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Disneyland opened on July 17, 1955 with five different themed lands. Guests strolled through the opening gates and onto Main Street, U.S.A., themed to an early 20th century American small town. At the end of Main Street, U.S.A., Disneyland then opened to the other four lands. On the right: Tomorrowland, representing the futuristic Space Age. To the left: both Adventureland and Frontierland. Adventureland was a journey though the mystery of the untamed jungles, and Frontierland was a trip back to the great pioneer days of the Wild West. Through Sleeping Beauty Castle in the centre of the Park was Fantasyland, a land filled with the romance and wonder of classic fairy tales.
Over the next years, three more themed lands were added: New Orleans Square, Critter Country (originally called Bear Country), and Mickey’s Toontown.
New Orleans Square
New Orleans Square opened on July 14, 1966. This was the only additional land that opened before Walt Disney passed away. The grand opening was his last public appearance before his death in December of that year. The dedication speech was presented by both Walt and the mayor of the city of New Orleans, Victor Schiro. Mr. Schiro made Walt an honorary citizen of New Orleans.
Walt was always fond of New Orleans. It held a special memory for him as that is where he found a windup toy bird that gave him inspiration for building the Enchanted Tiki Room and then on to more complicated Audio-Animatronics. And, where would Disneyland be without Audio-Animatronics? He even wanted to build another apartment in New Orleans Square. His expanding family was outgrowing the small apartment he had on Main Street above the fire station and he wanted to make space for his brother Roy and his family as well.
New Orleans Square opened with zero attractions. However, two E-ticket attractions were added soon afterwards. Pirates of the Caribbean opened in March of 1967 and the Haunted Mansion opened in August of 1969. New Orleans Square did open with many specialty shops such as One of a Kind, an antique shop that was inspired by Lillian Disney’s love of antiques, and Mlle. Antoinette’s Parfumerie, and Crystal d’Orleans, which are still there today.
New Orleans Square is known for some of the best restaurants at the Disneyland Resort. The French Market opened in 1966 and Café Orleans was also there opening day but was known as Creole Café until 1972. The famous Blue Bayou opened in 1967 when Pirates of the Caribbean opened. And for guests wanting some delicious gumbo on the go, Royal Street Veranda opened in 1983.
New Orleans Square is also home to Disneyland’s secret-not-so-secret club: Club 33. Walt Disney had gotten the idea for a secret club while showcasing his attractions at the 1964/65 New York’s World Fair. There were several VIP lounges around for the corporate elite around the fair. He set aside space in New Orleans Square for a club, but unfortunately never saw it completed. Club 33 opened on June 15, 1967, exactly six months after his death. Today Club 33 is so popular that the waiting list is hundreds of people long and can take years to get in, despite the enormous price tag. There is also an exclusive dining room in New Orleans Square that guests can book for private events. It is called 21 Royal Street and opened in September 2015. The official website is https://www.21royaldisneyland.com/ for more information.
The New Orleans Square train station was originally the Frontierland Station. It was moved further back during construction to make more space for New Orleans Square, but it kept the Frontierland name until 1996 before becoming the New Orleans Square Station. New Orleans Square consists of four streets: Orleans Street, Royal Street, Esplanade Street, and Front Street. The store Le Bat en Rouge is a tease to Louisiana’s capital: Baton Rouge. Up above New Orleans Square are some more hidden gems. There is the Louisiana state flag flying above Royal Street and, since New Orleans is a port city, there is even a set of sails in the distance. Disneyland is the only park with a separate New Orleans Square but Tokyo Disneyland has a New Orleans themed area as part of their Adventureland.
Bear Country opened in the far back corner of Disneyland on March 4th, 1972 and its first attraction, the Country Bear Jamboree, opened three weeks later. Teddi Barra’s Swingin’ Arcade also opened in 1972. Two dining locations were there in the first year. There was the Mile Long Bar, which used mirrors to make the establishment look like a mile long. It then became known as Brer Bar when Splash Mountain opened in 1989 until the restaurant closed in 2002.
The other dining location was the Golden Bear Lodge. In 1977 it became known as the Hungry Bear Restaurant, which is still a popular quick service location today. One of my favorite shops in Disneyland is Pooh Corner; it is just so cute! This shop has actually been there since Bear Country’s opening but it was known as Ursus H. Bear’s Wilderness Outpost from 1972 to 1988, later becoming Crocodile Mercantile. The name was then changed to Pooh Corner in 1995.
The Davy Crockett Explorer Canoes had opened back in 1956 but were considered to be part of Frontierland. This attraction then officially became part of Bear Country when it opened and is still in operation today.
