WDW Chronicles: Toy Story at Disney’s Hollywood Studios

by Jim Korkis
Disney Historian

Feature Article

This article appeared in the February 6, 2018 Issue #959 of ALL EARS® (ISSN: 1533-0753)

Editor's Note: This story/information was accurate when it was published. Please be sure to confirm all current rates, information and other details before planning your trip.

Toy Story Land at Disney's Hollywood Studios

In 2015, it was announced that a Toy Story Land would be built on 11 acres at Disney's Hollywood Studios near the area already designated as Pixar Place. Variations of Toy Story Land, inspired by the popular Toy Story movie franchise that has generated well over $2 billion worldwide, exist at Walt Disney Studios Park in Paris, Hong Kong Disneyland and soon Shanghai Disneyland, so the addition to Orlando's theme park is no surprise.

In fact, there's been a Toy Story element in Disney's Hollywood Studios for years.

Back in November 1995, to help publicize the initial release of the first animated feature film, The Toy Story Parade made its way down the park's Hollywood Boulevard. The parade, which ran until June 8, 1997, was led by Sarge and the Green Army Men and also included Buzz Lightyear standing on top of his spaceship surrounded by the little green aliens, Woody standing on top of some stacked toys, the barrel of red monkeys dancing down the street and even Mr. Potato Head and Hamm with stacks of classic games. In addition, guests at that time could interact with characters like Woody, Buzz and the Green Army Men in character greetings.

The Toy Story characters later showed up in the Disney Stars and Motor Cars Parade (in a car the shape of Andy's bed) (2001-2008), Block Party Bash (2008-2011) and the Pixar Pals Countdown to Fun parade (2011-2013) along with other Pixar animated characters.

The extremely popular Toy Story Midway Mania attraction opened at Disney's Hollywood Studios on May 31, 2008. The idea was pitched to CEO Bob Iger and Pixar chief John Lasseter as "traditional midway games that you can ride through, hosted by the Toy Story characters." It was Lasseter's suggestion that the archway entrance for Pixar Place, the home of the new attraction, should look like the entrance to the real Pixar Studios in Emeryville, California, down to even using the same type of brick.

Green Army Men

In June 2008, composer/orchestrator Jennifer Hammond recorded the music for the area at the famed Capitol Records Studios in Hollywood. Hammond's score consisted of new arrangements based on the themes composer Randy Newman wrote for the original films, as well expanded musical ideas based on selected underscore moments. The score was recorded over the course of a few days at Capitol's Studio A, where Hammond conducted varying ensembles of the Hollywood Studio Symphony. Orchestrated by Marshall Bowen, Larry Rench, Ladd McIntosh and Leland Bond, Hammond had arranged more than 60 minutes of score that is now heard on a continuous loop at Pixar Place. Bowen was present in the booth along with scoring mixer Charlie Pakaari and Walt Disney Imagineering Music Executive John Dennis.

At the Studios, as park guests enter the Toy Story Midway Mania attraction, they find themselves in Andy's room, which is strewn with board games from the 1960s and 1970s, puzzles and other toys. The setting is straight from the 1995 animated feature film, Toy Story. The murals located in the load area are the biggest murals painted since Epcot was built. The toys all look gigantic because the guests have "shrunk" to the size of a toy — the toys won't come to life if a human is around. The area was designed so that a five-foot, six-inch tall person would feel about 14 inches tall. The ViewMaster reels are nearly four feet in diameter and the Tinkertoy connectors are two feet across. According to the back story, Andy has received the Midway Games set for his birthday. However, before he can completely set it up and play with it, he is called away for dinner and Andy's toys decide to set it up and play with the game themselves.

Originally, the attraction featured a five-foot-tall Mr. Potato Head Broadway Barker figure (the most complex audio-animatronics figure ever built to date by Disney). At the time, Imagineers spent more than 30 hours with the late comedian Don Rickles, who was the voice of the character in the original films, to record his dialog. (By the way, the voice of Woody in the attraction is supplied by Jim Hanks, who is the younger brother of actor Tom Hanks. Jim has supplied the voice of Woody for videogames, merchandise and more.)

Don Rickles with Mr. Potato Head

The idea for the $80 million attraction began in May 2005, when Imagineers were working on the concepts for Cars Land at Disney's California Adventure and thinking about how they could bring some interactive components to the area. They later discarded those ideas, but were still intrigued by the initial concept as well as by the games at Paradise Pier and the Buzz Lightyear attraction.

After some in-depth research at the local Los Angeles County Fair with classic midway games, the idea progressed to develop similar classic games but using the newest technology to more effectively control the experience.

The pull-string shooter was inspired by the cannons used in the Pirates of the Caribbean: Battle for Buccaneer Gold game at DisneyQuest. In order to create a show that responds not only to every pull of a guest's spring-action shooter, but also every move their midway tram makes, there are more than 150 computers communicating over multiple networks throughout the attraction.

Imagineers Lori Coltrin, her brother Robert Coltrin, Roger Gould, Sue Bryan and Kevin Rafferty were the primary team on the attraction. The look of the attraction was inspired by a game that one of the Imagineers had as a kid called "Snoopy and the Red Baron," which is why there appears to be cardboard backdrops, stickers, and pieces molded out of single color of plastic. In their test group, the Imagineers saw young children were reluctant to break the plates so they added the line where Sarge yells: "I am not your mother! Break those plates!" Typically more than 1 million of the virtual China plates are broken every single day. The Green Army Men work hard to clean up the plate shards as plates are shattered all around them although most riders never pay attention to that action.

