The Crusader Newspaper Group

Disney’s Toy Story Land is an immersive adventure for kids and adults

By Elaine Hegwood Bowen, M.S.J., Chicago Crusader

The latest land expansion at Hollywood Studios at Walt Disney World in Lake Buena Vista, Florida, is a great tribute to Disney•Pixar’s Animation Studios’  “Toy Story” movie franchise.

The first film premiered in 1995 and told the story of Andy, whose family is preparing to move across town. Andy receives a space action figure named Buzz Lightyear for his birthday. But this new toy isn’t readily received by Andy’s current toys, which are led by Woody the Cowboy and also include Bo Peep, a barrel of monkeys, a dinosaur, Slinky Dog, Mr. Potato Head, who is pining for a Mrs. Potato Head, aliens and a green army of soldiers, among other delightful children’s toys.

Woody is a bit upset, and he tries to cleverly get rid of Buzz Lightyear, but eventually the two of them are forced to forge a genuine friendship and learn that only through mutual trust and respect do they have any chance of surviving Sid, the evil neighbor boy and his penchant for mutating toys. The story of determination and a unified front against the so-called enemy is highlighted more than ever.

“Toy Story”—and its sequels—can be watched over and over again through videos and downloads. There must be millions of people who can remember their parents taking them to see the original film and many more millions of parents who can remember the smiles on their children’s faces, as they watched all of the excitement on the big screen.

And now the bigger adventure of “Toy Story” can be experienced for the entire family at Walt Disney World’s new Toy Story Land—a joy-filled, toy-filled world as only Disney can create. Recently, the Crusader was able to experience the fun of it all first hand.

Guests will feel like they have shrunk to the size of a toy as Woody, Jessie, Buzz, Slinky Dog, the Aliens, Green Army Men and other fun-loving “Toy Story” characters come to life in the larger-than-life outdoor setting of Andy’s backyard.

And what a backyard! In a rich and colorful landscape straight from his vivid imagination, Andy has set up his toys for the best playtime ever. Guests will be surrounded by giant building blocks, game board pieces and more.

It would seem impossible for young children to not be impressed and mesmerized by all that greets them upon entering Toy Story Land, which is part of a multi-year reimagining of Disney’s Hollywood Studios and the largest expansion in the theme park’s history.

ACTRESS SHERRI SHEPHERD and her son, Jeffrey, take a spin aboard Alien Swirling Saucers while previewing Toy Story Land at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. In the new land, Walt Disney World Resort guests can whoosh along on the family-friendly roller coaster Slinky Dog Dash, take a spin aboard Alien Swirling Saucers and try for the high score on Toy Story Mania! (Steven Diaz, photographer).

“Disney World is enjoying the most significant period of growth in the last two decades, thanks in large part to Toy Story Land,” said George A. Kalogridis, President of Walt Disney World Resort. He noted that the new land is part of a “Disney Theme Park trifecta” with last year’s opening of Pandora – The World of Avatar at Disney’s Animal Kingdom and Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge coming in 2019 to Disney’s Hollywood Studios. “In the run-up to 2021 and the 50th anniversary of Walt Disney World, more exciting new attractions and experiences are planned that position the resort for continued growth and galvanize Disney’s place as the leading vacation destination in the world.”

The concept for Toy Story Land took four years to bring to fruition, said David Minichiello, Director, Creative Development at Walt Disney Imagineering. “This is a popular story within many generations, and people know and love it,” he said. “It is an immersive world with giant toys all around.”

Within Toy Story Land, there are three-eyed Toy Story Aliens who take guests (as honorary toys) on a whirling flying saucer ride in toy rocket ships as part of Alien Swirling Saucers. The new attraction whirls and blinks with colorful lighting, electronic space music and nonstop fun.

