Do you love the “Toy Story” movies so much that you wish you could hop right inside of them? Walt Disney World Resort is doing its best to make that happen. Continuing its tradition of building physical experiences in their parks to match big, popular media properties (think Pandora: The World of Avatar at Animal Kingdom), Disney/Pixar is opening Toy Story Land on June 30 at Disney’s Hollywood Studios.
The experience takes a page from the script of another Disney movie, “Honey, I Shrunk the Kids.” This time, it’s park guests that will feel as if they are shrunken to the size of a Green Army Man. The space, which covers 11 acres, is conceived to seem like the backyard of Andy, the boy from the movies whose toys come to life when he’s not around. Guests won’t see Andy, but they will see his footprint in the world, which is about 25 feet long. Buzz and Woody figures loom large, and the area is filled with large game pieces and more than 400 giant toy blocks.
“We were looking at Disney’s Hollywood Studios knowing that we wanted to add more to it,” said Kathy Mangum, a regional executive for Walt Disney Imagineering, the team inside Disney that conceives designs for its theme parks. “We wanted to start to transform that park into something that was giving our guests a more immersive experience into movies.”
The company is also working on its next project, Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge, a themed section scheduled to open in 2019 that will be Toy Story Land’s neighbor. All of these cinematic lands are also meant to beef up Disney’s efforts to give their competitors at the Universal Studios parks (home to the popular Wizarding World of Harry Potter sections) a run for their money.
While Toy Story Land is peppered with many distinct touches to give guests the impression that they’re toy-sized, Ms. Magnum said she and her team aimed to have many of the toys work double duty, being both fun and functional. “So we don’t just have park benches,” she said, “but instead the benches are big Lincoln Logs. And one of the walk-up food locations is a lunch pail that’s been propped up with a giant thermos.” Some lamp posts are the shape of Tinkertoys, and at night, parts of the area are lit by giant Christmas lights.
But no theme park would be complete without rides. Here, the signature one is a roller coaster meant to have been designed by Andy (but actually conceived by the Disney team and manufactured by Mack Rides) called Slinky Dog Dash. Guests ride in a version of Slinky Dog on a spiffy red track through family-friendly twists and turns. Park designers wanted to make sure the ride was fun, but not extreme. “I look at it as aspirational,” Ms. Mangum said. “For a lot of kids, this will be their first roller coaster experience, and it’s safe. There are no inversions. But it’s fun.”
In the design stage for the coaster, a 3-D digital version was created so that designers could get a sense of what the ride would be like. The process is so intricate that Imagineers had been virtually riding the coaster for nearly 3 years before the physical version came together.
Another new ride is the Alien Swirling Saucers, which turns the cute three-eyed creatures from the movie into the pilots of flying saucers attached to rocket ships that carry park guests. These move around in a pattern while space-age music plays, with the aliens trying to be captured by “the claw” that hangs overhead. It’s a colorful, creatively-lit callback to the movie.
The indoor 3-D ride Toy Story Mania, already a popular attraction at the park, now joins the rest of the new attractions. But the rides are set to act as a compliment to an overall experience that allows guests to wander and discover fun elements peppered throughout the space.
“It’s playful, it’s charming, it’s innovative,” Ms. Mangum said about what she likes most about the section. “And everywhere you turn, there’s a familiar toy done in such a way that’s unfamiliar.”