This is the first blacklight show viewed with 3D glasses, which made mixing the paint colors more of a challenge. The Imagineers involved in the art direction had to always carry 3D glasses around with them when they were working on the attraction.

The attraction opened before Toy Story 3 was released, so in May 2010 Disney replaced the mini game "Bo Peep's Baaa-loon Pop" with "Rex and Trixie's Dino Darts." Trixie was a new character introduced in the film, as was the unicorn Buttercup, who replaced Rex in the "Hamm and Eggs" game.

The attraction was so popular that a third track was added in May 2016.

More recently from May to August, the Studios hosted the show "The Music of Pixar Live! A Symphony of Characters" at the Theater of the Stars and featured the Toy Story characters. Also today the park has a dedicated meet-and-greet area for Woody and Buzz located across from Toy Story Midway Mania, while the Green Army Men sometimes drill guests outside the attraction.

In addition to Toy Story Midway Mania (which will have a different entrance when the new land debuts), guests visiting Toy Story Land will be able to experience the following, according to Disney publicity:

"In Andy's back yard, guests are shrunk to the size of their favorite toys and invited to join Woody, Buzz Lightyear, Jessie and the rest of the Toy Story gang for a larger than life adventure among giant building blocks and game board pieces. It's the perfect setting for toys of all kinds to gather together for an experience that's more fun than a Barrel of Monkeys.

"Alien Swirling Saucers: Andy has collected enough game tickets at Pizza Planet to get the Alien Swirling Saucers (Home Edition), which has now landed (pun intended) in his back yard. The game features Alien-driven flying saucers whipping rockets around four turntables while 'The Claw' looms ominously overhead, seemingly ready to nab those who are 'chosen.'

"Slinky Dog Dash: Andy built Slinky Dog Dash with his Dodge & Dash Mega Coaster Kit. Instead of using the coaster that came in the box, he decided to put his Slinky toy on the tracks. The result is a family-friendly thrill adventure that whooshes around curves, up hills and down drops as it winds around the backyard."

Toy Story Land at Disney's Hollywood Studios

According to Imagineer Kathy Mangum, Toy Story Land was inspired by the overwhelming guest response to Cars Land at Disney California Adventure.

"We've been quite successful with taking immersive experiences to a whole new level as we did with Cars Land. In fact, one of our favorite stories from opening day is that we overheard a little boy asking his mom, 'Is this where they filmed the Cars movie?' " Magnum said. "That's exactly how we want people to feel – like they've stepped onto the set of their favorite film… like the quaint town of Radiator Springs or, in the case of Toy Story, the wild and adventurous outdoors of Andy's back yard."

The idea behind the Slinky Dog Dash was to have a family friendly coaster, but also to take advantage of the fact that Andy has a big imagination so would have incorporated some of his other toys into the standard design and to make the coils stretch to their limits.

Rex and Jessie decided to help Andy build a rollercoaster using his Mega Coaster Play Kit in his backyard by stringing up the lights on towers of blocks. Rex, of course, has gotten tangled up in the lights, but Jessie is nearby to help.

For Alien Swirling Saucers, "As you rotate around the toy planets and satellites as part of the game, you'll swirl to the beat of fun 'Space Jazz' music developed just for this experience," Mangum said. "The music, the lighting, and the sound effects will add to the flurry of your adventure while 'The Claw' looms ominously over you."

The entrance to the new land will be through the area that originally held Soundstage 4, which was home to walk-through experiences like The Making of the Haunted Mansion Movie, the set from the live-action version of 101 Dalmatians and two different versions of the Journey into Narnia as well as the Legend of Captain Jack Sparrow.

Woody's Lunch Box will be the quick-service food and beverage location. Andy has taken a vintage Woody themed lunch box and propped it open with a Thermos. Scattered about the area are toys, items from the lunch box, and a book. A Green Army Man keeps a lookout for Andy's return to grab a snack.

So this summer, when Toy Story Land opens it will just be the latest addition of the Toy Story characters to the park. After all, those characters have been entertaining guests at Disney's Hollywood Studios since they were first "born" in 1995.

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Toy Story Land

Toy Story Land Model

Toy Story Midway Mania

Toy Story Midway Mania Photo Gallery

Cars Land

Other features from the Walt Disney World Chronicles series by Jim Korkis can be found in the AllEars® Archives.

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Jim Korkis

Disney Historian and regular AllEars® Columnist Jim Korkis has written hundreds of articles about all things Disney for more than three decades. As a former Walt Disney World cast member, Korkis has used his skills and historical knowledge with Disney Entertainment, Imagineering, Disney Design Group, Yellow Shoes Marketing, Disney Cruise Line, Disney Feature Animation Florida, Disney Institute, WDW Travel Company, Disney Vacation Club and many other departments.

He is the author of several books, including his newest, Secret Stories of Disneyland, available in both paperback and Kindle versions.


Editor's Note: This story/information was accurate when it was published. Please be sure to confirm all current rates, information and other details before planning your trip.