Mickey’s Birthdayland opened in 1988 at Walt Disney World in celebration of Mickey Mouse’s 60th birthday. It was little more than a fixed costumed character ‘meet-and-greet’ location. It was remodeled into more elaborate incarnations… as Mickey’s Starland and then as Mickey’s Toontown Fair. It was closed in 2011 to make way for the ‘New Fantasyland’ extension. Walt Disney Imagineering (WDI)was not involved in the development of Mickey’s Birthdayland. Disneyland wanted a similar character meet-and-greet zone and went to WDI for the design. Joe Lanzisero was selected to lead the project. His team included Don Carson, Marcelo Vignali, Hani El Masri, and Jim Shull. Development on the design started in 1990.
Don Carson did much of the Toontown area exterior design. Marcelo Vignali took over leadership of the Roger Rabbit’s Car Toon Spin ride portion of the project. The ride was originally going to have the vehicles wind up a path to a second floor, where they would come outside the building… as a ‘weinie’ to draw guests into Toontown. As it turned out, the ride system selected for Car Toon Spin would have required almost all of the ground floor building layout for the low-sloped ramps that would be required to get the vehicles to a second floor. As a result, there is no second level to the ride, but you can still see remnants of that 2nd-floor outside ride area in the completed building exterior.
The queuing area sets up the story and provides the atmosphere for the ride. The designers couldn’t assume that guests would know the film’s storyline, so the characters were introduced and the dangers of DIP were demonstrated. Vignali, and show writer Art Verity, fleshed out the story, wrote dialogue, and designed the set pieces in a way that optimized the tortuous ride path.
Vignali even provided the voice of Bongo, the gorilla, and the bull in the china shop. Ride vehicles pass two laughing Jack-in-the-Boxes in the warehouse. The faces of the Jack-in-the-Boxes are caricatures of Joe Lanzisero and Marcelo Vignali – one is marked ‘J’, for Joe, and the other is marked ‘M’, for Marcelo.