, the Florida version was sparse and barren. But, at least it was a step up from the earlier encarnations.

And you could meet characters…

Hall of Fame sign on August 27, 1996.

I’m, uh, not sure what “Practice your hugs” was all about.

When I visited in 1997, the rest of the land was ready, including the Barnstormer roller coaster. But it’s nice to have an in-progress look at one of the lesser lands ever built in a castle park.

Until next time…

Magic Kingdom in 1996

Let’s take a trip back to 1996 and see what was going on at the Magic Kingdom. Who remembers the Tropical Serenade? It was the East Coast version of the 1964 Walt Disney’s Enchanted Tiki Room at Disneyland.

Tropical Serenade on August 27, 1996.

I believe they still had the “barker bird” out front, letting us know what wonders await inside. Pirates of the Caribbean had their own barker bird back then, too.

I recall we usually just called it the Tiki Birds, and indeed, that’s what the sign said at the top. This later changed to the Under New Management version, then finally returned to a version of the original, but using the Disneyland name. Full circle!

One of my strongest memories from family vacations in the 1970s where these carvings that played drum music. They later became water sprayers, but they were just drumming away in 1996:

Waterless drummers on August 27, 1996.

Over in Fantasyland, the Cinderella Castle was … a cake! Happy 25th Anniversary, Walt Disney World! Here’s a few photos from my collection (click on them to see larger versions):

Folks where riding the Skyway rather than wishing it would be restrooms:

Fantasyland Skyway station in August 1996.

And my beloved 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea had recently closed, and was being used as a character meet area.

Former 20,000 Leagues area in August 1996.

Well, at least Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride was still there. I always thought it was the best and most popular dark ride.

Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride in August 1996.

Meanwhile, I couldn’t find the Mickey Mouse Revue that I remember seeing, but there was this relatively new Legend of the Lion King puppet show:

Legend of the Lion King in August 1996.

Over in Frontierland, the Diamond Horseshoe was NOT a restaurant.

Diamond Horseshoe on August 27, 1996.

Meanwhile, in Liberty Square you could hop aboard a Keel Boat for a really unique ride around the Rivers of America:

Keel Boat on August 27, 1996.

This painting had also been recently added inside the attic of the Haunted Mansion. Few had digital cameras back then, so I left a long gap of Doombuggies before I boarded (with no one behind me) and broke the rules so I could take a flash picture of this to share:

New painting in the attic of the Haunted Mansion in August 1996.

I do not recall the story behind it, but I think it might have been a painting from Phantom Manor at EuroDisney.

I am told that these hands in the “corridors of doors” have been removed, so here they are in 1996:

Door hands on August 28, 1996.

And back then, we didn’t have much for Haunted Mansion merchandising, but at least we had a cart:

Madam Leota cart on August 27, 1996.

I’ve already shared some things from Main Street USA, so I’ll just include a photo of the old “wait time” signs:

Wait time signs on August 27, 1996.

And here is the wonderful side street that has since been filled in and turned in to more retail space:

Tester-side street on August 27, 1996.

Look how lovely that little area was! Such a shame it’s gone. At the end was the barber shop, I believe, and I even got my hair cut there around this time.

Over in Tomorrowland, the still-new Alien Encounter was there:

Alien Encounter in August 1996.

…and the Skyway station was also not restrooms yet:

Skyway cars on August 27, 1996.

And the GoodyearGrand Prix Raceway was still quite retro:

Grand Prix Raceway on August 27, 1996.

There is a bit more still to share, but I think I’ll save Mickey’s Toontown Fair for a posting of it’s own since it’s completely gone today.

Until then…

Kudos: Brad from PA at the BaseLine Tap House

Sometimes it’s the little things that make a visit special. For today’s “Cast Member Kudos” article, I wanted to thank Brad from Pennsylvania. We met him while enjoying drinks and snacks at the BaseLine Tap House at Disney’s Hollowood Studios.

BaseLine Tap House at DHS on September 10, 2018.

The Tap House is relatively new. I did not recognize it as the former location of Costume Shop…

Costume Shop at D/MGM on August 26, 1996.

…or Ellen’s Buy the Book

Ellen’s Buy the Book at D/MGM on May 19, 1997.