GUESTS AT DISNEY’S Hollywood Studios can go to infinity and beyond in Toy Story Land. The immersive 11-acre land takes guests into the adventurous outdoors of Andy’s backyard, where they will feel like they are the size of Green Army Men surrounded by other toys. (Matt Stroshane, photographer)

Alien saucer pilots have pointy ears, three eyes, short antennae and facial expressions designed to convey surprise or delight. Each extraterrestrial has hitched its flying saucer to one of 22 rocket ships; together, flying saucers and rockets spin through the Pizza Planet galaxy.

With “The Claw” dangling overhead, guests climb aboard their rocket ships and hover in Pizza Planet’s version of “deep-dish space” for an out-of-this-world saucer whirl to the beat of new versions of “Toy Story” songs and musical themes. During the adventure, the Aliens spin guests around toy icons like Planet Pepperonia and a pizza-inspired space station.

Before boarding Alien Swirling Saucers, guests can pose for a photo with a Buzz Lightyear action figure standing more than 14 feet tall on top of toy building blocks near the entrance to his Star Command Space Station Playset. Toy robot guards flank the Pizza Planet-inspired marquee.

Inside Star Command, there are buttons to push, dials to turn, and a switch to toggle for audio and visual effects. His creativity never flagging, Andy built a toy gantry with his Construx toy pieces that guests use to traverse from Buzz’s command center to the Swirling Saucers game.

Guests who are spin-averse can swirl vicariously by watching from the viewing area in between and around the playset.

“This is a world created by a boy’s imagination,” said Dave Fisher, Walt Disney Imagineering Senior Story Editor. “Andy has brought out all his space toys – it’s a really fun and high-energy attraction.”

Guests can also pose for an out-of-this-world selfie with a stationary, photo-ready green Alien in its colorful saucer just outside the attraction. Toys of all makes and sizes – from a 10-foot-diameter “rubber” ball to colorful Cooties – have been carefully placed by Andy among the landscape of overgrown grasses, toy shrubs and playset trees throughout Toy Story Land.

“This new land will place guests inside the wondrous world of Woody, Buzz and their pals – and invite everyone to experience the joy of being a toy,” said Bob Chapek, chairman of Walt Disney Parks and Resorts.

Toy Story Land also celebrates what once defined entertainment for a generation. Crayons, Rubik’s Cubes, Cooties, Green Army Men and other toys and games will pour on the nostalgia for park-goers. Even the lampposts are shaped like Tinkertoys.

The star of the show could be Slinky Dog Dash. Andy has assembled his roller coaster kit for maximum family fun. Tracks and supports in bright colors of red, orange, yellow and blue are put together according to Andy’s hand-drawn plans, with Rex and Jessie lending a hand. And to complete his creation, Andy picked up everyone’s favorite floppy-eared dachshund with a strrrrretch-ing slinky coil belly and dropped it on to the coaster track.

Guests can also enjoy Toy Story Mania!, which has been outfitted with an all-new colorful toy carnival game box entrance. Recently updated with a third track, the popular attraction will put even more guests in the carnival playset action taking aim at 3D objects – using everything from baseballs to cream pies – in a variety of whimsical, fast-paced games.

When it’s time for on-the-go refreshments, Woody’s Lunch Box will serve up tasty meals and old-fashioned soda floats from a walk-up window in a setting surrounded by Andy’s favorite toys and a giant vintage thermos.  Woody’s Lunch Box will also feature Mini Babybel – the Official Snack Cheese of Walt Disney World Resort.

It is an ambitious project that Walt Disney World believes will bring hours of fun for families across the country. Here are some fun facts:

More than 400 toy blocks fill Andy’s backyard.

In Toy Story Land, Andy’s footprint is about 25 feet long or the equivalent of a size 240 shoe.

It would take a Green Army Man roughly 12 steps just to travel the length of one of Andy’s shoeprints.

You would need a backpack the size of a school bus to carry the Buzz and Woody figures that tower over Toy Story Land.

The weight of the Slinky Dog Dash track and support columns weighs almost as much as 125,000 gallons of milk.

Together Rex and the Jenga Tower are as tall as 7½ Green Army Men standing on top of one another.

In an upcoming column, I will include some information about planning a trip to Florida to experience Toy Story Land. For now, for more information, visit

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