I live in Orlando, so, naturally, when guests from out of town come to visit, they want to head to the theme parks. We took our most recent visitors on a whirlwind park hop through Disney's Hollywood Studios, Epcot and Magic Kingdom in early May. Out of all of the rides we experienced that day, the Toy Story Mania ride at Hollywood Studios was the major highlight. There was only one issue: the queue.
"Is the line always broken in two like that, with the awkward walkway down the middle?" asked one of our visitors. No, I said, it's because the new Toy Story Land is opening at the end of June. The disappointment on their faces was unmistakable. They wished they'd waited until this summer to come visit, so they could have been one of the first to experience the new land.
The entrance to Toy Story Land.
Toy Story Land opened to the public on June 30 at Disney's Hollywood Studios, the first step in Disney's attempt to revitalize the struggling park, which has consistently seen lower attendance numbers than its three sister parks, according to the Theme Entertainment Association. Disney wants to take Hollywood Studios from a park that takes guests "behind the scenes" to one that puts them into the scenes, with the opening of Toy Story Land and the highly anticipated Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge land, which is scheduled to open in the fall of 2019.
For its part, Toy Story Land delivers. I attended the opening celebration weekend, and to put it in the simplest terms, it's fun! Much of Hollywood Studios feels very staid and faux-old-Hollywood "elegant," but this part of the park is just pure, unadulterated fun. Toy Story Land is silly and vibrant and colorful and whimsical and has a real childlike, happy vibe to it.
Guests enter the world of Andy's backyard, where the toys are life-size or even oversize and the colors are vibrant and fun. Disney has spared no detail in Toy Story Land's design, where benches are shaped like stacked dominos and giant, multicolored Christmas string lights light up the walkways once the sun goes down.
As for rides, the Slinky Dog Dash roller coaster could be compared to the Magic Kingdom's Big Thunder Mountain Railroad in its intensity. It wasn't made for kids, but children, depending on their age and comfort level with roller coasters, will love it. The height restriction for all rides at Toy Story Land is 38 inches, so most little ones will be eligible to ride.
Alien Swirling Saucers is similar to the Magic Kingdom's iconic teacup ride, so maybe ride that one before chowing down on the "totchos" (a tater tot/nacho mash-up) at the new quick-service restaurant Woody's Lunch Box. My friends would have been happy to see that the awkward queue at Toy Story Mania has been replaced with a new entrance leading directly from Toy Story Land, instead of its former entrance next to Walt Disney Presents.
Character interaction opportunities abound at Toy Story Land. There's Woody and Jessie and Buzz, of course, but the highlight characters are the Green Army Men, who patrol the grounds and pose with guests for adorable selfies and photo ops.
Green Army Men performers at Toy Story Land.
Disney merch collectors will want to beeline for the product kiosks and take home the new Toy Story-themed gear, including a Slinky Dog headband and whimsical green alien headband with three glow-in-the-dark eyes that move when you shake your head.
At the ribbon-cutting ceremony, Bob Chapek, chairman of Disney Parks, Experiences and Consumer Products, said, "With this new land, we're taking what we do best -- creating magical experiences -- and combining them with the heart, the humor and the adventure of 'Toy Story.' It's a colorful, playful land with unexpected details that help bring the world of 'Toy Story' to life."
In my experience, he's right. The 11-acre land certainly rose above my expectations.