If you cruise through the Disneyland forums and discussion boards on the web you can usually find, at least once a year, a raging debate about Disneyland's ToonTown. The debate goes something like this. “It's a waste of space. There's nothing there. Get rid of it.” vs. “My kids love ToonTown. They can spend hours in there. It's cute and whimsical.” I tend to play both sides against the middle ground.
When my wife and I make our trips to Disneyland and its just the two of us, even though we may be there for several days, there is a 50 – 50 chance that we never go into ToonTown other than occasional visit to Roger Rabbit's Cartoon Spin (arguably one of Disneyland's best dark rides).
It doesn't help that ToonTown generally opens later and closes earlier than the rest of the park. We tend to be in the group that could definitely see a better use for ToonTown's space. And even though we are a little above the age for meet and greets, a trip into Mickey's House every once in awhile is definitely a worth while effort because the amount of detail in there, wandering through the rooms, is incredible.
Minnie's House – not so much as it is much, much smaller than Mickey's pad. So for me, that is the extent of my interest in ToonTown – the Roger Rabbit ride along with the adjacent Gag Factory store and Mickey's House. Heaven forbid if you were really hungry and wanted to get something serious to eat in there.
But my wife and I have also made our trek into ToonTown with our son when he was younger and with extended family who have young children and yes, the kids did seem to have a certain amount fun and entertainment with the little things ToonTown has to offer with the various props and gags.
And then there is the infamous Gadget Go-Coaster. Personally, I have never been on it but there have been plenty of members of my family who have been able to introduce their kids to the world of coasters through the gentle Gadget Go-Coaster. Here is what I think to myself when I see the Go-Coaster ride “A 30 minute wait time for a 30 second ride. Are you kidding me?” My own personal opinion is that a re-themed Go-Coaster would be a better fit in DCA's Bugs Land if they could find a way to wedge it in there.
For the longest time I thought Disneyland's ToonTown was based on Disney's Touchstone Pictures Who Framed Roger Rabbit from 1988, a great movie with an ingenious blend of live action and classic animated characters from director Robert Zemeckis. While it's true up to a point, ToonTown has been part of Disneyland legend for years before the movie.
Pretty much everything to the left of the Gag Factory store has no direct reference to Who Framed Roger Rabbit at all. Knowing that information kind of eased my thematic issues with ToonTown. I was having a hard time resolving that a land in Disneyland, primarily aimed at young children, was based on a PG rated movie that featured an alcoholic detective, an ill tempered cigar smoking baby, an animated vixen beyond belief, and a murder mystery on top of that.
I have to admit that a special part of ToonTown's whimsy was surgically removed when Disney made the decision stop running the Jolly Trolley, though a stationary trolley still remains as a photo op. The reason why the cute trolley ceased to operate was never made officially public but it goes something like this – either Cal OSHA safety inspectors ordered them to stop operation because of non-existent safety restraints or between the need for a castmember to operate the trolley and mechanics required to maintain the complex hydraulic components, the little trolley ride became too cost prohibitive for Disney to continue to operate it. Both make sense. Maybe both are true. Anyway, ToonTown was never quite the same after trolleys stopped running.
So what is the future of ToonTown? Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom got rid their far less detailed version of ToonTown in the new Fantasyland expansion. Disneyland is perfectly capable of doing the same but so far, the removal of Disneyland's ToonTown isn't even a rumor. I kind of look at ToonTown as a Disneyland holding area, something in reserve where if Disney has some grand idea for the park, ToonTown is a prime target to get replaced. Roger Rabbit's Cartoon Spin has to stay of course. It far to big and popular of a ride to simply sacrifice.
You will always need a home for Mickey but he could be relocated as what was done in WDW but the rest of ToonTown is an attractive target for something more (did I hear somebody out there say Seven Dwarfs Mine Coaster?).
When you make your real or imaginary list of things you absolutely must do when you visit Disneyland, how far down the list is a visit to ToonTown? Chances are it's pretty far down the list (other than the Cartoon Spin). At some point, Disney is perfectly capable of doing something with the ToonTown space that drives it to the top. It will happen. Some day.
The photos from this article come from the official Disneyland website, Walt Disney Imagineering, the Backside of Water, and Touchstone Pictures.