At the 2015 D23 Expo, Toy Story Land was announced for Disney’s Hollywood Studios at Walt Disney World. This expansion does not have a timeframe, but will add two new Toy Story attractions, and also expand Toy Story Mania to increase its capacity.
The premise of the land is to shrink guests to the size of a toy to enter the land, where there will be areas to explore in addition to the attractions. The attractions will include a family-friendly roller coaster where guests board Slinky Dog’s back for a ride on a “coaster kit” toy that Andy has built in his play area (think Gadget’s Go Coaster or Barnstormer). The other attraction will be an Alien saucers attraction, with the little green aliens from the movie taking guests for a spin in their very own flying saucers (think Mater’s Junkyard Jamboree).
These attractions are actually totally different than the ones located in the other Toy Story Playlands. On the plus side here, they are less vertical, so Toy Story Land should not be visually intrusive from other areas of the park. Additionally, the concept art shown at the D23 Expo made it appear that the land would be decently landscaped, and that would make a big difference in how nice it feels. Hong Kong Disneyland’s land is in a lush area that extends into the mountains, and it feels far nicer than the nearly identical Toy Story Playland in Paris that’s basically located on a slab of concrete.
The location of the expansion was not stated, but with free space adjacent to Toy Story Mania, it would make sense to connect it to that, with Toy Story Land essentially replacing Pixar Place. At present, this is only speculation, though.
One thing that does surprise me is that no opening date was announced for this land. If Disney so desired, this could easily open in 2016. I’m not saying the land will, but there’s no reason a Christmas 2016 grand opening is out of the question–especially given how badly Disney’s Hollywood Studios needs attractions.
Toy Story Playland, the incarnations of this area in Hong Kong Disneyland and Walt Disney Studios Park (in Paris) are incredibly divisive. They seem to be very popular with the general public and casual fans of Toy Story, but very unpopular with serious fans and those who value themed design.
I have previously stated I’m not a fan of Toy Story Land, but do not mind it coming to Walt Disney World under these circumstances. I think the lands are incredibly unimaginative and wholly fail to push the creative envelope. Frankly, I was shocked and disappointed to hear that this was the most exciting announcement for many people.
To those people, I would point out that the attractions in the existing (and future) Toy Story Lands are simply “off the shelf” carnival rides, meaning they aren’t “Imagineered” in the traditional sense, but rather purchased from a third party vendor that sells this type of basic carnival attraction to a multitude of amusement parks. From there, they are decorated in a style of Toy Story.
No matter how the land is marketed, this is not like “stepping into the world of the toys.” It’s stepping into a carnival environment that will be dressed up to fit a Toy Story visual motif. This is “theming” in the same sense that All Star Movies is “themed”, that is, not themed at all, but decorated instead.
Quite simply, Imagineering has and can do much, much better. They can create actual worlds that immerse guests, like Cars Land…and like appears will be done in Pandora and Star Wars Land, both of which appear to be ambitious projects that feature Imagineering at the top of its game.
However, Toy Story Land is what it is likely not due to a lack of imagination or ambition by the Imagineers on the project. Rather, due to the fiscal and practical realities of a huge expansion like the one about to occur at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. This park needs new attractions, and it needs a lot of them. It also needs a lot fast.
Toy Story Land is both cheap and fast to build. In a world of finite budgets, it’s a cheap way to balance out a costly (both in terms of time and money) Star Wars Land to make sure Disney’s Hollywood Studios gets enough attractions to really flesh out the park. It also gives the park more kid-friendly attractions, which are sorely needed.
No doubt, kids will love Toy Story Land. As I say frequently, though, kids love playing in cardboard boxes and eating boogers, so saying “kids will love it” is somewhat meaningless. Still, I understand why some people are excited for their kids to see these lands–I totally get that, and I am not criticizing that reaction. After all, a big aspect of the Disney experience for many is seeing the reactions in the faces of their kids or making family memories. This will definitely be a popular land for making family memories with small children.
Ultimately, I view Toy Story Land as somewhat of a necessary evil. It is a totally lame and lackluster land, albeit a land that will fill a valuable role for families while allowing a larger chunk of budget to be allocated to Star Wars Land (which Disney announced earlier in the day for both Walt Disney World and Disneyland). All of that makes me fine with it, even if I know the Imagineers could do so much better if they were given a blank check to fix Disney’s Hollywood Studios.
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Do you think this is a good addition? Are you excited for this, or do you think Disney could do better? Does it make you more “fine” with it if spending less on the ‘kiddie’ rides means more money to spend on that Millennium Falcon for Star Wars Land? If you have other ideas, questions, or thoughts, please share in the comments!