Disney is known for its attention to detail throughout its theme parks, some of those creative touches become what is known as the “Disney Difference.”
For guests visiting the Disneyland Park the popcorn wagons are already a must-do stop for a Disney snack. But that snack attack is made even more memorable by the small mechanical figures turning a roaster that looks to be powered by a miniature steam engine. The sight of the popcorn poppers is a mini-attraction all in itself.
“Walt Disney Imagineering: A Behind the Dream Look at Making MORE Magic Real,” a 2010 follow-up to a 1996 behind-the-scenes book written by Disney Imagineers, calls the hard-working figures Roastie-Toasties:
Popcorn carts in the Disneyland parks feature “Roastie-Toasties”– a nickname for the tiny characters who rotate the drums and are themed to match the land in which they perform. There are spacemen in Tomorrowland and clowns and jesters in Fantasyland.
At Disneyland, Roastie-Toasties are themed to the park’s different lands and attractions. Guests with a sharp eye, or a sharp nose for freshly popped popcorn, might spot:
- a conductor at Mickey’s Toontown;
- a ghoulish fellow near the Haunted Mansion;
- the Yeti near the Matterhorn;
- the Rockeer in Tomorrowland; and
- clowns or dapper figures wearing straw boaters and pin-striped pants (multiple locations).
Other figures appear occasionally, say for the holiday seasons, and the surprise adds to the fun.
When I first learned about the little extra somethings – I should say someones– at the popcorn wagons, I knew I’d need to take a special trip to “the happiest place on earth” just to get Disneyland popcorn wagons photos. I’m happy to share. The photos, not the popcorn, which you’ll just have to try for yourself.
Wondering about the history of the Roastie-Toasties? Others might know the mechanical figures as Tosty Rosty Man – sometimes also called the Toasty Roasty Man or Roasty Toasty Man, which explains Disney’s name. Charles Cretors added these figures to his steam-driven popcorn wagon built in the 19th century The figures would crank peanuts on top of a roasting drum.
Like Walt Disney, Cretors was interested in the show aspect of his operation, and added these figures – often a clown or a man – to amuse customers. And his popcorn – concession wagon, in part because of the beloved Toasty Rosty Man, was a big hit at the 1893 Colombian Exposition in Chicago.
Now the next question is, where are the Roastie-Toasties for Walt Disney World? [I want some.]
Author’s note: A special acknowledgement to DisneyShawn and his 2009 post on “The Tiniest Cast Members,” when I first learned about the Roastie-Toasties. And to MiceChat for the YouTube video.
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