On Site: Toy Story Opening Launches Big Disney World Makeover

Disney Parks Chairman Bob Chapek joins Woody at the dedication. // Photo by Maureen Cody Stone

Revisiting the joyful memories of the June start of summer vacation from everyone’s childhood, Walt Disney World kicked off both its multi-year makeover of Disney’s Hollywood Studios and its 2018 “Incredible Summer” promotion with the June 30 opening of Toy Story Land. The 11-acre theme park is a recreation of Andy’s backyard from the popular trio of Toy Story animated films from Pixar Animation Studios. Guests have their own roles in the park, namely as “honorary toys” invited to “play big” with Andy’s toys, which come to life while he is away.

The festivities began with a dedication ceremony for media and other Disney guests hosted by Bob Chapek, Chairman of Disney Parks, Experiences and Consumer Products, and the surprise appearance of actor Tim Allen, the animated voice of Toy Story hero Buzz Lightyear. They were assisted by a live group of Toy Story stars, including Buzz, Woody, Jessie and an actively deployed Green Army Patrol, whose soldiers unveiled a Toy Story Land curtain with some nifty rappelling maneuvers from atop a massive toybox.

“Years ago I visited Pixar Studios before Toy Story was produced,” said Chapek to the hundreds of guests gathered at the dedication. “I got to meet Buzz, Woody and Jessie. I knew this was something special.” He noted that the Disney team has sought to bring “the heart and humor” of the Toy Story films to Toy Story Land. He said the new 11-acre area is designed to put guests at the heart of a child’s playtime imagination.

Chapek said Disney’s Imagineers worked to “push the boundaries” to achieve an unprecedented guest immersion experience and “transform you into the world of Toy Story.” Toy Story Land is comprised of three main attractions, plus a new casual dining concept called Woody’s Lunchbox.

Slinky Dog Dash is the new Toy Story Land roller coaster. // Photo by Maureen Cody Stone

Slinky Dog and Alien Saucers

Slinky Dog Dash, destined for many to be the centerpiece of Toy Story Land, is a family fun coaster that swirls around the park on a track that brings to life Andy’s own creation, assembled in his yard from the coaster construction set for his Slinky Dog toy. This is Disney’s first double launch coaster, which stops midway before relaunching into a final drop followed by camelback humps. Trying to measure Slinky Dog Dash’s appeal to younger kids, this rider found it stronger in intensity than the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train in the Magic Kingdom, but considerably less intense than the Big Thunder Mountain Railroad in the Magic Kingdom. Two eight-year-old girls we met leaving Disney’s Hollywood Studios said they rode Slinky Dog Dash, their favorite ride, four times during its first day.

The second new ride is Alien Swirling Saucers, a laugh-filled spin in the recreated playset won by Andy in the Toy Story film. Guests twist through the colorful ride area in 22 swirling rocket ships hitched to flying saucers driven by the three-eyed, pointy-eared aliens. The pace of the ride is perfect for all ages, especially small children either below the 38-inch height line for Slinky Dog or not yet ready for the roller coaster ride. Guests can also pose for pictures with a 14-foot Buzz Lightyear at the entrance, and play with the controls inside Buzz’s Star Command Space Station as they wait to join the ride.

Everyone in the family can enjoy the updating for Toy Story Land of one of Disney’s Hollywood Studios most popular rides, Toy Story Mania!, which has a colorful new entrance directly from Toy Story Land. It also has expanded pre-ride entertainment, including a giant Mr. Potato Head and a big Etch-a-Sketch game board, which will keep kids busy as they wait in the lines that inevitably grow for this popular attraction. The ride, now with a third track to accommodate more guests in a shorter time, is a virtual old-time shooting gallery in which riders lob baseballs and cream pies at five stops to hit targets populated with characters from the Toy Story movies. The laughing is almost nonstop as guests in each car shoot for the highest point scores.

Woody’s Lunchbox, the fast-service restaurant in Toy Story Land, serves some new family-friendly food items created exclusively for the park. These include Totchos, a creative cross between potato puffs and chili-cheese nachos; a Woody’s version of the Monte Cristo sandwich, and a BBQ Brisket Melt sandwich with smoked brisket, sourdough bread and Texas-style barbeque ingredients. As with more than 20 quick-service restaurants throughout Walt Disney World, guests planning to lunch at Woody’s Lunchbox can pre-order their meals on the “My Disney Experience” mobile app, pay for the order online using their credit card, and pick up the meal at a restaurant window without waiting in the ordering line. There is aa colorful outdoor dining patio adjacent to the restaurant with lots of covered table seating.

Buzz Lightyear outside the Alien Swirling Saucers. // Photo by Maureen Cody Stone

New Disney Play App

Mindful that families can have limited patience with long waiting lines for Disney’s most popular attractions, Walt Disney Imagineers launched a new “Play Disney Parks” mobile app at both Walt Disney World and Disneyland to coincide with the June 30 Toy Story Land opening. Guests can play interactive games on their digital phones ranging from themed attraction games to Disney trivia, music and more. In Toy Story Land, guests can play games such as “Andy’s Board Game Blast” while waiting for Slinky Dog Dash or “Playset Party” while waiting for Toy Story Mania! Games change as guests visit different selected areas of the parks.

Joann Delgin, director of travel agency sales for Walt Disney World, who hosted about 100 Disney travel agent specialists attending the opening, said that travel agents will be able to sell the new Toy Story Land attractions to every age group. “Guests want to interact with their favorite characters,” she said. “Toy Story transcends generations. Parents grew up with the stories from the Toy Story movies and want to share them with their children…this gives agents a lot of selling opportunities.”

Delgin said travel agents will find a number of newly released Walt Disney World vacation package offers at www.disneytravelagents.com as well as opportunities to take the College of Disney Knowledge online program, with additional marketing aids and opportunities.

Toy Story Special Offers

Walt Disney World has tied several limited-time vacation offers to the opening of Toy Story World. There are “Extra, Extra Magic Hours” from July 1 to late August this year for guests staying in Disney World resort hotels. Guests can arrive in Hollywood Studios as early as 7 a.m. to beat the lines to the new rides in Toy Story Land, as well as other popular park attractions.

The “Play Big” package allows guests up to 25 percent off late summer and early fall on rooms at select Disney resort hotels for stays between August 2 and October 7, when booked by September 7, 2018.

A family can also save by booking the “Enchanted Escape Together” package, offering a family of four a four-night stay in selected Disney resort hotels and four-day “Magic Your Way” theme park tickets for prices starting at $2,067. Valid for stays between Sunday and Thursday nights, the offer is good from August 12 to October 4, when booked by September 7, 2018.

Disney offers its “Disney Magical Express,” a complimentary motorcoach transportation service between Orlando International Airport and Disney Resort Hotels.

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