When you set foot in a Disney theme park, the goal is to escape normal life and spend the day in a strange and fun world. Whether it's Tomorrowland at Disneyland or Pandora: The World of Avatar at Disney World's Animal Kingdom, the creative teams behind these parks go out of their way to create something unique and cohesive.
Toy Story Land, the latest addition to Disney World located inside Disney's Hollywood Studios in Orlando, Florida, is no different. GameSpot had the opportunity to attend the new Pixar-inspired land's grand opening to see just what the Disney imagineering team had cooked up, and it seems no stone was left unturned when it comes to bringing the world of Toy Story to life.
Is it worth visiting, though? Let's take a look at what, exactly, Toy Story Land offers to see if it's worth factoring into your next vacation.
An Immersive Experience
The entire idea behind Toy Story Land is that every visitor is shrunken down to toy size as they explore Andy's backyard. The land isn't about recreating the Toy Story film, but rather bringing guests into a new story altogether. "You walk into Andy's backyard, where just moments ago, he has left [after] an enormous moment of play and what you get to do, your only mission here, [is to] go play, have fun," Walt Disney Imagineering creative director Ryan Wineinger tells GameSpot.
Whether it's Andy's massive footprints on the ground or the picket fence that surrounds the land as a barrier, the goal is to put you in the role of your favorite toy as you set out to explore. In fact, Toy Story Land even makes ample use of real-world brands, just as the movie did, to bridge Pixar's world with our own. "The reason in the original Toy Story film that Buzz and Woody and Bo Peep feel so real is because they're friends with Mr. and Mrs. Potato Head and other toys that are toys you played with as a child," Wineinger explains.
From merchandise carts that are giant Fisher-Price vehicles to arches over doorways that are made of Uno cards stacked up against each other, everything is made out of toys--including Tinker Toy barriers seen throughout the area. While there are plenty of hidden things to see, there are a number of incredibly obvious touches that make Toy Story Land feel so real.
With 11 acres to fill, Toy Story Land includes one existing ride and two new ones. The first is the Slinky Dog Dash roller coaster, which is clearly inspired by Hot Wheels car tracks but with Woody's trusted ally Slinky Dog as the ride vehicle. The track spans most of the land, and while it's a thrilling trip--complete with two separate launch areas--it's a simple enough coaster that should appeal to riders of all ages (don't worry, you won't be going upside down at any point).
If you're a frequent visitor to Disney's California Adventure, the second new ride might look familiar. Alien Swirling Saucers is a rethemed take on Mater's Junkyard Jamboree from Cars Land. Instead of sliding around in tractors with Mater, Swirling Saucers drops you into the claw machine featured in Toy Story as the little green aliens plot their escape. It's a simple ride but an effective one that should keep visitors busy and a little dizzy.
Lastly, there's the existing ride. Toy Story Mania is a 4D attraction themed like a series of carnival midway games that first opened at Disney's Hollywood Studios in 2008. However, its entrance has been relocated to Toy Story Land with a brand-new queue design--all of the rides have themed queues--that is air-conditioned. If you're visiting a very hot and humid Florida in the summer, this queue might be the most exciting place to be.
What's For Lunch
Theme parks can cause you to work up an appetite. When you get hungry, Toy Story Land has Woody's Lunch Box. This is the primary eatery in the area and, like the rest of Toy Story Land, it has a cohesive theme. It looks as if Andy's lunchbox has been tipped over to let the food fall out.
Woody's Lunch Box has its own signature menu, all designed to remind you of the food your parents made for you as a child. From s'mores french toast sandwiches for breakfast to "totchos"--which are essentially tater tot nachos--there are plenty of choices. The true star of the entire thing, though, is the grilled cheese sandwich and tomato soup. Naturally, there's also an assortment of drinks and desserts to try. Make sure you try the cold brew coffee ice cream float when you sit down for lunch.
When The Sun Goes Down
Chances are Toy Story Land is going to be very busy for a while, so you might be trying to time your visit carefully. If that's the case, you should know there are two distinctly different experiences to be found: day and night. While you can get the full experience during daytime hours, the entire land comes alive in a different way once the sun goes down and the lights come on.
Practically all of Toy Story Land is lit by giant Christmas lights, which send colors everywhere. Beyond that, both Slinky Dog Dash and Alien Swirling Saucers are covered in copious amounts of lights, giving a very different ride experience. Swirling Saucers, for instance, also takes on a nightclub vibe as lights flash and swirl while music plays.
The Easter Egg Hunt
It's a land based on a Pixar movie. Of course there are Easter eggs. Have you seen a Pixar movie? There are nods hidden throughout to a variety of things, including other Disney properties. "As shepherds of the culture and folklore of the Pixar Animation franchises, we are doing what they do in their own films here as well," Wineinger teases. "When you take these toys and you make them larger than life around you, there is an impossible amount of detail to study and we encourage the guests [to] take your time and get to know all of these toys through the entirety of Andy's backyard, because you may not know what surprises are around the corner, or perhaps some fun little surprises that we've brought into this place."
While it's impossible to know how many surprises have been packed into the land, make sure to always keep your eyes open. In the Toy Story Mania queue, for instance, there's a giant Viewfinder disc. If you look closely, though, all of the images on the disc are from Disney's 1953 animated classic Peter Pan.
There really is so much to see and experience in the new Toy Story Land at Disney's Hollywood Studios. With Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge on the way, as well as a new ride themed around Mickey and Minnie Mouse, Disney World isn't playing around when it comes to immersing guests into new places.
Toy Story Land is open now.
Images provided by Disney Parks.