Rumors aren’t as rampant for Toy Story Land as they are for Toy Story 4, but even so, I thought it would be useful to have a recap of what we know all in one place. Toy Story Land has been a dream of mine for some time – ever since I learned that such lands existed both at Disney Studios Paris and Hong Kong Disneyland, I often thought how great it would be to have one in the United States, but figured the chances were pretty slim. That was before I heard of John Lasseter’s visit – with other Disney executives – to Disney’s Hollywood Studios last fall, when we missed being in the park at the same time as him by only a week (I was not amused by my unlucky timing). The most important detail, though, was the location where he was spotted – right by Toy Story Mania, and also in the area of the Backlot Tour, which was slated to close within a few days. The buzz was that new Pixar content was coming – and thus my obsession with Toy Story Land began.
I spent nearly a year stalking the internet for updates, searching for credible rumors and “insider” clues hinting that Toy Story Land might be a possibility. If you’d like to get an idea of how much the stories changed over the course of the past year (and beyond), just take a look at the timeline on the WDW Theme Parks website. At first, Cars Land – which already exists at Disney California Adventure – seemed to be the leading contender, but as time went on, the rumblings about Toy Story Land started to get louder. It was enough to drive me utterly crazy, as I soared sky high with anticipation then crashed down in despair whenever reports changed. I was afraid to get my hopes up until something was confirmed by Disney.
Finally, the D23 Expo rolled around – which I knew was going to be the best chance to get an announcement for DHS – and I was a nervous wreck, watching a Periscope of the Parks Presentation and keeping an eye on Twitter. After a segment on Star Wars Land, Imagineer Kathy Mangum took the stage and – at last! – broke the news of Toy Story Land:
“We are really looking at the Studio – Disney’s Hollywood Studios – with different eyes, and we’re taking it from a behind-the-scenes making-of story and we’re trying to build more immersive experiences that will allow our guests to go into their favorite movies, and that’s exactly what we want to do with Toy Story Land … We did something very similar with Cars Land, where we take you into the world of Radiator Springs, and that’s exactly the level of immersion that we’re aiming for for Florida.”
Here are the three main attractions to be included, as described on the Disney Parks Blog:
- Family-friendly roller coaster – Guests board Slinky Dog’s back for a thrilling toy-filled coaster adventure that’s ideal for the entire family.
- Alien saucers attraction – The famous little green aliens from the movie will take guests around for a spin in their very own flying saucers – but beware The Claw!
- Toy Story Mania! – This current guest-favorite attraction, which allows guests to take aim at 3D objects in the Toy Story Midway Games Play Set, will expand with more midway track that takes you into the world under Andy’s bed where he’s built a carnival-style midway.
That’s where the officially-announced-by-Disney news ends. However, I’ve been following the WDW Magic forums for a while now, and I’ve found that there are a number of credible and knowledgeable “insiders” on that site, who fill in some of the gaps as they are able. Although nothing further was shared by Disney concerning what else would be included, besides a meet-and-greet, it has been stated in the forums (and is clear from the concept art) that more is coming. If we take a zoomed-in look at the layout we were given, it’s not too hard to make some educated guesses:
The land’s entrance – located on the site of the former Legend of Captain Jack Sparrow attraction and the One Man’s Dream exhibit – welcomes you with a statue Woody on Bullseye, the centerpiece to a Woody’s Roundup themed streetscape. Behind the western building fronts to the right, black boxes indicate that the structures hold more than initially meets the eye – but what? Possibilities include games (like at Disney California Adventure), shops, dining, a meet-and-greet, or a show.
I’m thinking that the red barn building in the lower left will be a shop, considering the open doors. This might even be where the exit to the reconfigured Toy Story Mania leads. I’ve heard that, when the land is completed, Toy Story Mania will empty into a shop, like it does in California.
It looks like the coaster is going to be wonderfully detailed. Kathy Magnum mentioned that different characters will trigger things along the way, and here you can see Jessie right in the front, near the walkway, with Rex on the top of what looks like Jenga blocks.
