Toy Story Land
By Tony Stamatoplos
As a Disney fan and frequent visitor to Walt Disney World, it was hard for me to contain my excitement and anticipation when I heard rumors of a new Toy Story Land in Disney’s Hollywood Studios. Once the opening date was announced, we eagerly awaited the opportunity to see this new addition. As Floridians, it’s fairly easy for us to take a day trip to WDW, and we visited Hollywood Studios a few times this summer and fall. The highlight definitely was Toy Story Land. Long awaited, it features a lot that is fun and new, while retaining and improving on favorites from the old Pixar Place area. It definitely was worth the wait.
Pixar’s Toy Story has been described as “a world where toys come to life.” I remember seeing the movie for the first time and how it brought back memories of childhood play and the limitless imagination and creativity of children. Good cartoons work on multiple levels; animated feature films such as Toy Story and its sequels are able to explore those in greater depth and detail. I’m a huge movie fan, and all three Toy Story movies are among my favorites. We were excited to see what Toy Story Land had in store for us.
[Toy Story Land] abounds with obvious and subtle connections to the toys and scenes from the movies.
You may be aware that everything in WDW—attractions, resort hotels, restaurants—has a “backstory.” Hints of Toy Story Land’s backstory are everywhere, and you begin to notice them even before you enter. Andy, the boy whose toys feature in the movies, has a lot of toys, which come alive in his imagination. Toy Story Land is set in Andy’s backyard, inhabited by those toys and other things from his world, with clever allusions to how he plays. The idea is that, as you enter Toy Story Land, you are shrunk down to “toy size.” A giant Woody, the cowboy action figure and star of Toy Story, greets you and sets the tone for your experience. Once inside, look for Woody’s costar and rival, Buzz Lightyear, and other characters from the movies.
The land abounds with obvious and subtle connections to the toys and scenes from the movies. You can see and touch things in Andy’s play world and experience life from their point-of-view. The concept and details are awesome—as in awe-inspiring—as well as really cool. Imaginative uses of materials in the benches, tables, fences, and even trashcans, suggest they were made from parts of Andy’s toys and games. The ingenious design and artwork of the ride queues add to the immersive experience and make waiting interesting, fun, and more tolerable. Overall, I was struck by how bright, colorful, and vibrant everything is in Toy Story Land. You can spend hours discovering the fun details, from the attractions to the toys you’ll recognize from the movies and your own childhood.
Fans of the old Pixar Place area will not be disappointed. Sarge and the Green Army Men are still around to interact with guests, now updated and rebranded as the “Green Army Patrol.” The “Green Army Drum Corps” also makes frequent appearances, adding to the ambience. And there are opportunities to meet other popular characters. Besides character references integrated into attractions and their queues, Woody, Jessie, and Buzz make appearances here and there to greet guests, pose for photos, and sign autographs.
And of course, there are the rides. Toy Story Mania! has reopened as one of the featured attractions of Toy Story Land. Reminiscent of old-school carnival games, it’s always a favorite of mine. A few changes stand out, such as a new queue and the reappearance of the animatronic Mr. Potato Head character (yeah!). The biggest change is the relocation of its entrance, now from Toy Story Land.
The highlight of Toy Story Land is the Slinky Dog Dash, a coaster ride inspired by the Slinky Dog character from the movies and (in the backstory) built by Andy using his Mega Coaster Play Kit and other toys.
The highlight of Toy Story Land is the Slinky Dog Dash, a coaster ride inspired by the Slinky Dog character from the movies and (in the backstory) built by Andy using his Mega Coaster Play Kit and other toys. We didn’t have a Fast Pass and waited in line for about 40 minutes. The queue isn’t as inspiring as the one for Toy Story Mania! and it’s outdoors, which can be an issue in the Florida heat and humidity. It features several fun elements and parts of the kit that Andy built it from. The wait didn’t seem bad and was well worth it, especially as we got to experience it at night. I highly recommend a night ride if you can. Wow! The coaster experience is wonderful and the views spectacular, with two launches and some nice curves and drops. Roller coaster fanatics aren’t likely to be super impressed with the thrill level, but that’s not generally the priority for Disney park goers. The all-too-short ride time is a little disappointing, but the overall experience was still positive. Slinky Dog Dash has risen to the top of my “must do” list.
The other new attraction is Alien Swirling Saucers, a spinning ride based on the little green aliens from “The Claw” machine at Pizza Planet. Your toy rocket ship is pulled and spun around in different directions (along tracks in the ground) by an alien in a flying saucer. The music, theming, and experience are fun, though the minute-and-a-half ride time is a little disappointing.
For food in Toy Story Land, there is the new quick service place, Woody’s Lunch Box, inspired by Andy’s lunch box and things one might associate with taking lunch to school as a kid. The food is good for a quick service, and prices are reasonable for WDW. Theming of the food choices and the seating area are fun. We tried the grilled three-cheese sandwich and potato barrels. Both were delicious and satisfying. On another visit, I snuck back to have a Joffrey’s coffee and try the new pastry everyone seems to be talking about—the lunch box tart. The seating area seems small but is pleasant. It does get crowded, though, perhaps because some people find it a nice place to rest and enjoy the umbrella-shaded tables, even when not eating.
In a nutshell, it embodies the story and experience of the movies, and also captures the memories, experiences, feelings, and sense of wonder and imagination we had as kids.
Overall, Toy Story Land is fun, with a lot to see and do. It does seem as though it wants to be bigger, with more stuff (especially merchandise), but what’s there is great. Clearly, Disney imagineers drew from both the movies and some of our common childhood experiences when they created Toy Story Land. On the surface, it’s an inspired extension of the Toy Story movies. On a deeper level, I think it connects with us because of those common references and shared experiences of childhood play. In a nutshell, it embodies the story and experience of the movies, and also captures the memories, experiences, feelings, and sense of wonder and imagination we had as kids.
Have you visited Toy Story Land yet? If so, what was your favorite part? If not, what do you most look forward to?
Welcome to Magical Days in the World. My name is Tony Stamatoplos, and I’m a lifelong Disney fan. Growing up, my Disney experiences were through television, movies, books, and comic books. I didn’t get to visit a Disney park until I was an adult, fulfilling a big dream. Since moving to Florida, I visit WDW often. Whether I’m there for a week, a day, or just a few hours, there’s always something magical about it. I’d love to share some of my experiences, insights, and tips with you. I’d also like to hear about some of yours!