…or Disney’s Buy the Book

Disney’s Buy the Book at D/MGM on October 16, 1998.

…or even Writer’s Stop:

Writer’s Stop at D/MGM on October 3, 2007.

In fact, I probably still wouldn’t know this if it weren’t for Werner of yesterland.com clueing me in last year.

But I digress…

This spot is hot and trendy on with folks on Twitter, so I wanted to check it out. Since it was new to me, I would probably have popped in anyway to see what it was.

During my most recent visit, we stopped by just as it was opening at 10 a.m. (“What’s a guy gotta do to get a drink around here?” Wait until 10 a.m., apparently.) I am not a huge beer fan, so I tend to just try things that are special (local craft brews, or beers made exclusively for a theme park). This visit, I inquired about the shelves of liquor that were on display. It seems they can make all kinds of drinks beyond what is on the menu.

I had a Long Island Iced Tea, and noticed the number of liquor shots that went into it made it a much better cash-to-booze value than probably anything else I had in the park during my visit 😉 I forget what the second drink was, but perhaps a California Sunset or the Ace Space Bloody Orange Hard Cider.

BaseLine Tap House drinks and eats on March 3, 2019.

As we sat outside enjoying the crowd-less patio, I asked the cast member who was near us about their costumes. I was curious about what components might be their’s, personally, versus supplied by Disney. (Many company dress codes might say “black slacks, black shoes” and only provide a Polo shirt or apron or whatever.)

We ended up having a delightful chat with Brad from Pennsylvania and learned more about how much attention to detail Disney puts in to even the shoes their employees wear to work. Everything seems to have a reason.

I won’t try to bore you with a recount of my Q&A session asking about footwear, but suffice it to say, we found Brad to be a great example of the type of cast we expect from a Disney visit. (And, hey, he’s even been to Kennywood in West Mifflin, PA!)

Thanks, Brad, for taking a few moments to spend some quality time with a few random tourists from Iowa.

Until next time…

Fantasmic in 1996.

On this anniversary date, May 13 (if Wikipedia can be believed), let’s talk about one of the greatest entertainment spectacles the world has ever seen. Or at least Anaheim has ever seen.

Disneyland’s Fantasmic! blew me away when I first saw it, though I didn’t intend to see it.

During my return to visiting Disneyland, my first trip was spent just trying to see all the things in California that did not exist in Florida’s Magic Kingdom. During my next few trips, the first with a digital camera, I was still focusing on other rides and re-learning how different things were at “Walt Disney’s Original Magic Kingdom”.

I was not interested in shows or parades.

But when I was walking through New Orleans Square to get to a ride (Haunted Mansion, most likely), I stumbled into a performance of Fantastic and was mesmerized.

I had never seen anything like it.

Fantasmic on August 16, 1996.

So, obviously, I wanted to see it up close (which was easy to do back then just by showing up early) and take pictures of it with my brand new Epson PhotoPC camera.

Unfortunately, there was no zoom lens on the camera, so this is as close as I could get. And because my camera only had 1 megabyte of memory, I was taking photos in 320×240 resolution. If you blow them up on a modern computer screen (or even a phone!) they are so pixelated they look like 8-bit graphics 😉

So here are a few more…

Oddly enough, I didn’t take a picture of the Mark Twain in the finale. Maybe it wasn’t running the night I saw it? Or perhaps I ran out of memory?

Ah, the days of early digital cameras!

I must have found these light poles fascinating. I took two pictures, and in “high resolution” mode!

Fantasmic light pole in 1996.
Fantasmic light pole in 1996.

And that’s about the worst quality of photos I will be sharing in this essays. Hopefully.

Until next time…

Disneyland’s third theme park in 2000

Yes, Virginia. In 2000, Disneyland did announce intentions to build a third theme park with initial construction beginning in 2003 and completion by 2010.

They even had a website about it… here is what it looked like in 2000:

https://web.archive.org/web/20000817041730/http://www.thirdthemepark.com:80/

It has some before and after images of the area around the resort that are stunningly different. This is what was going on leading to Disney’s California Adventure opening.

Several things they mentioned did make it to the resort, but not into a third theme park.

More on this later.

Until next time…

Talking water fountains of Epcot in 1996

Goofy Water at Disneyland’s Toontown in 1996.

