It’s been about a month since the utter destruction of Mickey’s Toontown Fair. Disney has smashed Mickey Mouse’s childhood home and Minnie Mouse’s along with it, leaving little more than a pile of rubble, barren construction walls, and the broken hearts of millions of children around the world. Okay, maybe I am over-exaggerating a little. Disney has put up some posters on the walls and most of the rubble has been removed. Now that the initial tears have been shed, what are we left with? Who will fill the void left by Toontown and more importantly, what does it mean for my next Disney World vacation?
First of all, Toontown was the Magic Kingdom’s least popular “land.” Other than some meet and greets and the Barnstormer, there really weren’t any attractions that appealed primarily to adults. Nonetheless, Toontown’s closure has changed the landscape of the Magic Kingdom forever and we’re seeing some distinct differences in crowd patterns since February 12, 2011. The first major difference you’ll notice is that the Fantasyland rides close to Toontown have become more popular in the morning and throughout the rest of the day. While it may aslo have something to do with the redesigned “interactive queue,” The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh has had significantly longer waits over the past month. In the year prior to Toontown’s closure, Winnie the Pooh’s peak afternoon wait was usually in the 30 minute range on a recommended day, possibly up to 40 minutes if the Magic Kingdom wasn’t recommended or the overall crowd level was a 7+. In the past month, peak waits have been one and a half to two times that. The peak wait on Saturday March 12th was 75 minutes. This was virtually unheard of prior to Toontown’s closure. Mad Tea Party, also nearby, has seen elevated wait times as well. While it’s still rare to see a wait longer than 30 minutes, Mad Tea Party’s average wait time has risen by about 50 percent since February 12th. What was once a ten minute wait is now fifteen and what was once a twenty minute wait is now closer to thirty minutes. Wait times at the Fantasyland rides further away from Mickey’s Toontown Fair have also risen. Rides like Peter Pan’s Flight and Snow White have waits that are about 15 percent higher, on average, than comparable days prior to Toontown’s closure.
Tomorrowland has also been affected. Tomorrowland Speedway has always seen ridiculously long waits (for what your author considers to be a lousy attraction), but we’re seeing waits that are 25% longer than before. That unfortunate 45 minute wait is now in the 55-60 minute range. Those of you who have had the pleasure of sucking down exhaust in line for an hour know that every minute in that line counts. Somewhat nearby, Buzz Lightyear has also seen waits that are about 25% longer on average and the wait time has increased at a faster rate than before. On a relatively busy day at the Magic Kingdom prior to Toontown’s closure, you could expect Buzz to have a wait of between 10-15 minutes at 10am. That’s risen to 15-20 minutes since Toontown’s closure. While it may not seem excessive, an extra five or ten minutes in line in the morning can significantly change FASTPASS return times and standby waits at Peter Pan’s Flight, Space Mountain, Splash Mountain, and others.
Overall, wait times have increased between 5%-10% on average, Magic-Kingdom-wide. You can expect attractions that were formerly near Toontown to be busier sooner and have longer peak waits. Wait time increases in Frontierland, Adventureland, and Liberty Square are less obvious. After all, the difference between a 45 and 50 minute wait in the afternoon is negligible in the grand scheme of things. Remember, few people are well appraised of the intricacies of the Magic Kingdom and you might be surprised to see how many people have absolutely no idea that Mickey Mouse can no longer be found in Toontown Fair. Based on the numbers, it seems as though most people who try to visit Toontown end up at nearby kid-friendly attractions.
It’s important to note that I’m comparing wait times on “comparable days,” meaning days when attendance numbers were very similar, not necessarily March 5th 2010 compared with March 5th 2011 or the second Tuesday in February 2010 compared to the second Tuesday in February 2011. I think this gives the most accurate look at how Toowntown’s closure has affected wait times. If you were just comparing last March to this March, you would find that this year’s wait times are considerably higher across the board, but that’s due more to heavier crowds rather than Toontown’s closure.
A second, possibly less obvious effect, is the closure of the Walt Disney World Railroad station in Toontown. Not a lot of people took advantage of this railroad station, but those who did have found touring the Magic Kingdom to be much less efficient. There was a somewhat “secret” path that conveniently connected Tomorrowland (near Space Mountain) and Toontown. After riding Space Mountain, you could quickly walk to the Toontown station via the back-alley path and ride the train over to Frontierland for Splash Mountain, Big Thunder Mountain, or anything else in that area. Now, the Space Mountain area becomes basically a dead end, where you have no choice but to turn around and head back through Tomorrowland in the same direction you entered. While not an earth-shattering inconvenience, the Railroad served as an efficient means of transportation to Frontierland. It was also an excellent way to get off your feet for a few minutes and efficiently travel to Frontierland without having to traverse the Park or crowds.
Third, a lot of the characters have moved from their traditional meet and greet areas in Toontown to other lands in the Magic Kingdom or different theme parks altogether. At the moment, you can find the Disney Princesses in an area called the “Adventureland Veranda” in Adventureland. Waits have been peaking in the 75 minute range over the last two weeks, making it a vital morning priority if it’s of interest. This is a temporary location for the Princesses, who will be joining Mickey and Minnie Mouse in a new meet and greet area in what is now the Town Square Exposition Hall on Main Street. Sometime after that, they’ll be moving to Fantasyland, in the space that is now occupied by Snow White’s Scary Adventures. Speaking of Mickey and Minnie, they are currently located in Tomorrowland, near Space Mountain and the Tomorrowland Patio restrooms. The pair can also be found in Frontierland, near Splash Mountain and its respective restrooms. As early as April 1st, Mickey and Minnie will be moving into a semi-permanent meet and greet location along Main Street. This area will feature an interactive queue of some sort and offer FASTPASS, making this the first opportunity to use a FASTPASS for a meet and greet location.
Tinker Bell and her pixie friends are currently located in Pixie Hollow in Epcot, near the Mouse Gear store in Epcot’s Future World. After the Flower and Garden Festival ends in mid-May, they should be on their way to a semi-permanent meet and greet area in Hollywood Studios (rumor status on the move to the Studios – you didn’t hear it from me). Wait times are usually in the 45 minute range most afternoons.
The Barnstormer will be rethemed as part of the Fantasyland Expansion in Fall 2012.
The loss of Toontown itself is a mixed bag. From a coldhearted perspective, Toontown was little more than a kiddie coaster, a small fountain area, and a couple of meet and greets with long lines. Most adults skipped it altogether. From a sentimental perspective, Toontown is the birthplace of many of the most sacred Disney memories for a lot of Disney’s most faithful visitors. It’s sort of cruel to call 2011 the year of “memories” and then squash the source of so many.