A 20-ft.-tall version of Sheriff Woody welcomed me to Walt Disney World’s new Toy Story Land with his iconic, “Howdy Partner!” and it was the first of many signs that entering Andy’s backyard meant embarking on an immersive journey into the world of Woody and Buzz Lightyear.
With oversized pencils, glue, and wooden building blocks scattered throughout this latest addition to Walt Disney World’s Hollywood Studios, walking through Toy Story Land felt like shrinking down to the size of a toy so I could play with Woody and the whole gang. Andy’s active imagination is seen around every corner with “blueprints” to his latest projects and drawings on display alongside toys that seem to have been abandoned mid-game and colorful string lights that illuminate the path around the backyard after dark. The benches are popsicle sticks; signs directing visitors are made of game pieces; and there are overgrown shrubs and grass that make even the tallest adult feel small. The quick-service kiosk, Woody’s Lunchbox, also plays up the Toy Story theme with an oversized thermos providing shade while guests munch on childhood favorites like grilled cheese and old-fashioned soda floats.
“Where we’re headed as a park,” says Brian Webb, marketing strategy manager of Hollywood Studios, “is to give guests these immersive experiences in which they can live in the worlds of their favorite stories and go on those adventures. Toy Story Land is not just a concrete jungle with a few rides. It’s highly immersive, highly themed. You’re an honorary toy in Andy’s backyard.”
Of course, admiring the look of Toy Story Land is not the only way I immersed myself in Andy’s backyard. While your clients can look forward to meeting Buzz Lightyear, Jesse, and Woody—all of whom make appearances around Toy Story Land—the most exciting character sighting during my pre-grand opening sneak peek of the park was the Green Army Drum Corps. Everyone remembers the overzealous green military men from Andy’s toy box who were constantly on some sort of mission. Well, now they’re in the backyard entertaining onlookers with their impressive drumline skills, while fellow soldiers march in formation ordering park-goers to have fun and “play big”—a consistent theme throughout Toy Story Land.
When I broke free from listening to the mesmerizing beats of the Green Army Drum Corps, it was time to check out the rides. Toy Story Land features a brand-new carnival-themed entrance to the popular Toy Story Mania complete with Mr. Potato Head working as a carnival barker, plus two new attractions: Alien Swirling Saucers and the Slinky Dog Dash rollercoaster.
Alien Swirling Saucers puts guests inside a Pizza Planet arcade game as they hop on board a rocket ship with one of the 3-eyed aliens and wait to be picked up by “The Claw,” which hangs overhead. The ride is reminiscent of the classic spinning teacups of Magic Kingdom but with a little more spunk. The Slinky Dog Dash rollercoaster, meanwhile, put my fellow park-goers and I on the back of Slinky Dog as he races through a track designed by Andy himself. While Disney is always a popular vacation option amongst families, travel advisor Adam Duckworth, founder and president of Travelmation, says Toy Story Land and other new additions currently in the works are adding extra buzz around the parks.
“There is definitely a different energy going on at Walt Disney World right now related to all of the new activity, including Toy Story Land,” says Duckworth. “Our clients are buzzing and cannot wait to see what comes next. We are seeing more and more requests each day to go down and be a part of the new experiences.”
For travel advisor Sue Pisaturo, founder and president of Small World Vacations, it’s Toy Story Land’s ability to appeal to the whole family that excites her clients about making a visit.
“Our guests of all ages love Toy Story Land. Multi-generational groups can experience it together as a family. Each member sees something unique that reminds them of their own childhood,” she says. “People are re-living personal memories while, at the same time, creating new memories. It’s magical.”
Walt Disney World: disneyworld.disney.go.com