In news that shouldn’t be surprising, Walt Disney World has officially announced that the opening of Roundup Rodeo BBQ Restaurant is delayed until 2023. Additionally, we have new details and photos from inside the new dining option that’s coming to Toy Story Land in Hollywood Studios next year.
For those who are unfamiliar with it, Roundup Rodeo BBQ Restaurant will be themed to a backyard barbecue with Andy and his toys inviting guests to participate in fun. By toys, we do not mean the walk-around variety–Roundup Rodeo Restaurant will NOT be a character dining experience. As you can see in the above image, the art style is similar to that of both Toy Story Mania and Slinky Dog Dash.
Walt Disney World has now announced that Toy Story Roundup Rodeo BBQ will open in Spring 2023 to welcome guests for barbecue and toy-sized fun. Disney also has more details about the “world’s first” Toy Story table service restaurant (whether this is true depends upon how you categorize the infamous and extinct Buzz Lightyear buffet at Disneyland Paris). In any case, here’s a closer look at Roundup Rodeo BBQ, and how Imagineers collaborated with Disney Pixar Animation Studios and Walt Disney World Food & Beverage to design this one-of-a-kind dining experience…
Using his imagination, Andy has built a rodeo restaurant consisting of Woody’s Roundup toys and other playthings. To create the restaurant, Andy cut and taped cardboard boxes together to create a new rodeo arena. While some pieces are western-themed, what makes this rodeo special is the broad assortment of toys that have been brought together to create a fun, colorful mashup-atmosphere.
As guests enter the dining room, they will discover just how much fun Andy had creating a rollicking place for honorary toys to enjoy barbecue-inspired comfort foods served family-style, with platters of house-smoked meats, a roundup of sides and some miniature sweet surprises along the way.
In this wild, western setting, you can find a steam train supported by colored pencils, a suspiciously impressive house of cards, and game boards featuring beloved characters from the Toy Story films.
To fill the stands of his rodeo arena, Andy has decorated the cardboard box with hand-drawn audience members. The dining room also features the rodeo’s star performers: Jessie, Trixie, and Bo Peep with her leaping sheep Billy, Goat, and Gruff.
To bring this all to life, Imagineering collaborated with Disney Pixar Animation Studios to design figures unique to this restaurant and artwork that can only be found at Disney’s Hollywood Studios.
Imagineers worked closely with animators and designers at the animation studio to create characters and art from the films in new ways unique to Disney’s Hollywood Studios. They even designed full comic strips about Woody’s adventures, which Andy has used as part of the dining room ceiling.
Roundup Rodeo BBQ Restaurant is located to the right of what’s currently the entrance of Toy Story Land, behind the giant Woody figure and land’s marquee (you can see construction walls in the photo below). Previously, this area was home to two backstage production bungalows. These facilities were relocated with a new structure built to house Roundup Rodeo BBQ Restaurant.
In our most recent construction update, we noted that construction workers have been putting the finishing touches on the exterior facade of the restaurant. We’re starting to see visible signs of this, as the restaurant marquee and other details have been installed of the exterior of the building, which is now behind construction scrims.
As we discussed there, Walt Disney World previously announced that the restaurant was coming this year. However, Disney had offered next-to-no official updates on Toy Story Roundup Rodeo BBQ Restaurant in the last 6 months, and it would come out of left field at this point for the restaurant to open before Winter 2023.
Another delay shouldn’t be a huge surprise. You may recall that Walt Disney World first announced the Toy Story Roundup Rodeo BBQ Restaurant would open in 2020. That announcement was made before the closure of the parks, and even then didn’t have an opening month or season attached to it. Our expectation at the time was thus that it would open close to Christmas 2020.
Then the multi-month closure happened, and all construction was paused. Even after Walt Disney World reopened, it took many major projects several more months to regain momentum. Toy Story Land’s Roundup Rodeo BBQ Restaurant was one such project.
At some point that fall, work resumed on Toy Story Roundup Rodeo BBQ Restaurant. Walt Disney Imagineering filed several construction permits for the interior with addresses that would match the location, and progress could be observed on the roof of the warehouse that’ll house the restaurant.
Fast-forward to today, and the concrete ‘warehouse’ for Toy Story Land’s Roundup Rodeo BBQ Restaurant is finished…and has been for ~24 months. We’ve seen intermittent work on the exterior and construction crews around the project, but it’s impossible to ascertain the location’s actual progress since it’s literally a window-less warehouse. Aside from finishing touches to the courtyard and facade, almost nothing has happened in well over a year.
Like Space 220 Restaurant before it, Walt Disney World has deliberately dragged out the timeline on this project. After a lengthy delay and the project being totally finished for months, Space 220 Restaurant opened at Epcot just before Walt Disney World’s 50th Anniversary started.
Walt Disney World has taken a similar approach with Roundup Rodeo BBQ Restaurant. The company moved slower on construction because it was simply not advantageous to open the restaurant, and wouldn’t be truly needed in terms of demand and attendance until this year.
