Weeks after the grand opening of Toy Story Land at Disney’s Hollywood Studios this summer we had the opportunity to explore the vibrant new land and get a behind-the-scenes look at the work that went into bringing Andy’s toy-filled backyard to life. This colorful and immersive experience, based on Pixar's Toy Story films has been in the works for years and is the new hot spot of Orlando's Walt Disney World.
David Minichiello, Executive Creative Director, Walt Disney Imagineering, leading the team for Toy Story Land walked us through the new land and attractions. He's been working on Toy Story Land for four years from when the Imagineers originally started thinking of it. The average time range is about five years for a land like this to go from idea to opening.
Approaching Toy Story Land you'll notice a super tall friendly face welcoming guests and the entire land bordered with a giant-sized fence. You really are in Andy's backyard.
Minichiello on the engineering and opening of Toy Story Land at Walt Disney World:
“The story we wanted to setup here is once you transition in here you’re in Andy’s backyard. Andy’s the little boy from the Toy Story films. And the other thing we wanted to create was that when you walk in you’re magically transformed to the size of a toy.”
The Woody at the entrance stands at nearly 20 feet tall and there are everything from giant blocks to a giant yo-yo are visible. The effect totally works, enhanced with every character, building, and element of the land and its decor fitting the "you're a toy here" theme. The supports for one of the rides and things like umbrellas are toys or everyday objects enlarged. Even the bridge is a toy.
“You’re about the size of a green army man in the land,” says Minichiello. “It’s about you as the guest as honorary toys in the land."
Toy Story Land introduces a pair of mega popular new attractions, the most notable of which is Slinky Dog Dash. The other is the Alien Swirling Saucers, and both join the already popular Toy Story Midway Mania! attraction which has been partially repackaged in how guests enter it to become a core part of Toy Story Land. Midway Mania also recently had a third track added to support increased capacity.
“Both of these attractions, everything about them is about the toy world from the way to coaster color breakdown is, the way the terrain is built, it’s all to make the believability that these are real toys. And at this scale you have to do a lot of these details to make it believable.”
Everywhere you look you can find details and seemingly hidden details that the design team put not just into the attraction and giant-sized Pixar characters, but the walkways, gardens, and in the queues. “We put the toy box that the Midway Mania game came in and that’s now the entry," adds Minichiello.
In the queue for Slinky Dog Dash, there are sketches everywhere with the idea of highlighting the components Andy was planning on using for his idea (for the Slinky Dog Dash ride), and things like the green army men helping out. All of it sets up the story for what guests will see.
“With Slinky Dog Dash, the story here is Andy has this really cool mega coaster kit and as a kid would do, he wants to make it even cooler, right? So he decided to put a slinky on it so we get the slinky box that Slinky came in and as you go through the queue, you can see little sketches by Andy doing Slinky as a coaster.”
Woody’s Lunch Box, a quick service restaurant designed as Andy’s Lunchbox can be found near the entrance as well. It’s one of the only sponsored spots in the Park, with Babybel cheese being something Disney thought fit the theme and aesthetic well, not to mention the creative aspect of the wax. What would Andy have done with the wrapper and wax? You’ll see at Woody's Lunch Box.
There are two merchandise carts in Toy Story Land, one is a toy dump truck and the other around the corner is the iconic Play Family Camper from Fisher-Price. Here guests can purchase new logo items including pins, accessories, toys, and collectibles, including play sets based on Toy Story Land attractions.
Two of those new products include small scale replica toys inspired by the new attractions. Designed using 3D models created in partnership by Pixar Animation Studios and Walt Disney Imagineering, the Slinky Dog Dash & Dodge Power Boost Set features spinning flames and launching vehicle action. The three pullback toys resembling vehicles from the Alien Swirling Saucers attraction launch forward on their next adventure once released.
The shops and eating areas themselves are toys that fit theme and if you look closely in and around these areas, you'll see just some of the many hidden details and Easter Eggs the Imagineers placed across Toy Story Land.
Easter Eggs everywhere for observant Disney fans. Keep an eye out for Buster’s name tag, Scrabble board pieces, and note the popsicle benches. Every object we’d consider normal in a park like this is a super-sized toy and part of the story. Packaging from the Pizza Planet toys and Buzz Lightyear play sets for instance, are featured in the Alien Swirling Saucers queue. Similarly, the original packaging for Slinky Dog represents the opening for Slinky Dog Dash. There are hand-drawn signs and sketches everywhere too.
And characters will come out to interact with the guests, including green army men as Sarge looks out from the tower to keep a watchful eye.
More Details on Slinky Dog Dash & Alien Swirling Saucers
Slinky Dog Dash is the first ride at Disney Parks to use a “double launch system.” It was inspired by those old car toys that you pull back to wind up and let go and in Slinky Dog Dash that happens mid-way through the experience. Towards the end of it you’ll get a glimpse of an animatronic Wheezy and depending when you catch him you’ll hear him singing in his squeaky voice or deep voice.
As for Alien Swirling Saucers, it’s all designed in the style of Pizza Planet from the first film - where the aliens are from. This whole section is designed to look like one big toy Andy put out in the yard. “Even the marquee is part of that. Remember the robot guards at the entry to Pizza Planet?” David Minichiello points out. They’re there too and so is the villainous Zurg and of course, Buzz Lightyear. This is where you’ll find all of Andy’s space toys.
With the popularity of Toy Story Land, extra time was added in the morning for eager guests looking to check out the exciting new area of the park. Make sure to use your fast-passes accordingly when planning ahead, especially for Slinky Dog Dash.
However, Toy Story Land is a must-see location at night as the entire land lights up in beautiful colors. There are strung up giant Christmas lights around the land which fit the colorful aesthetic during the day but that all light up as the sun goes down. Even on the Slinky Dog Dash, every time Slinky goes by on the track the lights change color.
Toy Story Land is intentionally designed to be multi-generational, appealing to those who grew up with a lot of the classic toys found all over the land to younger audiences growing up with Toy Story now (or who will see Toy Story 4 in theaters in the near future).
And yes, the imagineers are already looking at places to add elements from future Toy Story movies to keep it fresh for the long-term. Andy's Backyard will evolve over time.
Toy Story Land opened officially June 30, 2018.
- Toy Story 4 (2019) release date: Jun 21, 2019