There is a water fountain at Disneyland’s Toon Town that talks when you drink from it. It was there in 1996, and was still there in early 2018. But did you know Epcot also had its own talking water fountains in Future World?

Scattered around Future World were several normal looking water fountains that made noises when you drank from them. It’s been too long and I no longer remember what they sounded like, but once I stumbled on them, I tried to find all the others. I have pictures of three of them, showing where they were located. I believe they are long gone, and I don’t know when they were installed and removed.

But, here are some photos from 1996.

Epcot talking water fountain on August 29, 1996.
Epcot talking water fountain on August 29, 1996.
Epcot talking water fountain on August 29, 1996.

Ghads. Is that water play area still there? There was a moment in time where Disney World started adding water everywhere. They added misters to queues, water play areas, and converted some original Magic Kingdom drumming totems to be water sprayers. I guess they really didn’t want to have “dry parks” and adding alcohol wasn’t enough 😉

Until next time…

Kudos: Sam, Haley and Kayla at Islands of Adventure

Previously, I mentioned tracking down my 2007 bartender from Disney’s Animal Kingdom. This led me to write some “kudos” articles about other cool workers I’d encountered at Walt Disney World and Universal Orlando Resort. Today I will continue, this time focusing on providers of tasty adult beverages at Universal’s Islands of Adventure.

It was a cold and rainy day. By 10 o’clock, we’d already made the loop around the park and seen much of what we wanted to see, thanks to the lines being non-existent. We found ourselves back at Port of Entry near the park entrance just in time for the Backwater Bar to open for the day.

Backwater Bar at Islands of Adventure on a cold, rainy March 27, 2019.

Although I’d walked past it many times, this was my first time inside. It was small, cozy and, most importantly, dry and warm.

Unfortunately, no spiked hot drinks were to be found here. After checking with Universal’s Twitter folks, it seems spiked hot drinks were just not available inside the park (though they did suggest trying Toothsome in CityWalk). Instead, we decided on cold drinks at hot soup.

Hot soup and a cold drink at Backwater Bar at Islands of Adventure on March 23, 2019.

Since the bar was empty (maybe one other group the entire time we were there), we had a wonderful chat with our bartender, Sam. It was a pleasant and personable experience that let us warm up and pass some time while waiting for the rain to stop. (Yes, I know this is how a bartender should be, but it was definitely not the case at many “bars” I visited during my Orlando trips.)

Thanks, Sam!

A few hours later, I was working on checking off some more items on my Twitter “to do” list and I found The Watering Hole in Jurassic Park.

Watering Hole at Islands of Adventure on March 23, 2019.

This place was recommended due to having some specialty drinks, including some seasonal ones.

Twitter suggested that I try the Prehistoric Punch, so I did. My girlfriend tried a (I think) the Prehistoric Rocks. Both came in souvenir (plastic) cups.

Watering Hole specialty drinks in the souvenir cups on March 23, 2019.

This is were our bartender Haley comes in. She was letting us know about the various drinks and also that this refill cup would get a discount on them later in the day. It was also good for $1 off beer refills at certain places with draft beer. I appreciated the effort to let me know something that could help make my visit a bit more affordable.

Thanks, Haley!

And last on the list was a stop at Hog’s Head in the Hogsmead: The Wizarding World of Harry Potter. This popular place had a line going out the back door.

Hog’s Head at Islands of Adventure on March 27, 2019.

When I finally made my way to the counter, Kayla was nice enough to let me sample some of their custom beers before I committed to one. They don’t do that at Disney’s California Adventure, for sure. In the end, she convinced me to go with my Twitter suggestion of The Triple and try this interesting combination drink of beer, cider and beer.

The Triple at Islands of Adventure on March 23, 2019.

I’ve had a “black and tan” before, and it really wasn’t my thing, so I didn’t expect to like this any better. The Triple was just a variation of a common drink I can get locally, except being made using one of the “brewed just for Universal Studios” beers, which I can’t get locally. It was at least unique from that perspective. And, hey, though it didn’t qualify for a refill discount, I did get to use that souvenir cup at least once!

Thanks, Kayla!

Although these interactions were simple and minor, they were enough to stand out among hundreds of other interactions I had during this trip. Sometimes it’s the little things that can make the difference.

Until next time…

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