While we’ve heard that work still needs to be finished on the inside–and there’s a bit of decorating to be done on the facade of the building–the timeline here is being dragged out by design. Given its wholly unambitious concept, the Toy Story restaurant could be finished in a matter of months (maybe even weeks!) if it were deemed a high priority. However, it is not.
There haven’t been any rumors about hiring or transfers, staffing shortages are still persisting for culinary roles, and we haven’t spotted any job postings specific to Toy Story Land’s Roundup Rodeo BBQ Restaurant. Unless Disney has already quietly moved Cast Members to Roundup Rodeo BBQ Restaurant–or does so very soon–having the location open in the next couple of months will be exceedingly difficult.
With that in mind, we could debate when it makes the most sense to open Toy Story Roundup Rodeo BBQ Restaurant in 2023 from a strategic perspective. In other words, when dining demand necessitates more capacity.
If this were an attraction (like TRON Lightcycle Run), this would be precisely my line of analysis…and my conclusion would be in time for Presidents’ Day Weekend. From that perspective, it would make sense for Toy Story Roundup Rodeo BBQ Restaurant to open on February 17, 2023.
However, I do not think that’s the calculus when it comes to restaurants. For one thing, there’s the aforementioned staffing shortage for culinary roles. That may preclude Walt Disney World from opening Toy Story Roundup Rodeo BBQ Restaurant when they want to open it.
For another thing, Advance Dining Reservation demand is going to be sky-high for Toy Story Roundup Rodeo BBQ Restaurant no matter when it debuts. Quality also is irrelevant. This will almost certainly be the weakest-themed restaurant in the formidable Imagineering feats at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. Despite that, it will be the most popular, because Toy Story.
Roundup Rodeo Restaurant could open during the slowest week of 2023, and it’ll still book up in minutes. However, few people are going to book vacations to see Toy Story Roundup Rodeo BBQ Restaurant, so it doesn’t have tremendous marketing value.
In short, my expectation is that Toy Story Roundup Rodeo BBQ Restaurant will open as soon as it can open. Disney may be deliberately slow-rolling construction, but that’s likely due to the practical realities of staffing this venue once it debuts–not to maximize the marketing impact. As such, speculating about an opening date is a fool’s errand. I could get lucky and guess the correct date, but it’ll be purely by coincidence.
What I will reiterate is that February 17, 2023 is a key date from the perspective of it being when Disney’s Hollywood Studios will absolutely need more dining capacity. That will kick off one of the 5 busiest weeks of the year at Walt Disney World. So if the company can open Toy Story Roundup Rodeo BBQ Restaurant by then, they definitely will. That very well might be the target date at this point, in which case it isn’t a terrible guess.
Although mid-February is not technically “Spring 2023,” I think that’s when we’ll likely see a couple of things debut that are targeting spring dates. Toy Story Roundup Rodeo BBQ Restaurant could be one of those things.
Beyond that, our first impression of Roundup Rodeo BBQ Restaurant is generally meh. Three of the primary criticisms of Toy Story Land have been the lack of shade, air-conditioning, and dining options.
While we’ve really enjoyed both the breakfast and lunch/dinner menus at Woody’s Lunch Box, the lack of seating and zero indoor seating definitely put a damper on it. On the plus side, a makeshift gift shop has been added to the exit of Toy Story Mania.
This new table service restaurant should help address all of those issues. Toy Story Land is currently pretty miserable during the summer heat or daily rain showers. Giving guests even a temporary reprieve from the sun or storms in a place that isn’t the restrooms would be nice. So from a purely functional or role-filling perspective, the restaurant is something of a win.
Design and ambition-wise, Roundup Rodeo BBQ Restaurant does absolutely nothing for me. It looks mostly phoned in, but honestly, I feel that way about much of the various Toy Story Lands. Obviously, I am in the minority on this–I get that. I just think that Toy Story is thematic low-hanging fruit, and could be so much better than what Imagineering has delivered to date. This feels like more of the same on that front.
Otherwise, about my only thought is, “why not have an elaborately themed Pizza Planet?!” and I’m guessing the answer to that is storytelling consistency. My retort to that response would be: “who cares.” Seriously, it’s not like Toy Story Land is the pinnacle of themed design. Beyond that, it would be pretty easy to concoct a storytelling contrivance to explain away the presence of Pizza Planet in “Andy’s Backyard,” if Imagineering truly felt the need.
To the extent that it succeeds, Toy Story Land does so because it’s lighthearted and whimsical fun. Being so beholden to “story” that Imagineering ignores the very obvious, very low-hanging fruit that is Pizza Planet just seems self-defeating. But then again, so did “saving” a little bit of money by not building shade, a gift shop, or more dining capacity in the first place. So what do I know!
What do you think about the addition of a table service restaurant to Toy Story Land? Excited to dine at Roundup Rodeo BBQ Restaurant in Spring 2023? Thoughts on its themed design and details as compared to other exquisitely Imagineered restaurants at Disney’s Hollywood Studios? Do you agree or disagree with our thoughts? Any questions we can help you answer? Hearing your feedback–even when you disagree with us–is both interesting to us and helpful to other readers, so please share your thoughts below in the comments!