Disneyland’s reopening of Toontown with an inclusive design
Mickey Mouse, Minnie, Donald, Daisy, Clarabelle, Goofy, Pluto and Pete stand in front of Mickey’s house in the renovated Toontown at Disneyland.
Parkgoers at Disneyland in Anaheim, California can finally return to Mickey’s Toontown this weekend after a year-long closure for renovations.
The cartoon-inspired land has long been a haven for Disney’s younger parkgoers, offering meet-ups with characters like Mickey Mouse, Minnie, Donald, Goofy and Pluto, as well as kid-friendly roller coasters and play areas.
The redesigned Toontown honors the space that first opened in 1993 and keeps existing structures like Mickey and Minnie’s homes intact, albeit with a color touch-up. But there is also some new infrastructure for children to discover – with a view to inclusion.
At its core, the Toontown revamp is all about intent. Imagineers have designed a space for all children and created accessible play areas, quiet areas and shady spots so that the youngest park visitors have a place to release their pent-up energy or relax.
The redesigned site, which opens to the public on March 19, is fully wheelchair accessible, including its slides, and is visually and aurally accessible to children who are easily overwhelmed by loud or bright sensory stimuli. All of the 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 country, this land was meant for them,” said Jeffrey Shaver-Moskowitz, Executive Portfolio Producer at Walt Disney Introduce. “That they were seen and that this place welcomed them.”
Shaver-Moskowitz said the Imagineers spent time checking out children’s museums and water playgrounds to see how kids are getting involved, and developed different stations across the country to accommodate different types of play patterns.
“We know that a day at Disneyland can be hectic and chaotic, from one attraction to the next, from one reservation to the next,” he said. “We wanted Toontown to be not only exciting, but relaxing, relaxing and welcoming.”
With this in mind, the Imagineers have created more green spaces within the country, places to picnic, sit and relax, or play freely.
“We were keen to take a look at Toontown, knowing how important it has been for so many of our guests for many generations to grow up and the many memories here that are tied to the country and make sure we don’t lose any of the” , Shaver-Moskowitz said, “But bring lots of new magic.”
“Think of every single guest”
As guests enter the new Toontown, they pass through Centoonial Park. The area is anchored by a large fountain featuring Mickey and Minnie, water tables for children to dip their hands in and the “dreaming tree”.
The live tree was chosen from Disney properties for its cartoonish branches and leaves. Molded roots surround the trunk for children to climb over, crawl under and slip through.
“One of the most important play functions for little ones is learning the concepts of over, under and through,” Shaver-Moskowitz explained during a media tour of the country earlier this month. “So you’ll see that some of the roots are big enough for little ones to crawl under, some of them can be used as balance beams for little ones learning to get their feet under.”
(There’s also a wheelchair-accessible path that goes through the roots.)
Centoonial Park is also adjacent to the El Capitoon Theater, home of Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Railway Ride. Riders are invited to the premiere of Mickey and Minnie’s newest animated short, Perfect Picnic. However, fun ensues and the guests are taken on a ride on Goofy’s train and enter the cartoon world.
The El Capitoon Theater exterior from Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Railway Ride at Disneyland in Anaheim, California.
The trackless ride has no size or age restrictions, so even the littlest Disney guests can join in.
Continuing across the country, guests will see Goofy’s new playground, which extends around Goofy’s house and features a sound garden filled with musical bridges and melons, and Fort Max, a climbable clubhouse with attached slides.
Shaver-Moskowitz said the roller slides were chosen for space so smaller guests, who often have less mobility in their legs, don’t get stuck at the bottom of the slide. There is also more space at the bottom of the slides to accommodate guests who need time to get back into the wheelchair.
“We try to make sure that we think of every single guest here,” he said. “We have to make sure that every child who comes here feels that we designed the space for them.”
Also outside is a small cordoned off area for babies to crawl around and safely experience the area.
Goofy stands in front of his new How-To-Play Yard in Mickey’s Toontown at Disneyland.
At Goofy’s house there are a number of games that children can play to help Goofy process honey from the beehives on his property into candy. Here, little park-goers can sort candies by taste and color, and watch as a kinetic ball machine activates around the room.
Special care was taken to suppress the sound of the air compressors pushing the balls around, Shaver-Moskowitz said, to ensure those with sensory sensitivities aren’t overwhelmed and can still enjoy the experience as much as their peers.
In a separate area next to Goofy’s new playground is Donald’s Duck Pond, a water adventure for kids. Imagineers intentionally separated this space from the playground so parents could better monitor their children around the water elements.
Donald Duck stands in front of the new Duck Pond in Mickey’s Toontown at Disneyland.
Shaver-Moskowitz noted that the earlier design of the site meant that children would occasionally run back to their parents soaking wet after wandering into the water playground.
Donald’s Duck Pond features a tug that spits water, spinning lily pads, balance beam and rocking toys. Inside the boat, kids can help Tick, Trick, Track and Webby with a hull leak by turning wheels and levers to push the water out.
Pack a picnic
The Imagineers have also revamped the food in Toontown. New restaurants like Cafe Daisy and Good Boy! Grocers offer a wide variety of choices and flavors for young park-goers and more mature palates.
Michele Gendreau, Director of Product Optimization for Food and Beverage, explained that the team wanted to make eating easier by holding food that can be chewed on the go.
The menu at Daisy’s Café features flop over pizzas, hot dogs and wraps. Adults can grab a cold brew coffee or sweet honey mango tea here. For dessert there are mini donuts coated with cinnamon sugar.
“Kids want to eat what their parents eat,” Gendreau said, highlighting kid-friendly versions of traditional pizzas.
By good boy! Grocers, guests can buy drinks, snacks and novelties to take away. The roadside stand offers the “perfect picnic basket” with 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 at multiple heights to allow even the smallest diners to select their own items, giving them a little autonomy when it comes to mealtime.
Merchandise from Mickey’s Toontown at Disneyland.
Park visitors can shop for picnic blankets, t-shirts, toys, and other exclusive Toontown merchandise at EngineEar Souvenirs.
Also, meet-and-greets with fan-favorite characters are returning to the country. Guests can take photos with Mickey Mouse, Minnie, Donald Duck, Daisy, Pluto, Clarabelle, and Goofy. And for the first time at a Disney park, Pete will show up and wreak havoc on the neighborhood.
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