Toy Story Land visitors will know right from the get-go that Disney was thinking big for the attraction for Disney’s Hollywood Studios theme park. Folks will be greeted by a familiar character named Woody — a 20-foot-tall version of the lanky cowboy.
That’s the perspective that Disney came from for the area. Parkgoers will become “honorary toys,” and, thus, become their size, says the creative team, who showed off the progress on the land to members of the media during a recent walk-through. The plot line developed for Toy Story Land is that Andy, the young human in the animated “Toy Story” film series, has spread out his toys and created a mishmash of adventures for them.
During the site tour, construction workers in orange vests and hard hats intermingled with giant checkers and dominoes. Cooties are on their way. Weezy, the penguin squeeze toy from the movies, was recently moved into place.
“They’re all starting to roll in. Every day now, more blocks, more Tinkertoys. There are game pieces, game boards … all kinds of things,” said Dave Minichiello, executive creative director with Walt Disney Imagineering.
“Every one of these are coming in off these huge cranes, as if Andy were reaching over and placing them,” Minichiello said. “It’s a surreal moment.”
As the story goes, the Slinky Dog Dash roller coaster is the byproduct of Andy putting together his Mega Coaster Kit then plopping his springy Slinky Dog toy onto the rail as a ride vehicle. Those kinds of oversized props and characters will be dotted across Toy Story Land, scheduled to open to the public June 30 — just in time for Fourth of July crowds.
“You won’t have to use much of an imagination to believe you’ve shrunk down to the size of a toy, because, literally, the land is bigger than life,” said Phil Holmes, vice president of Disney’s Hollywood Studios.
The theme and setting of Toy Story Land represents a segment of the ongoing saga of Disney-Pixar’s “Toy Story” series, which first came to theaters in 1995.
“One thing we didn’t want to do was to retell any story. We didn’t want to take you into ‘Toy Story’ 1, 2 or 3 or the upcoming 4,” said Kathy Mangum, regional executive for Walt Disney Imagineering, covering Walt Disney World, Disney Cruise Line and Disneyland Paris. Instead, planners highlighted Andy’s playtime cleverness.
“Lucky for us, Andy has lots of really cool toys,” Mangum said.
By design, the area has a slapdash, childlike feel. Building blocks are unevenly stacked, oversized boxes are tossed about as if Andy’s mom has just called him in for dinner. In his absence, the characters of Jessie and Rex the dinosaur — perched atop a wobbly-looking Jenga stack — are trying to help attach festive lights onto Slinky Dog Dash.
The supersized lights are “sculptural at day,” Minichiello said, “but at night they give this really nice ambient light in the whole area.”
Nearby, the Alien Swirling Saucers attraction is taking shape. Riders will be placed in rocket ships being pulled — and swirled around — by aliens in space ships. As in the film, the little green guys seek to be chosen by the Claw from above. (The back story has Andy winning the aliens game from Pizza Planet.)
Along with Claw duty, the Saucers’ roof will provide protection from the Florida rain and set the stage for lighting effects that are synched with eight tracks recorded for the ride, Minichiello said.
At this point in construction, some elements of Toy Story Land have shapes but no styling yet. The new entrance to the popular Toy Story Mania ride eventually will look like the box that Andy’s carnival-style game came in, and Woody’s Lunch Box restaurant, partially held up by an old-school thermos, will include a backdrop that’s an open storybook about Woody.
“A lot of times our architecture even starts to tell the story,” Minichiello said.
To help keep the upsized design for Toy Story Land in check, Imagineers used a room where digital projections on the walls allow designers to virtually walk through area long before the project’s completion.
But visitors shouldn’t overthink the math, Mangum said.
“We have to look at it from a human dynamic. You still have to be able to get in and out of these things,” she said. “It’s just that everything’s big. We don’t want you to go in with a scale and try to decide if it’s 1-to-20 or whatever. We just want you to have fun.”
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