There has only been one Land name change at Disneyland and it happened in 1988 when Bear Country became known as Critter Country. This was done in anticipation for the upcoming opening of the E-ticket attraction Splash Mountain. Splash Mountain opened one year later and featured many audio-animatronic critters.
Splash Mountain has an interesting history in Disneyland. Dick Nunis, who was president of Disneyland and Walt Disney World at the time, suggested that a log flume ride was needed at Disneyland. Many Imagineers were not keen on the idea because they considered log flumes to be too ordinary and that this type of ride belonged in county fairs. Around this time, the America Sings attraction closed in Tomorrowland and Imagineer Tony Baxter came up with the idea to repurpose those audio-animatronics. He would use them in a log flume ride to give the attraction an exciting storyline.
This way the log flume ride would actually be the well-designed and detailed attraction that Disney was known for. And for whatever reason, he decided on incorporating the characters from the controversial film, Song of the South, and it worked; all of these things came together to become the classic attraction that guests love. Originally it was going to be called Zip-a-Dee River Run, but Michael Eisner, then CEO of the Walt Disney Company, wanted the entire ride to be based off of the film Splash. A compromise was made and the attraction kept the Song of the South theme but with the Splash name. Splash Mountain features a 60 foot drop down into the briar patch.
The next major change to Critter Country was the closing of the Country Bear Jamboree. The attraction building now houses The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh, based on the 1977 film of the same name. But be sure to keep an eye out for some critters that made their way over from the Country Bear Jamboree! Melvin the moose, Buff the buffalo, and Max the deer were saved from their former attraction and placed in a hidden location in The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh (hint: look up after you come across some pesky Heffalumps and Woozles!).
The last Land to open at Disneyland was Mickey’s Toontown which opened on January 24, 1993. Part of the area where Mickey’s Toontown is located was a part of Fantasyland called Afternoon Avenue. This was a special promotion that happened in the early 1990s to celebrate the Disney Afternoon shows, including: Duck Tales, Tale Spin, Chip ‘n’ Dale’s Rescue Rangers, and The Adventures of the Gummi Bears. Mickey’s Toontown was inspired by the Toontown in the 1988 film Who Framed Roger Rabbit, an anthropomorphic town where Toons reside and work. Mickey’s Toontown opened with Gadget’s Go Coaster, a kiddie roller coaster based on Chip ‘n’ Dale’s Rescue Rangers which has a ride time of about 45 seconds, and Chip ‘n’ Dale’s Treehouse with the Acorn Ball Crawl. Both Gadget’s Go Coaster and Chip ‘n’ Dale’s Treehouse are still in Mickey’s Toontown but the Acorn Ball Crawl closed in 1998.
Mickey’s Toontown also opened with the homes of the Fab 5: Mickey’s House (where Pluto also lives), Minnie’s House, Goofy’s Bounce House, and Donald’s Boat, which is officially named the Miss Daisy. Goofy’s Bounce House became Goofy’s Playhouse in 2008. Another opening day attraction was the Jolly Trolley. These bright red and yellow San Francisco-inspired cars had oversized wheels so they would lurch and weave down the streets of Mickey’s Toontown and this was done to give the trolley a more cartoon-ish look. The Jolly Trolley closed in 2003 due to the difficulty of maneuvering through the crowds. One year after the opening of Mickey’s Toontown, Roger Rabbit’s Car Toon Spin opened. This dark ride takes guests through the Toontown of Who Framed Roger Rabbit where the storyline is that the weasels are trying to kidnap Jessica Rabbit and “dip” Roger. The “dip” permanently erases Toons. Mickey’s Toontown also has a train station for the Disneyland Railroad. This train station was originally the Fantasyland Station and then the Videopolis Station and then became the Mickey’s Toontown Depot when the Land opened.
Mickey’s Toontown also has a very special tribute to Walt Disney. It is a long time tradition that people who have played an important role in the Walt Disney Company be honored with their names put on a window in the Parks, generally on Main Street, U.S.A. When Mickey’s Toontown was built, a window with Walt’s name was made. It can be found just above the Toontown Library and it reads:
“Laugh-O-Gram Films, Inc.
Wrapping It Up
New Orleans Square, Critter Country, and Mickey’s Toontown are all completely different Lands but have captivated guests for decades in their own ways. And soon Disneyland will be adding a ninth Land themed entirely around the Star Wars Universe! Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge is set to open sometime in 2019 and I cannot wait to see what Disney Imagineering has created!
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