D23 Expo – Making of Toy Story Midway Mania

One of the best sessions I attended at the Expo was The Making of Toy Story Midway Mania. It covered the creation of the attraction from idea through design, construction, and the final result. Really fascinating. There were four panelists who spoke: Kevin Rafferty, Robert Coltrin, and Lori Coltrin (who were quick to point out they are brother and sister), who are all Disney Imagineers, and Roger Gould, from Pixar’s Theme Park Group.


I wish I had been able to video tape all of this presentation so that you could see the entire thing – it was just awesome. Deb Wills saw it with me, and she said that one presentation was worth the entire trip to California for her.

Toy Story Midway Mania – The Pitch

It started back in May 2005 when they were working on the new Radiator Springs Racer attraction for Cars Land, and wondering if they could bring some interactive components to that. They decided that wouldn’t really work, so started coming up with a new attraction idea based on the idea of classic midway games instead, which involved some in-depth research at the L.A. County Fair. 🙂 The pull-string shooter was inspired by the Pirate Adventure at Disney Quest. They put together this Pitch to management, and got the green light really fast – within about 5 months after they had the original idea.

Toy Story Midway Mania – The Design

Once they got the go-ahead, the problem was that they had to figure out how to build it. 🙂 And someone also decided that while they were at it they should build one in Florida, too. They had to develop a new ride system along the way, and in the case of DCA, had to figure out how to fit it around and under the California Screamin’ roller coaster without shutting the coaster down very often. In this image you can see the track layout, and how it fits around the coaster track.

In Florida they built the new Pixar Place area, and at John Lasseter’s suggestion they made the entrance look like the entrance to the real Pixar Studios – even using the same type of brick.



Something I had never realized was the backstory to the attraction. Andy receives a Midway Games play set for his birthday – and you see the box for this set up on the floor as you exit the attraction in California:


When Andy is called away the toys decide to set up and play with the set themselves. The Mr. Potato Head Broadway Barker is actually an additional figure, and “sold separately” – you can see his rather boxy stand and backdrop.


Buzz, Woody, Jessie, Bo-Peep, Ham, Rex, Wheezy and the Green Army Men play host to the various midway games. We, the guests, are the other toys who are invited in to actually play the games – shrunk down to toy-size, of course. In California, as you leave the loading area and enter the attraction, you go through an entrance that looks just like the box.


Toy Story Midway Mania – The Animation

The look of the attraction is inspired by a game that one of the designers had as a kid, called Snoopy and the Red Baron, with what appear to be cardboard backdrops, stickers, and pieces made of single color molded plastic.

One issue they ran into with having two hosts for each game, but also two game screens, was the “Doppelganger Problem”. As the car pulls into the game, players can briefly see both screens…and if both hosts are on both screens – then there’s the Evil Doppelganger. 🙂 They solved this by having only one host per screen until the vehicles get pulled in, and then the other host magically jumps in to the scene.


The practice game was the most complicated from the animation point of view, because that’s the only time that the players are actually firing at the hosts (who are holding targets in front of them), and they want to avoid a host getting a pie in the face! But people (including Roger’s son) have figured out that if both players gang up on one of the hosts, one shooting at the head and one at the feet, they can overcome that. That doesn’t seem very nice! 🙂

In their test group, they noticed that young children were initially reluctant to break the plates. That’s when they added the line where Sarge yells: “I am not your mother -break those plates!”. Problem solved. 🙂

Something I had never noticed in that same scene…if you watch the green army guys, they are actually working hard to clean up the plate shards as plates are shattered all around them!

Scoring has two components – point score and accuracy. Accuracy was a late addition to the scoring, because they found that some of their testers (cough…executives…cough) didn’t shoot very fast so didn’t get many points, but when they did shoot, they were very accurate.

Another fun thing during the scoring stop – watch what happens to Woody and Buzz after the “prizes” are awarded. There’s so much more depth and detail to this attraction than I had ever noticed before!

Toy Story Midway Mania – Construction and Production

This is the first blacklight show viewed with 3D glasses, which made mixing the paint colors more of a challenge – everyone involved was carrying 3D glasses around with them when they were inside.

Below: Big smile from the boss – must be doing something right!


Toy Story Midway Mania – The Music

Listen to the music – while the music throughout the attraction is “You’ve Got a Friend in Me”, there are different versions depending on what game it is – a more western-sounding version for Woody’s Shooting Gallery, and a spacey-theme for Buzz Lightyear’s game.

Kevin Rafferty and Roger Gould spent more than 30 hours with Don Rickles as he recorded all of the dialog for the Mr. Potato Head figure. Rickles had some choice comments about the whole experience. 🙂


It was really a wonderful session – as far as I’m concerned, this is the kind of thing that D23 should be all about.

Trending Now

Laura Gilbreath is a native of San Diego, CA. She has been making the trek up Interstate 5 to Disneyland since she was a small child and terrified of talking tikis and hitchhiking ghosts. She and her husband Lee enjoy trips to Disneyland and Walt Disney World, as well as sailings on the Disney Cruise Line.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

7 Replies to “D23 Expo – Making of Toy Story Midway Mania”

  1. That’s amazing how much detail goes into an attraction. No wonder they’re always the best! I wish I got to go to the D23 expo, but I am always thankful for these blogs on allears! Thanks for sharing!

  2. Awesome article!
    If you’re looking for tips, bluecruiser, try The Complete Walt Disney Wolrd 2009 by Julie & Mike Neal (ISBN 9780970959683)… Found it when picking up the 2010 Unofficial Guide to WDW, it’s a beautiful book with lots of pictures and indepth detail, and it has scoring hints and tips for Toy Story Mania and Buzz Lightyear that we’re going to try out on our next trip!

  3. Hi Laura, great article! Wish I could have been there. TSMM is my families favorite attraction in all of WDW. We ride it every visit as often as possible. On my birthday back in January this year, we got the Passholder Birthday Fastpasses which allowed us to fastpass the ride four times and then we picked up an additional two more fastpasses during the day. It was incredible! Keep up the good work!

    Laura replies: Wow…Toy Story Mania six times in one day? I’d love to do that!

  4. For the first comment – you can find through search engines various tips and easter eggs in regards to scoring higher on the attraction – most of which involve some teamwork with your partner…

  5. Just got back from another wonderful trip to the mousehouse, our family can’t seem to get enough of this ride, it is so cute and fun to play, we could ride it all day! The thought and efforts put into this are truly amazing, and it shows! We really enjoyed reading about the history of how Toy Story Mania got here. We look forward to many more magical Disney trips and the old and new Disney has to offer. This was truly a great newsy article.

  6. Great coverage – I loved the TSMM presentation !

    The only disappointment I had was that they did not reveal any scoring secrets for the attraction, which was promised by the session description:

    “The Making of Toy Story Midway Mania!
    Lori Coltrin, Robert Coltrin, Roger Gould and Kevin Rafferty, the team that helped bring
    this cutting-edge attraction to life, tell how they did it – and share some tricks to improve
    your score!”

    Laura replies: Thank you! I wondered if they would talk about the scoring tips…my impression was that they ran short of time, so maybe that’s why they didn’t talk about that?