With Toy Story Land opening soon, Disney sellers are busy

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Green Army Men from the Toy Story franchise at a Disney event for travel agents in New York.
Green Army Men from the Toy Story franchise at a Disney event for travel agents in New York. Photo Credit: Jamie Biesiada

NEW YORK -- Travel agents are excited about the changes coming to Disney's Hollywood Studios at the Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando, like Toy Story Land opening this June. They are seeing increased interest from their clients.

"Once Disney released the opening date of June 30, my phone was ringing off the hook," said Marissa Scannapieco, owner of Pixie Mouse Travel Agency in St. James, N.Y. "'How can we get there?' 'How can we move our trip up?' 'How can we do this?' People want to see it, because they know what personality Disney puts into everything that they do."

Scannapieco was one of about 170 agents at an event at the Edison Ballroom here on Tuesday, where Disney previewed changes coming to its products around the world. With its opening right around the corner, Toy Story Land was the focus.

In addition to Toy Story Land, a new area dedicated to the Star Wars franchise, Galaxy's Edge, is opening next year at Hollywood Studios.

Helen Papa, president of TBH Travel in Dix Hills, N.Y., saw firsthand the construction in Hollywood Studios a few weeks ago.

Around 170 travel agents attended a Disney event at the Edison Ballroom in New York.
Around 170 travel agents attended a Disney event at the Edison Ballroom in New York.

"It really is going through a major transformation, which I think is very exciting because not only are they changing things, but bringing in Star Wars and bringing in Toy Story Land, two iconic things that people are so excited about," she said. "And I know for my clients, everybody's been talking about it for a while. People are already looking forward to it."

Scannapieco said the new attractions will "give the whole park brand new life."

Lisa Wagner, owner of Denville Travel Company in Denville, N.J., said any time a Disney park gets a new attraction, there is an increase in interest from clients. Toy Story Land has been no different.

Claire Bilby, senior vice president of sales, services and events for Disney Destinations, spoke to agents at the event.

"My team and I are your advocates and your allies," Bilby said. "We are committed to working closely with you."

Bilby said Disney's travel agent website, Disneytravelagents.com, will be getting a makeover, making it mobile friendly, a feature well-received.

"We are in this together, to infinity and beyond," Bilby said, using Buzz Lightyear's famous line from "Toy Story."

Tuesday's event was one of seven domestic events held around the country to update agents on all things Disney. Bilby's team also hosts regular webinars, and will have an increased presence at industry trade shows this year.

"We value the travel agents and know how important they are to our business," Bilby said. "What I just really want to make sure is that they hear that from us directly."

Disney's Hollywood Studios opened in 1989 and has seen a number of changes since that time, from attractions coming and going to its very name. Bilby helped launch the park, and said the opportunity to integrate more Disney properties has grown over time, leading to its transformation.

"When we launched Disney MGM Studios, it was about seeing the movies and looking at wonderful, great properties," she said. "What's so exciting is Disney has grown so much, and we have so many incredible stories -- whether it's Star Wars, Toy Story."

That growth is expected to attract new and repeat visitors.

"We're always updating our products for a couple reasons," Bilby said. "One, because it gives people who have come before a great new reason to come back. But it also attracts new people."

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