The boxy structure in the very back appears to be a covered queue for Slinky – which will be welcome in the Florida heat and rain.
Judging by this concept art, the Slinky coaster is going to be massive! Stretching all the way into the farthest corner of the land, you can see some Green Army Men (maybe more triggered effects), and also a tunnel of rings that I really hope lights up at night!
The oval roofed structure with the green saucers is the Alien ride. Just like Woody at the entrance, and Jessie by the coaster, a larger-than-life Buzz stands in front of this ride, which is expected to operate much like Mater’s Junkyard Jamboree in Cars Land at DCA.
Now here’s where we see some buildings that we know absolutely nothing about. On the left, the cluster of umbrellas suggests that this will be a quick service dining location. And in the middle, the game-board-roof structure could – like the mystery western storefronts – house a meet-and-greet, more dining, or more shopping.
The red box in the lower left is the new entrance to Toy Story Mania. We will be approaching the ride from what is now the back of the building; and what is currently the front will become backstage space. Queues will be reconfigured, and I’m guessing Pixar Place as we know it will be no more.
Based on what I’m reading in the forums, from several reputable sources, construction should start with the new fiscal year in early October, beginning with demo work and clearing of land behind Toy Story Mania. The project (including the new Star Wars Land, as well as other areas that are still unannounced) has been expedited, and deservedly so, considering how empty DHS is at the moment – after the holiday season, it will be a park of walls, with real progress being made. As of now, the projected opening for Toy Story Land is late 2017, to coincide with the end of Toy Story 4‘s theatrical run. The third track for Toy Story Mania will open even sooner.
As a fangirl, let’s face it – I was going to be happy with pretty much anything I got, as long as it was Toy Story related. But what we’re getting really is significant, both in scope and in scale. At 11 acres, it’s a substantial addition to a park greatly in need of more things for families to do together. And to describe it as being as immersive as Cars Land – that’s a fantastic goal to achieve. I’ve visited Cars Land, and it’s spectacular – the attention to detail is amazing, and you truly feel like you’ve stepped into Radiator Springs. To in turn feel like you’ve been shrunken to toy size, and to become a part of their world, will be unbelievably fun. Between acreage, and attractions, and quality of immersiveness, the DHS version of Toy Story Land is going to blow both the Paris and Hong Kong versions out of the water – now, after years of lamenting that America doesn’t have a Toy Story Land, we get the very best one. Good things come to those who wait.
Although Toy Story Land, in general, is a dream come true for me, I do have one wish for what I would like to see most of all, and that’s an expanded character presence. The Toy Story meet-and-greet at DHS right now is rather sad – the building is small, cramped, and still themed to Toy Story 2. I would love to see a more expansive space, with more to meet than just Buzz and Woody – perhaps a progression of characters, like with Princess Fairytale Hall or Pete’s Silly Sideshow in Fantasyland, or a rotation like they do at DCA, allowing Jessie to get in the mix too. In a perfect post-Toy Story 4 world, with the love story focus of the new movie, we’d get a meet-and-greet with Buzz and Jessie, and Woody and Bo. After Toy Story 2, and before Pixar Place was built, you could meet Woody, Buzz, and Jessie in front of an Al’s Toy Barn backdrop, but then it was scaled back to just Woody and Buzz. The one thing I want more than anything else at a Disney park is to be able to visit Jessie and Buzz together, instead of in different lands like they are at the Magic Kingdom – it’s a rather obsessive personal quest of mine, to be honest, not only because they’re my favorite characters, but because when they are allowed to be together, they do the cutest things!
I’ve never followed Disney construction progress from start to finish before – there’s never been a ride, or a land, or a park, or anything built that I’ve cared this much about in the past, or that I knew about far enough in advance – so this is especially exciting for me. Before long, more details will emerge, walls will go up, and construction will become visible; then, when the land is complete, we’ll get grand opening celebrations and advertising galore. Just like with Toy Story 4, this is only the beginning.
You’ve got a lot to look forward to, folks!
All photos © Disney/Pixar.